Tag Archives: Deming

Deming’s 14 Points Revisited. Twice.

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

After responding to the December 2014 discussion question to the Influential Voices from ASQ CEO Bill Troy, I’m thinking more about the question “Is Quality Ambitious Enough?” that he posed. In particular, I’m thinking about an article that was published in the December 2014 issue of Quality Progress.

The subtitle for the article, called “Whole New World,” is “Seasoned quality professionals rethink Deming’s 14 points for a new generation.” Certainly, rethinking tenets of a quality philosophy that has shaped our profession for the greater part of a century would be ambitious. However, I find that the “rethinking” done by these authors falls into the same trap that Brooks Carder did when he questioned whether the ASQ mission statement is ambitious enough: it assumes a capitalist society composed of products, services, employees, jobs, and customers. I’ll step through each of Conklin et al.’s 14 revised points, and share what I think the new points for management REALLY should be.

But first, a caveat: with the utmost respect for the experiences and credibility of the authors of this article, I was disappointed to see that all of the contributors were older white men (that is, clearly in their late 40’s or beyond… with varying shades of gray hair). With a sample size of 3 contributors, it’s easy to lack diversity, so I won’t hold it against them. But when embarking on a task as significant as reimagining Deming’s 14 points – we need the representation of women, minorities, and for goodness sake – the young people who are the gurus of the modern startup. They know things that the old “seasoned” guys won’t even be able to see. We need to know what those insights are too.

We are missing the opportunity to envision the practice of quality outside the bounds of the consumer mentality. 

So, point by point, here are my thoughts about Conklin et al.’s reimagining of Deming’s 14 points in the December 2014 Quality Progress. (Recognizing, of course, that attempting to do this on my own is limited from the start : )

Original Point 1: Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.

Conklin Point 1: Increase value through products and services that delight customers.

Radziwill Point 1: Create constancy of purpose for identifying and delivering value. (I think Deming had it half right, but was too focused on the commercial aspects of driving quality. Conklin, on the other hand, focuses on increasing value — which is still important, but not as significant without constancy of purpose, which can get you through tough times.)

Original Point 2: Adopt the new philosophy.

Conklin Point 2: Connect customer requirements to key process variables.

Radziwill Point 2: I’ve never really understood Deming’s 2nd point, probably because I didn’t live in the 1940’s and can’t possibly emotionally intuit what the “old philosophy” was. But I think this point has something very important to say about innovation that Conklin’s revision doesn’t address: We must always be ready to adopt new ideologies and approaches that support our ability to thrive and sustain ourselves, both as individuals and organizations. 

Original Point 3: Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.

Conklin Point 3: Prevent, where possible; inspect where necessary; implement process management. 

Radziwill Point 3: I like Conklin’s point here, mainly because I think en masse, industry is not as dependent on inspection as it once was. Most efforts are much more naturally tuned to prevention and process management, backed by decades of evidence that document the benefits of such efforts.

Original Point 4: End the practice of awarding business based on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.

Conklin Point 4: Pick the vital few suppliers based on total cost and fit with the organization.

Radziwill Point 4: Cultivate relationships with other organizations so that you can authentically resolve issues and pursue opportunities that would provide mutual benefit.

Original Point 5: Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production, and service.

Conklin Point 5: Improve processes now; find those that will need it later; sustain gains over time.

Radziwill Point 5: I don’t see how you can improve upon Deming’s original point here — all it says is GROW. Grow, people. Grow in your understanding of what you need to produce, and how you can produce it, and how you can produce it effectively, and how you can improve the quality of life in doing so.

Original Point 6: Institute training on the job.

Conklin Point 6: Build training into jobs so employees can improve their performance.

Radziwill Point 6: Because you learn more deeply when you teach something, everyone should have the opportunity to share what they know, and learn from others. A productive organization is a vibrant learning community.

Original Point 7: Adopt and institute leadership.

Conklin Point 7: Know employees, listen to them, and give them what they need to excel.

Radziwill Point 7: Let leaders emerge. As a community, support the emergent leaders that champion collective values and goals.

Original Point 8: Drive out fear.

Conklin Point 8: Set clear expectations for reasonable standards, and hold all accountable.

