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.