patternsthatconnect

abstract art, a systems view

Posts Tagged ‘W.Edwards Deming

Working on the system

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In my day-job, it is my last day of full time employment at a company where I have worked for over 30 years (in its various incarnations). The end of an era, or was it an eon?

As well as having the pleasure of working with some wonderful people, it was also a great place for learning from the work. I learned how to work on the system, rather than just working in it.

It is a sad fact that employees all over the globe spend their time and ingenuity getting around the system, or “playing the system”, mostly because employers don’t give them the opportunity to get involved in improving it.

According to W.Edwards Deming “it is the job of management to work on the system, to improve it, with the help of those who work in it”.

Why so-called performance related pay doesn’t work

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The behaviour of each of these shapes/colours is determined by the system in which they operate.

step 3 (conclusion)

Don’t you think that the pinks are especially high performing? Don’t they deserve special recognition? Yes, let’s give them a good bonus this year and a higher salary increase than the others. They deserve it.

Performance related pay doesn’t work because organizational behaviour is a result of the system (the responsibility of management). Paying people differently for what is a result of the system is always unfair. It also leads to concentrating on individual performance rather than on improving the system.

W. Edwards Deming has shown that in any organization 94% of opportunities for improvement come from the system and only 6% from individuals within it.

Creativity at work?

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Is there really room for creativity in the workplace? I don’t mean art in the workplace…

…though I think that would make an interesting study.

I mean creative thinking. Whilst that term probably needs some definition I am going to leave that difficult task for another time and assume we share a general understanding of  it.

In large companies especially, creativity is needed (W.Edwards Deming said “it is necessary to innovate”) and often it is verbally encouraged. But then, at the same time, any behaviour that might approach the creative also tends to be stifled.

One way of stifling something is to claim to be managing it. I note that Talent Management is a euphemism for the squandering of talent and Performance Management guarantees that the performance of any organisation will be sub-optimised.

It is almost as if the more that an idea gets talked about the less  it is likely to be experienced. For example, we hear so much about “communities” (the HR community, the Learning & Development community, the artistic community, the gay community, the local community, etc) precisely at a time when our experience of community is virtually non-existent. It must be a virtual community!

Recently, a friend was telling me how in their workplace the job purpose of the Quality Manager seemed to be to prevent quality.

The Blog as system: a little Statistical Process Control

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Here’s a run chart showing the visits to my blog in May (I know, it would be nice to have more visits).

It shows at a glance just how much variation there is in the system visits per day to my site: although the average (mean) number of visits per day for May was 58, the highest number of visits was 144, and the least was 17.

Plotting the data in a control chart or capability chart (invented by Walter Shewhart and used by W. Edwards Deming) shows that the system is out of statistical control, in that there is special cause variation on day 29,

and the run of twelve days below the mean may also suggest special causes of variation (a run of six or more might be an indication of a special cause).

With special causes it could be meaningful to ask “what happened, specifically?”

Answers: 1) On day 29, I used a poll for the first time, and as it was researching a suggestion made by my son (that some people need help to see optical effects), both my sons were happy to encourage their Facebook friends to visit my site and complete the poll. As a result I got more visitors than usual that day. 2) On days 10 to 21, I may have been less active than usual in looking at other blogs as I was away for some of those days.

All the other data points show common cause variation: the variation that can be expected by the normal behaviour of the system. The chart shows that I could expect to get anywhere between 0 visits (the Lower Control Limit, LCL) and 112 visits (the Upper Control Limit, UCL) on any one day. To be surprised by data points within these limits, to get concerned for example at the 17 visits, would be foolish. To improve performance when the system shows common cause variation one must focus on the common causes rather than on individual data points. I could ask myself “what happens predictably every day, that causes this variation?” I would answer that I post something including a visual image, and that I take a few minutes to look at other blogs, mostly by tag surfing. To get more visits I would have to change this system.

Written by Andy Parkinson

June 9, 2011 at 7:10 am