Radziwill Point 8: (Come ON Conklin!! Accountability, if not implemented well, can have the unexpected consequence of creating even more fear. This point is about as pure and generalizable Deming as you can get. And we haven’t been able to do this systemically yet – if it’s happened in our organizations it is far from happening in our institutions and systems of governance – so we need to keep trying to do it.) Drive out fear.

Original Point 9: Break down barriers between staff areas.

Conklin Point 9: Build cooperation from the top down by reducing barriers between departments.

Radziwill Point 9: Build relationships with one another – inside the organization and between organizational boundaries – to grow more authentic partnerships from which quick and effective resolutions to issues might be possible.

Original Point 10: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.

Conklin Point 10: Connect targets and metrics to customer needs; train employees to understand them.

Radziwill Point 10: I actually like Conklin’s 10th point. I’d take out the word “customer” and just leave the needs. I’d train everyone involved – regardless of who they’re getting paid by – if they want more insight into how to solve the problem (sense the opportunity for social innovation here?)

Original Point 11: Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.

Conklin Point 11: Avoid arbitrary goals; prefer ones in which metrics encourage “right the first time”.

Radziwill Point 11: Avoid arbitrary goals in favors of those that will have meaningful impact on individuals and groups of people.

Original Point 12: Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.

Conklin Point 12: Measure employees against their personal best; use metrics they can track.

Radziwill Point 12: Help people contribute according to their greatest skills and abilities. Collectively celebrate each others’ successes, and constructively assist each other in the improvement effort.

Original Point 13: Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.

Conklin Point 13: Help leaders model the right behaviors, and support the firm’s goals for training.

Radziwill Point 13. I don’t like how Conklin makes education and self-improvement something that needs to be judged against a standard (“right” might be different for everyone) nor do I like how self-improvement must be aligned with the firm (supporting the “firm’s” goals). What about the individual’s goals? Helping them achieve their goals for self-improvement will ultimately benefit society. So let’s help make that happen, and keep Deming’s original point.

Original Point 14: Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

Conklin Point 14: Align employees with jobs, suppliers and the firm and the firm with the future.

Radziwill Point 14: Everyone should provide opportunities for others to participate and contribute according to their current skills and talents, and those they would like to develop. We all help each other transform to meet new challenges and opportunities.

Also see “Are Deming’s 14 Points Still Valid?” — a post from November 2012.

Extreme Innovation: Practical Lessons from Burning Man

Biking at Burning Man 2014 )'(

Biking at Burning Man 2014 )'(

One of my goals as a scholar is: I want to understand what makes the Burning Man environment such a petri dish for cultivating and catalyzing true innovation. “Innovation” has become such an overused and diluted term that I get really excited when I see and feel it happening all around me — independent of the traditional capitalist motivations.

We’ll be analyzing survey data that we collected on and off the playa for the next few months; after that, I should be able to give you a data-driven sense of what really makes Burning Man a culture of innovation. But in the meantime, I’ll recap the message that I presented in Toronto at the ASQ Innovation Conference in September, in a talk called “Extreme Innovation: Practical Lessons from Burning Man”, which is based mostly on connecting anecdotal evidence from observation and initial interviews with the academic literature. (We’ll improve upon that later.)

Our premise is based on an observation from the Harvard Business Review blog earlier this year: that the fundamental character of management is, once again, changing. For the bulk of the 20th century, the organization was treated as a machine to be oiled and optimized. In the 1980’s, with the introduction of books like Senge’s Fifth Discipline, the organization was recharacterized as a collection of knowledge flows to be captured and optimized. Today, however, some claim that we are moving into an era of empathy, where the organization should be a vehicle to create complete and meaningful experiences

Given that we’re about to embark upon a collective strategy focused on creating these complete and meaningful experiences, here are some practical lessons about innovation from Burning Man. Note that there are tens — if not hundreds — of lessons about innovation you could learn from participating in Burning Man. We can’t possibly capture them all. But listed below are some of the top insights we’ve gleaned from observing the personalities and dispositions of the world-class innovators we’ve camped around.

