Deming's Point Seven

Adopt and Institute Leadership

♦ The job of management is not supervision, but leadership.

♦ Statistical methods are vital as an aid to all involved in leadership.  

♦ The required transformation of Western management requires that managers be leaders.  Today, there's too much management and not enough leadership!

♦ The leader removes barriers to joy in work.  Joy is a critical factor in any work environment that cannot be measured, but nonetheless must be managed.

♦ Dr. Deming long insisted that the most important measures facing American management are unknown and unknowable.  He asked, for example, "How much business does a happy customer bring in to you?  Nobody knows.  What is the value of the satisfied customer? Nobody knows.  What is the cost of the dissatisfied customer?  Nobody knows.  How much business does the dissatisfied customer drive away?  Nobody knows.  There is conjecture; but nobody knows."

♦ Consider how often one hears the saying, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."  It was a mantra in my graduate business school studies.  I continue to hear it from many Black Belts and other advocates of so-called Six Sigma.  Despite what they claim, the most important measures facing American management are unknown and unknowable.  After all, what is the cost of the untrained employee, working in fear?  Can't be measured; must nonetheless be managed.

♦ If workers suffer barriers to their right to joy in work, it is lowering productivity and efficiency every hour of every work day.  And it has nothing to do with labor utilization versus internal standard; nothing to do with capital equipment utilization versus internal standard; nothing to do with production efficiency versus internal standard; nothing to do with any of these numbers managers monitor out of concern for productivity and efficiency.

♦ The leader need not always have numbers in order to manage.  The leader has profound knowledge.  The leader understands psychology.

♦ Leaders also understand variation.  They can differentiate between common cause variation and special cause variation.  Common causes produce outcomes that are different, but not significantly different.  Special causes produce outcomes that are not different, they're significantly different.

♦ The leader uses systems thinking, statistical thinking and statistical calculation to determine who, if anyone, is outside the system on the good side, outside the system on the poor side, or belonging to a system.

♦ The leader understands that if he or she were to take ten people out into the parking lot and time them in a 40-yard dash, five will come out equal to or above average and five will come out equal to or below average.  There's nothing special about the above-average or the below-average performers.  That's normal.  The leader understands that.

♦ The challenge facing leadership is prediction and influence of the future -- not merely knowing the score.  For example, how can one predict that a third grader will be a success in life (A+ student)?  Mediocre (C)?  Failure (F)?  How could one possibly know?

♦ Leaders work to improve the system in which they and their people work.  

♦ The leader creates trust.  The leader forgives a mistake.

♦ The leader listens and learns.

Especially in the West, leaders are heroes -- great men (an occasionally women) who "rise to the fore" in times of crisis.  Our prevailing leadership myths are still captured by the image of the captain of the cavalry leading the charge to rescue the settlers.  So long as such myths exist, they reinforce a focus on short-term events rather than on systemic forces.


W. E. Deming, Out of the Crisis, MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study, Cambridge, MA (1986), pp. 54-59.

J. F. Leonard, The New Philosophy for K-12 Education: A Deming Framework for Transforming America's Schools, ASQ Quality Press, Milwaukee, WI (1996), pp. 202-207.

Management's Five Deadly Diseases: A Conversation with Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Encyclopaedia Brittannica Educational Corporation, Lake Orion, MI (1984), videocassette.

P. Senge, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Doubleday, New York, NY (1990), p. 340.

© 2015 James F. Leonard.  All rights reserved.


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