Month: March 2012

Deming Revisited for a Physically Resource Constrained Global Economy

W Edwards Deming did his celebrated work in an era when environmental and social constraints where not at the forefront of managerial minds and his body of work can be interpreted as a method of maximising solely economic profit.

Although Deming was a child of his times; it is clear from the Preface to ‘Out of Crisis’ that he was reaching out to the Concept of Sustainable Development. Which I define as the process of continual improvement on the journey to perfect Quality and Deming would recognise as his, holistically defined.

Deming said in the Preface  “Performance of management should be measured by the potential to stay in Business, to protect investment.. to protect jobs through improvement of product and service for the future, not by quarterly dividend”.

We have now passed through a period of perhaps 30+ years where environmental and social process failures were seen as an add on burden to organisational management but now, in the resource constrained future we find ourselves in, we have to see them for what they are, core survival issues, and we must be treat them as such by revisiting Deming’s teaching.

As Deming said “Survival is not Compulsory”

Deming Laid down his teaching in 14 points, interpreted at as

1.”Create constancy of purpose towards improvement”. Replace short-term reaction with long-term planning.

2.”Adopt the new philosophy”. The implication is that management should actually adopt his philosophy, rather than merely expect the workforce to do so.

3.”Cease dependence on inspection”. If variation is reduced, there is no need to inspect manufactured items for defects, because there won’t be any.

4.”Move towards a single supplier for any one item.” Multiple suppliers mean variation between feedstocks.

5.”Improve constantly and forever”. Constantly strive to reduce variation.

6.”Institute training on the job”. If people are inadequately trained, they will not all work the same way, and this will introduce variation.

7.”Institute leadership”. Deming makes a distinction between leadership and mere supervision. The latter is quota- and target-based.

8.”Drive out fear”. Deming sees management by fear as counter- productive in the long term, because it prevents workers from acting in the organisation’s best interests.

9.”Break down barriers between departments”. Another idea central to TQM is the concept of the ‘internal customer’, that each department serves not the management, but the other departments that use its outputs.

10.”Eliminate slogans”. Another central TQM idea is that it’s not people who make most mistakes – it’s the process they are working within. Harassing the workforce without improving the processes they use is counter-productive.

11.”Eliminate management by objectives”. Deming saw production targets as encouraging the delivery of poor-quality goods.

12.”Remove barriers to pride of workmanship”. Many of the other problems outlined reduce worker satisfaction.

13.”Institute education and self-improvement”.

14.”The transformation is everyone’s job”.

To be continued…

See also


‘Essential Value’ and Resource Intensity

It is now widely acknowledged that global resources are increasingly constrained, most recently on the 16th March by the US, where the president signed the National Resource Preparedness  Order

As resources become more constrained, we, as societies, organisations and individuals will decide what is the ‘essential value’ that gives us a satisfactory ‘Quality of Life’, within the affordable resources available to us. Spending on ‘non-essential value’ will of necessity fall; although in the real world it will not completely disappear as incomes will always be unequal. (luxury car sales to China for example)

We can see at that Resource Intensity decides the Consumption (Value) creatable for a given consuming population. Past circumstances that allowed a disproportional level of consumption in the West for given availability of resources no longer apply.

In the limit, most available resources will be used creating ‘essential value’ and we can thus define Resource Intensity as ‘the resource use per person per unit of ‘essential value’ created’.

Although there will always be transient niche markets; in this One Planet World, only organisations that create ‘essential value’ can hope to survive and grow over time.

What we can say is, tomorrow’s successful, sustainable organisations will help maintain the Essential Value Created on Energy Invested by

  • Satisfying emotional and spiritual need rather than gratuitous wants – self-actualisation
  • Satisfying the essential needs in the lower orders of Maslow’s Pyramid
  • Employing people rather than energy
  • Creating or using renewable energy and other resources
  • Minimising water use or creating the technologies that do
  • Creating/deploying climate stabilising and mitigation technologies
  • Being increasingly local
  • Providing a service rather than a product
  • Practising life-cycle stewardship of their resources
  • Managing value rather than cost
  • Being able to operate at continually reducing resource intensity
Defining the ‘essential value’ you and your organisation add to society is the first step in deciding a viable business strategy and this is best seen as an organisational ‘Quality’ issue


The Magic and Misery of Exponential Growth

Exponential Growth is what we see all around us, it is what maintains life but spells the end of an individual ‘system’ unless a balance, steady state can be maintained.

Over the short run, in geological terms the Earth does this and mankind’s ability to influence this has been  minimal. We have now reached the near vertical part of the Exponential Curve in many areas of human activity.

Look at these two resources and decide for yourself if our ‘multi-planet world’ way of life is sustainable


The magic and misery of exponential growth 97-03 v2

Arithmetic, Population and Energy- abridged)