#1 Innovation Requires Renewal. One of the themes we noticed at the ASQ Innovation Conference was that several of the talks touched on creative destruction — that it’s important to purposefully break down the old structures and processes to bring in the new. (People were not talking about it just in a general sense, not in the Schumpeterian sense, where the destruction happens as a result of the creation and uptake of new innovations.) However, we’re not really good at sloughing off old ways of doing things — and in fact, many of us (especially the “experts”) seem to be particularly skilled at rejecting the most creative ideas. When change management was introduced in the late 1980’s, we looked for top-down interventions to help people release their resistance to large-scale organizational changes, even when those improvements were clearly the most logical and beneficial. At Burning Man, we are accustomed to building things (or seeing things built) that are quickly experienced, deconstructed, taken down, or burned. Subconsciously, it attunes us to the process of creative destruction and renewal in a way that we expect it from the systems and processes around us.

#2 Everyone Needs a Temporary Liminal Space. Have you ever felt like you’re “anxiously floating in the inbetween”? At the interface of an old way of thinking or being, and a new and potentially uncomfortable way (that might not even be completely clear to you)? Often, these liminal times come during major life transitions (like moving, or divorce, or heading off to college). You either have a new identity thrust upon you, or the old structures that scaffolded your identity are no longer there for you. At Burning Man, you’re encouraged to create a new (and sometimes temporary) identity. You can, for a short time, choose to release yourself from the persona you’ve created your whole life — not limited by the image others have of you, or by the image you’re cultivated of yourself. It’s this release into the state of liminality that frees you from the boundaries that have kept you “in the box”.

#3 Ritual and Structure Provide a Container. Even in a petri dish of unlimited possibility, everyone knows (sort of) what to expect: there are morning rituals, daily yoga classes, other classes that support lifelong learning, and dance and music events. There’s a What-Where-When guide published that showcases all of the gifts your community members are bringing to share with one another. You know you can expect the Man to burn on Saturday night (a wild and invigorating evening) and then the Temple will burn on Sunday night (a somber and cathartic experience). Within the framework of these expected outcomes, serendipity and synchronicity becomes possible. That’s why quality systems are so useful: they provide us with a container of ritual from which to identify and operationalize continuous improvement. Even Fast Company lauds approaches like Google’s “20% discretionary time” — that gives structure to unstructured pursuits. 

#4 Intimacy Helps Drive Out Fear. In addition to having a great idea, you must have the courage to realize it. One of the things I love most about the Burning Man environment is that people want to get to know you better (as a complex, multi-dimensional person!), and as a result, they tend to support your ideas rather than challenge them to their deaths. In fact, challenges are naturally presented as well-intentioned, well-informed, well-meaning insights to help you bring your ideas to fruition. Knowing you’re surrounded by thousands of your biggest fans and supporters helps. Because you know what? You’re just as likely to succeed with that crazy idea as your entrepreneur friend was with their multi-million dollar company, especially with support. At Burning Man, you typically get the sense that your tribesmen are on your side, and they WANT you to succeed.

#5 Do it Now. One of the 10 Principles of the Burning Man culture is immediacy, which encourages people to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. I got to experience this first hand. For months, I was so excited looking forward to sacrificing myself to the Paha’oha’o, the Burning Man volcano — a 3-story alpine slide. On Thursday morning, I announced to all my campmates that it was Volcano Day… I was going!! There was only one problem: they had burned the volcano the night before. There was no more volcano to experience. What’s the lesson here? If you have a great idea to share with the world… or a great experience that you want to participate in… DO IT NOW. There’s no sense waiting for a better time, because you never know when the environment around you just won’t support it any more.

Innovation can be managed, but transformation (the ability to see and feel new ways of doing and being) must be catalyzed.

To increase innovation, create an environment that will crack open your limiting observations and limiting beliefs. One that will support thrivability. And then just wait to see what appears.

P.S. Thanks to Katherine Norenius, a quality professional from Toronto, for encouraging me to write this up 🙂

Quality in Education Part 3: Drive Out Fear. Teach Quality Standards.


Image Credit: Lucy Glover Photography (http://lucyglover.com/)

Image Credit: Lucy Glover Photography (http://lucyglover.com/)

[This is the third article in a three-part series responding to ASQ’s May question in “View from the Q”. It follows Quality in Education Part 1: The Customer Service Mentality is Flawed and Quality in Education Part 2: There is Power in Variation.]

