The transformation is everybody’s job”

Rob Leathern
May 29, 2017 · 3 min read
Inside of an iPhone 6s (iFixit)

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.

William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 — December 20, 1993)

Years ago I discovered Genichi Taguchi and the work he did to help move manufacturing towards a model of continuous, incremental improvement (more generally, this has become known as kaizen or 改善). More recently, I returned to looking at this, and stumbled upon some of the foundational work of W. Edwards Deming.

Deming initially became known for his work in Japan after the second world war where he is credited as one of the inspirations for helping the country implement the excellence in manufacturing via which it rose to become the second largest economy in the world. Deming wanted every manager to have what he called a “System of Profound Knowledge”:

  1. Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services, and the management of the organization are responsible for creating a culture and organizational environment that allows “everybody to gain — stockholders, employees, suppliers, customers, community, the environment — over the long term”
  2. Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements
  3. Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known
  4. Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature

In his book Out of the Crisis, he offered 14 key principles to managers for transforming business effectiveness (bolding mine):

  1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive, to stay in business and to provide jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for massive inspection by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of a price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move towards a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, in order to foresee problems of production and usage that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute with leadership. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers and numerical goals. Instead substitute with leadership.
  11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objectives
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

“Massive training is required to instill the courage to break with tradition. Every activity and every job is a part of the process.”

Rob Leathern

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