W. Edwards Deming at Western Connecticut State University, February 6, 1990


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This podcast features the audio track of a lecture by Dr. Deming, featured in a blog post by John Hunter, copied here, beginning with a quote from Dr. Deming:

"We are being ruined by best efforts without knowledge. Sure we want best efforts but guided with knowledge.Efforts guided by instinct do more harm than good. Our problem is best efforts."

At about the 50 minute point in the presentation Dr. Deming includes an informative discussion on the system being responsible for most of the results (even though we often consider variation in results being due to individual’s efforts).

Most of what anybody is able to turn out is governed by the system that he works in.

He uses the example of a new University president and all the constraints on their ability to act.

The performance of any component is to be evaluated in terms of its contribution to the aim of the system, not for its individual performance or profit, nor for any other competitive measure.

W. Edwards Deming gives the example of using a loss leader to optimize the overall performance. The business losses money on the component with the intention of optimizing the performance of the entire enterprise.

Management of a system requires knowledge of the interrelationships between all of the components within the system and of everybody that works in it.

As Ackoff said, manage the interactions, manage the messes.

There is innate need for self-esteem and respect. Circumstances provide some people with dignity and self-esteem. Circumstances deny other people these advantages. Management that denies their people, to their employees, dignity and self esteem will smother intrinsic motivation. We have done a good job of it; we have smothered our people. We destroyed our people. We’ve got to bring back the individual.

Deming responded to a question from the audience

Question from audience: What do you propose to replace the merit system with?

W. Edwards Deming: Replace it? You mean you want something to destroy people better than that does? Follow up question: Is there any way to change the merit system to meet [???]?

W. Edwards Deming: Change it? Abolish it for hell’s sake. Change hell. You don’t want change. Abolish it… I don’t want the 10 reasons why you can’t do it. I want the one way you are going to do it. Anytime anyone suggests anything to somebody he’s got 10 reasons why it can’t be done. I don’t want those, I want the one way he is going to do it.

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