What can we do to break out of the “manufacturing system mentality” of education? It’s not like this dilemma is unrecognized… just today, Time published an article with the tagline “Today’s education is training yesterday’s students.” Because of the severe downshift in the economy, the authors argue, the real value is in teaching students how to be entrepreneurial — to identify new opportunities (in every field, really) and be empowered to move forward and realize them.

So how do we teach students to be entrepreneurial now… without waiting for the system to change and broadly support it? I’m sure there are many ideas, but in addition to the Burning Mind Project, here are two things that I aim to build into all of my courses – supporting the shift to new modalities of education, while still supporting the institution within which I am embedded.

#3.1: Drive out fear. In addition to being one of Deming’s famed 14 Points, this (to me) is also the key to innovation. Everyone must be given permission to explore, to attempt, to fail, to wildly succeed. It seems almost like a cliche, but we have been cultured into a world dominated by fear, and so the landscape of fear is so endemic it is nearly invisible. We, like our students, tend to behave like free range chickens… and we have to shift that dynamic so that our gifts and talents can emerge and be used to benefit society.

#3.2: Teach students to identify and pursue high standards for quality. What does it mean to be excellent? Who decides what is excellent? What should you be able to do if you want to be recognized as excellent? These are questions students should be able to answer for themselves… and we need to help them figure out how to do it. For example, when you write your Master’s thesis or work on a dissertation, there’s no such thing as “getting a passing grade”. You basically commit to work, and work, and work… until you “get it” and everyone on your committee is happy… but then there are always a few more things that need to be improved before you’re totally done and can graduate.

Here are some brief examples of people and organizations that are working to redefine the meaning of education. Each of them, in my opinion, seeks to drive out fear AND help students critically examine, and then work to meet, quality standards.:

  • Mycelium: This North-Carolina based school recognizes that not everyone has four (or more) years to dedicate to a traditional university experience. Their program is structured in terms of 12-week learning journeys, where a “living laboratory” is created between thought leaders, mentors, and students.
  • The Minerva Project: This school aims to reinvent the university experience from the ground up, by focusing on the habits of mind and leadership competencies that can help students (of ANY age!) be successful in any field. It’s still a four year experience: the first year is in San Francisco, the second in either Berlin or Buenos Aires, the third in Hong Kong or Mumbai, and the final year in London or New York.
  • The BIF Student Experience Lab‘s “Students Design for Education” (SD4E) project: What if 24 students got together and designed what they feel would be the perfect school? BIF is going to find out soon.
  • SF Brightworks: This San Francisco-based primary school provides a theme-based and open-ended educational experience that encourages young students to explore, collaborate, and solve practical problems. Instead of assuming that everyone must learn exactly the same thing, Brightworks focuses more on what groups can create by combining their knowledge and experience… an analog of what happens in the real world, after traditional schooling is “complete”.

And our discussion wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Nikhil Goyal, who has bravely become the outspoken voice of the oppressed masses populating primary and secondary schools all over the U.S. Although he has recently graduated from Syosset High School, there’s no doubt that he’ll continue to catalyze driving out fear — both for students, and for the institutions that fear change.

What are YOUR ideas? What can individuals and small groups do to transform the quality of education?

What #BIF9 and Burning Man Taught Me About Transformation – Part II (via Deming!)


Even the phones at Burning Man tell you that you’re in Black Rock City, NV

In Part I, I described some observations from my experiences at BIF and Burning Man, and alluded to the notion that I might have uncovered a very simple “secret sauce” they share. Here are the observations:

  • Both communities consist of active and engaged participants who could be considered “innovation junkies”. Whereas the BIF crowd focuses on more traditional organizational and social innovation, the Burning Man crowd spans the extremes of experiential innovation (through art, technology, interactions with other people, or even just figuring out how to navigate life in the Black Rock Desert).
  • “Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects” (#RCUS) is the norm in both environments. First, the “unusual suspects” seem to be attracted to opportunities to be inspired and get their brains re-wired; second, the participants in both environments seem predisposed to the notion that serendipity is working on their behalf — and they let it happen.
  • People at both BIF and Burning Man tend towards non-judgment, seeking to appreciate and learn from their differences (rather than to resist, deny, or challenge those differences).

