In a recent article in Auto News about the demise of Toyota president, Tatsuro Toyoda, they state that Toyoda “earned an MBA from New York University, where he studied under the famed quality-control guru W. Edwards Deming.”
Deming is perhaps one of the most quoted and yet misunderstood leaders in management thinking and practice, and referencing him as “quality-control guru” proves the point. The monumental contribution of Deming to management is a body of knowledge that we must disassociate in the strongest terms from the way “Quality” is handled in many organizations. A recent encounter with the representative of a Certification body brought this home more strongly than ever.
When properly interpreted, Quality can be the inspiring driving force behind our efforts to always go beyond what we are achieving, knowing that continual improvement is a journey. Reducing Quality to the mechanics of compliance is never what Deming intended. On the contrary, organizations can access his work to transform systemically and create highly productive and innovative work environments where joy and satisfaction are an essential part of the picture. Quality is a mindset and a philosophy and starts with leadership.
So I take this opportunity to revisit what our Founder, Dr. Domenico Lepore, wrote in the book ‘Sechel: logic, language and tools to manage any organization as a network’ about his journey with Deming’s philosophy that remains the bedrock and inspiration for our work at Intelligent Management.
In 1993 I joined a network of academics and professionals based in the UK called the British Deming Association (BDA). It had been created a few years earlier, with Dr. Deming himself as its honorary Chair, and its goal was to promote and disseminate the teachings of Deming through seminars, real life testimonials, conferences, and publications.
Dr. Deming was a physicist and statistician whose work founded the Quality movement. He is perhaps best known for his work in Japan. His advice on improving design, production, quality and sales, founded on a thorough understanding and application of Statistical Process Control, helped Japan rise from the ashes after World War II to become a world leader in manufacturing. A basic tenet of his philosophy was to see and manage an organization as a system, in other words a network of interdependent processes that work together to achieve a goal.
I had been studying Deming extensively over the previous three years as part of my job at the Milan management school of the Camera di Commercio, part of the Department of Trade and Industry. My brief was to initiate small businesses in the basic principles of Quality Management. As a physicist now working with organizations, I found Deming’s philosophy exhilarating. By 1993 I had transformed my far too quiet activity of government agency employee into a vibrant crusade to promote Deming’s philosophy and I was gaining some traction. It was as if I had known Deming forever; his words full of power, wisdom and unrivalled scientific rigor resonated with me more and better than any other form of organizational study.
Meeting the British Deming Association further boosted my enthusiasm and enriched manifold my learning through continuous contact with illustrious Deming scholars. Dr. Deming’s zest for knowledge has been one of the strongest and most profound sources of inspiration in my whole life and the Theory of Profound Knowledge the blueprint for my professional development.
By 1995, may I say with some pride, I was successfully advising dozens of companies in northern Italy and training hundreds of managers in Deming’s philosophy. Dr. Deming never slowed down his efforts to promote better management through better understanding of variation and how this variation permeates every aspect of our lives. This is what I was passing on to businesses and the message was loud and clear: reduce variation, promote statistical predictability and improve Quality.
By Dr. Domenic Lepore, from ‘Sechel: logic, language and tools to manage any organization as a network’
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About the Blog Author and Editor
Angela Montgomery Ph.D. is Partner and Co-founder of Intelligent Management and author of the business novel+ website The Human Constraint that has sold in over 20 countries. She is co-author with Dr. Domenico Lepore, founder, and Dr. Giovanni Siepe of ‘Quality, Involvement, Flow: The Systemic Organization’ from CRC Press, New York.