One of my favorite movies is Biloxi Blues not so much for the film, but it gave me a tag line for my life purpose. “Don’t ever compromise your principles or you become a candidate for mediocrity” as spoken by Arnold B. Epstein. There have been many opportunities to “pack it in” and not follow the path less traveled, but someone has to stand up and say there is a better way, when there is. Frustration in getting to change people’s paradigms goes with the territory.
I without doubt believe that Dr. W. Edwards Deming felt that same frustration after WWII when he had been so successful during the war effort improving manufacturing. The decimation of Europe during WWII left the world only one place to go for their goods . . . the US. So the mantra became give the world what they want as fast as we can, not as well as we can. The principles of Frederick Winslow Taylor (scientific management theory) were followed here in the US and things went well. Until Dr. Deming was invited to Japan to help rebuild. This culminated in the Japanese Industrial Miracle and Japan’s rise in the automotive world and the decline of Ford, Chrysler and GM in the 70s. Now Dr. Deming was invited back to the US to help save the manufacturers in the US. In Out of the Crisis he would write about 14 Points and 7 Deadly diseases for the transformation of industry. Later in The New Economics he boiled these points down to his System of Profound Knowledge (Appreciation for a System, Theory of Variation, Theory of Knowledge and Psychology). Except for the “tools” the fundamental philosophy has been rejected as Dr. Deming called for such things as abolishing performance ratings, inspection, incentives and bonuses. All ideas rejected by US industry today.
It wasn’t until John Seddon that I found hope for this better way. Not where I thought enlightenment would come from . . . an occupational psychologist that studied why organizational change management programs failed. They failed because the fundamental thinking never changed. We (the US) never changed its thinking about scientific management theory and we still have the notion that organizational change management has something to do with “tools” found in Lean, Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma (I have been down these paths they will bring some improvement, but not to the level in which systems thinking will). I commend him for this simple yet profound find and his ability to work with service organizations to make a huge transformation for companies that are curious for a better way.
For me, I will continue to correct wrong thinking (command and control) that continues to paralyze service industry and stifle private and public sector innovation. Instead, there is a better method a “systems thinking” one. Proven over and over again to be better and more profitable than command and control thinking. Won’t you join me?
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