The common thread is that both environments have something magical designed into them, and this is the secret sauce: the push to drive out fear. Many of the BIF storytellers have been through Campbell’s Hero’s Journey and make themselves vulnerable so that the audience can vicariously (and often emotionally!) experience their transformation; at Burning Man, you’re stripped of your usual identity and thus unburdened from the fear you might carry as a result of having developed that identity over so many years.

When quality guru W. Edwards Deming formulated his 14 Points decades ago – principles for managers to transform business effectiveness – he expressed that the purpose of the points was to enable everyone to work with joy. One of the points (my favorite one, in fact) is to drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively.

If you are to fully embrace innovation, there is no room for fear! You must work towards fully being yourself, to push your own boundaries, and by extension, to push the boundaries of others, and to push the boundaries of traditional and accepted ways of doing things (“business models”). You are encouraged to own your own story, to TELL your own story, and to connect with others to help them identify with their own stories – and chase away the fear of being authentic, of being able to contribute to your greatest potential.

Why do we hold back? Why are we fearful? (I do it too, all the time.)

  • I am afraid you won’t accept me. I am afraid you won’t like me.
  • I am afraid you will disagree with my choices or decisions, and struggle with me or reject me as a result.
  • I’m afraid you won’t think I’m smart enough, good enough, worthy enough.
  • I am afraid that if you know who I really am, it might have consequences for my health or well-being (e.g. I could lose job, my reputation, my standing within the organization or community).
  • I’m afraid that what I’m trying to do – or be – just won’t work.



To think “out of the box,” you must be living out of the box, and it’s an ongoing (and lifelong) process to do that.

I have not yet achieved healthy fearlessness as my steady state – I’m still awaiting bursts of my own personal transformation.  According to Ignite.me:

Joseph Campbell talked about the ‘Hero’s Journey’ whereby the hero is beckoned to enter an unfamiliar world.  When the hero enters this world, they are met with challenges, hurdles, and eventually a seemingly insurmountable confrontation which is achieved by using skills they picked up along the journey.  By overcoming this obstacle, the hero attains new self-knowledge which they can bring back to their people in the ‘ordinary land’ as their gift to the world.

Common themes of ancient mystery traditions are secrecy, death of the ego, participating with archetypal reality, and a rebirth of a new self.  The Eleusinian Mysteries took place over almost 2000 years and were shrouded in mystery from the uninitiated. Shamanic initiation often comes with the shaman being psychologically and experientially deconstructed and put back together.  Some tribal societies had rites of passage where children are ripped away from the bosom of the mother and left in the bush to learn how to become a warrior.  Rites of passage are transformational experiences where the old you is transformed into a new YOU.  That’s where we want to take you, and we create the container for that transformation.

What that means is that you may come as a journalist, or a chef, or a bike messenger, or a computer programmer but for the duration of our journey, you may choose to leave that behind to lose yourself in the present in workshops, dance, yoga, and celebration.  Transformation is disruptive and disorienting and actually occurs when past beliefs are shattered, habits are broken, and futures are rewritten.

By temporarily suspending fear, you create the space for transformation – the space for new experiences to redefine what you know and feel about yourself, and your interactions with other people and the world around you.

But this concept has been around for thousands of years… more on that tomorrow.

What #BIF9 and Burning Man Taught Me About Transformation – Part I


Registration Desk for our “Transform Learning” Unconference at Burning Man 2013

I spent the last week of August at Burning Man, and two days in September at Saul Kaplan‘s Business Innovation Factory Summit (BIF-9). On the surface, these two events couldn’t seem more different – the former is a counterculture festival of art and technology and spirit in the middle of the barren Nevada desert, whereas the latter is a traditional conference with TED-style talks punctuated by opportunities for business-card networking — in metropolitan Providence, Rhode Island. 

So why did I emerge from each of these vastly different experiences with the exact same, buoyant, intellectually inspired feeling? I’ve been curious ever since my plane touched the ground at DCA last week, and I emerged from the jetway with the same bittersweet resignation that I’d need to return to the “default world” in the morning. Granted, there’s a little bit of overlap… Peter Hirshberg, one of my 2013 neighbors from Playaskool, gave a great BIF talk about “retribalizing the city” and specifically cited Black Rock City as the kind of vision for the future that might have been celebrated at a World’s Fair of the past. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, also briefly noted the shared vibe of the Maker movement, Burning Man, and BIF when he was on stage — a vibe he aims to capture in his Downtown Project in Las Vegas.

But what’s the overlap? Why did both events inspire similar feelings in me?

Thanks to BIF-9 (and @AngelaMaiers), I remembered that I am a genius and the (default) world needs my contribution! And when Matt Murrie of What If? published his article yesterday on the Huffington Post, he provided another clue:  He reminded me that the spirit of BIF is easily captured by the phrases on those giant yellow slides that stay up on the screen in between BIF talks: think transformation, and try more stuff.

Think transformation! Try more stuff! And I’m needed… I’m an important part of all this!

That’s precisely how I felt as a resident of Black Rock City… and as a member of the BIF community sitting in the Trinity Rep theater. But the real secret sauce is… well, I’ll save that reveal for the end 🙂

First, some observations about the shared vibe between Burning Man and BIF:

  • Burners and BIFfers are, by their nature, “innovation junkies”. At a Burn, you are released into an environment where the normal rules and societal standards of engagement are temporarily suspended. The playa provides experiences that will snap you out of the way you thought life was, is, or should be. Want to send a postcard at the Post Office? OK, but you might have to do some cartwheels or tell the entire post office staff a good joke before they’ll take your mail. Nothing is impossible. At BIF, the same spirit prevails in the storytellers’ presentations and the conversations that happen over breaks and at dinner. I don’t have to be afraid of sharing crazy ideas with anyone in either group. I’m not shunned, looked at weird, or talked down. If anything, recommended refinements to my ideas will come with authenticity, insight, and a genuine feeling of support.
  • “Random Collisions of Unusual Suspects” (#RCUS using the tweetable parlance of Deb Mills-Scofield) is the norm in both environments. It is very difficult to wander around Burning Man without stumbling into unusual suspects (the guy who stopped traffic to give out hugs; the guy in the Superman costume who sprayed people with water so they could cool down; the people dancing with the giant jellyfish at White Ocean). BIF welcomes, with open arms, the same type of crowd but in different clothing (quite literally): the inspiring techno-matriarch, Deb Mills-Scofield (what I imagine Jane McGonigal will be like when she’s a grandmother — or as @sandymaxey beautifully observed, Deb is more like a “Fairy Godmother”), Amelia Friedman (who’s trying to help westerners learn widely used languages like Bengali), Evan Ratliff (who decided to create a story for Wired by “disappearing” – and then have people hunt for him), Jonathan Katz (who had a traumatic brain injury that wiped out his sense of taste and smell, and yet he works in a lab making new artificial flavors and scents!) and the girl who’s going to give me a numerology reading soon! OH!! And the guy wearing the nested alien suits at BIF. (Yeah, he would fit in well at Burning Man.)
  • At BIF and Burning Man, people tend towards non-judgment. In the “default world” it’s common to be criticized, ostracized, “tolerated” for your behaviors or beliefs, or (the worst case) expressly demonized, shunned, or outright excluded. At Burning Man, the principle of radical inclusion is honored as a core value of the community:

Burning Man is for absolutely everyone. Everyone. That’s what Radical Inclusion means. If you’re a starving artist, you should go. (if you want to, of course!) If you’re a plumber, you should go. If you’re a billionaire, you should go. If you’re a Saudi Prince that can only go if a turnkey camp is provided for you, please, please come. I’ll make you a sandwich. If you believe you’re a member of the class of people who actually deserve to be there, well then I definitely want you to keep going. One day, you’ll get it. Elitism in all forms distracts us from the truth of our common humanity.
— Dustin Moskovitz, inRadical Inclusion vs. Radical Self-Reliance at Burning Man

At BIF, I noticed that people tend to just naturally accept and honor differences – to get excited about differences, in fact – because if we’re different, we’ve got unique perspectives to share with one another! I met Jeffrey Sparr and Matthew Kaplan, for example, from PeaceLove Studios. They want to remove the stigma associated with mental illness so that people who need help are more receptive to getting it – and with support, can contribute their own gifts to society.

As a personal example, after having a rather open and vulnerable conversation with Greg Satell and his wife Liliana over beer and oysters (where I shared some things about myself that I ordinarily would be completely hesistant to admit to anyone) — Greg’s body language told me he was clearly a little bit uncomfortable. For a moment, I thought I’d misjudged the openness of the BIF crowd. I started to feel hesitant, weak, as if I’d miscalculated and really shouldn’t be making myself vulnerable. But then he spoke up: “Well, I can’t say I feel the same way for me, but if that’s what works for YOU – I’m glad you’ve figured out a way to make it happen.”

Greg’s response, for me, encapsulated the secret sauce of BIF, of Burning Man, and of transformation in general… which I’ll talk more about in a day or two in Part II.

(Ahhhhhhh… the anticipation! Yes, I’m doing this on purpose.)

Continue to Part II —->

Accelerating Quality

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

As part of World Quality Month, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks what we can do to more actively promote the discipline of quality.

There are two ways, in my opinion, to accelerate the adoption of quality philosophies and practices:

1. Return everyone’s focus to GOOD BUSINESS.

(Rant: That is, it’s time to turn away from the siren song of “increasing shareholder value”. Who are these shareholders anyway? They are a nameless, faceless swarm of customer IDs in a database, OR more likely, a list of mutual fund accounts whose stakeholders don’t even know they’ve invested in your company… they just want a return on their investment.)

There has been a 2005 NY Times article about Costco making the rounds anew on Twitter recently. It discusses the position of Jim Sinegal, who retired in January 2012 as the company’s CEO, uncompromisingly focused on taking good care of employees while keeping costs and margins low:

He rejects Wall Street’s assumption that to succeed in discount retailing, companies must pay poorly and skimp on benefits, or must ratchet up prices to meet Wall Street’s profit demands.

Good wages and benefits are why Costco has extremely low rates of turnover and theft by employees, he said. And Costco’s customers, who are more affluent than other warehouse store shoppers, stay loyal because they like that low prices do not come at the workers’ expense. “This is not altruistic,” he said. “This is good business.”

According to a more recent post at The Motley Fool, the Costco strategy is certainly achieving shareholder value, although I’d claim it’s the result of “peripheral visioning” – doing GOOD BUSINESS that just happens to pay off for the investor constituency.

Lynn Stout, author of The Shareholder Value Myth, says that “overemphasizing shareholders leads to a focus on short-term earnings, discouraging investment and innovation.” I say that overemphasizing shareholders depersonalizes the work, takes emotion out of the equation, and minimizes or eliminates the inspiration that is so critical to hyper-productivity and creating a culture of innovation.

(The publishing industry today provides a great example of how shareholder value is decoupled from delivering value. Andrew Sullivan also has a great video on this.)

2. Work on PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION. Like you, yourself — personally. We spend a lot of time in our organizations developing missions, visions, and values, and launching initiatives and review processes to encourage the kind of behavior and attitudes that we’ve decided the organization wants. But what we too often fail to recognize is that by instituting a transformation within ourselves, we can infect others in the organization with positivity, optimism, and professionalism. I think this is what Deming’s message was originally aiming towards… and I think we can transform ourselves by aspiring to new levels of quality consciousness.

Are Deming’s 14 Points Still Valid?

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

In 1986, W. Edwards Deming described the 14 Points that constitute his transformational theory of management in Out of the Crisis. These tenets were the basis for his success and fame as an agent of organizational and institutional change in post-war Japan.

Researchers and practitioners in quality management continue to honor Deming’s valuable contributions today. My 2013 QMJ article showed that Out of the Crisis has been the most central and authoritative resource influencing quality management research over the past two decades.

“The 14 Points all have one aim: to make it possible for people to work with joy.” — Deming, quoted in Gone But Never Forgotten, Quality Progress, March 1994

But are Deming’s 14 Points still valid in the post-2008 economic era?Although the financial landscape no longer seems as bleak as it did then, vibrant growth and globalization are no longer expected to dominate. And where co-creation of value and the importance of innovation are even more highlighted (e.g. the 2011 & 2015 ASQ Futures Studies)?

Deming’s 14 Points, Today

I decided to reflect on the 14 Points again in the modern context. My comments, for the Points that I think need a little adjustment, are in italics:

  1. Create constancy of purpose towards the improvement of product and service, with the aim of becoming and remaining competitive and providing jobs. I’d argue that merely remaining competitive and providing jobs is part of the old philosophy. What about providing meaning and purpose?
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. I’d argue that we’re ripe for a NEWER philosophy right now. We’re certainly in a different economic age than in the 1950’s when Deming first developed his philosophy, and we’re not in the same place we were in the 1980’s when he was writing and being a guru. What’s the new philosophy? I think it’s related to operationalizing the gift economy, pursuing individual transformation, and distancing our organizations from the mode of unbounded pursuit of profit (which to me, is waste). That’s just my opinion, though. What are yours?
  3. Build quality in (to products and services). This point has really stood the test of time, supported by the development of new methodologies for designing quality in, e.g. DFSS/DMDOV. Is there a comparable mechanism for designing quality into services?
  4. End the practice of awarding business based on (low) price; move towards a single supplier, build relationships based on trust and loyalty. Techniques for supplier management have become more robust, and whether or not your organization is implementing such techniques, I do believe that many businesses are using more robust criteria for identifying suitable suppliers and managing supplier relationships. But are those relationships based on trust and loyalty? Not sure this is possible when companies get so large that you don’t have personal relationships with your suppliers. 
  5. Improve constantly. Again, this has stood the test of time. Continuous improvement, in the academic and practitioner literature, has become like breathing air – it’s just something you do, or else you’ll die. Case closed.
  6. Institute training on the job. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think this is a good idea.
  7. Institute leadership; help machines and people and gadgets do a better job.  Yet another good idea – but we can do better by actively driving out fear and eliminating barriers between people and between parts of organizations.
  8. Drive out fear. Out of all the 14 Points, this is the one I think we’ve collectively done a terrible job with the attention we give to it. Performance reviews are still commonplace. Power dynamics are still in place due to the nature of the manager-employee relationship, and this is exacerbated during times of recession when job loss seems to be a continual threat.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. I also think we should place more emphasis on breaking down barriers between people, and WITHIN people. Internal conflicts can be just as damaging as interpersonal conflicts and inter-departmental misalignment.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets. I used to have a t-shirt that said “Committed to Quality.” It was a great shirt, and I wore it all the time. I don’t think it made me any more committed to quality though.
  11. Eliminate quotas, numbers, numerical goals. Does anyone actually pay attention to this one? Are most organizations just conveniently ignoring it? I’d love to hear some stories where this Point is actually being implemented.
  12. Remove barriers that impede pride of workmanship (amended by Deming in 1988 to “joy of work”). I haven’t seen many research studies that focus on pride of workmanship, joy in work, and other things (like confidence, inspiration, enjoyment) as critical success factors. Are we helping the members of our organizations become happier and more empowered? There has been a recent surge of interest in positive psychology within the quality literature; I believe that there are many outstanding opportunities in this area. For example, how does an increase in the pride of workmanship and joy in work affect the bottom line?
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement. Although we could argue about what constitutes “vigorous,” I know that many organizations are committed to continuing education. Many could do better with honoring individual goals for self-improvement, particularly when the improvement does not directly relate to the person’s role within the organization. For example, how many managers encourage their employees to pursue an exercise program, if that employee really wants to make the effort to become more healthy?
  14. Put everybody to work to accomplish the transformation – the transformation is everyone’s job. It certainly is. But do we really know how we are being called to transform to survive – and thrive – in a global economy where the rules and the interests are fundamentally shifting? I’m not sure we know what’s required. It feels like (as a society) we are struggling to perform under the same economic rules and conditions that have guided us for the past 50 or so years.

What do you think? Are Deming’s 14 Points still valid, or should we revisit them and adjust?

Are there additional Points that we really should amend to his longstanding gospel of quality?

I believe that the core – the essence of the 14 Points is still valid – but that we should (as individuals and as a community) revisit the foundational principles upon which the Points are based to transform ourselves as a means of transforming the collective – making it possible for us and all those around us to work with joy.

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