I recently came across W Edwards Deming and have since been doing some homework to discover why there is so much resistance to what is essentially some very basic philosophy.
Deming’s early work on statistics and quality was built around an ability to analyse complex systems and the use of that analysis to predict complex outcomes.
Deming was a statistician and his work very soon leaves the basic philosophy and becomes bogged in the complex use of numbers to define complex systems.
The very complexity of his approach deters many students but there is a more fundamental problem with complex systems that was identified by the later work on chaos.
There seems to be two approaches to the world.
There is the modern Digital approach where every action and interaction is controlled at the microscopic level by single bites of information.
Below this level it is not possible to go because a single bite of information is not divisible.
But we know from chaos theory that below the level of that single bite of information there is a whole world of complexity that has huge and unpredictable outcomes.
The flaws occur when we begin to realise the limitations of the start point digital data.
When the weather centre at Bracknell decided to tighten up its long range forecasting ability with the purchase of their first computers the reaction of the computers was completely unexpected.
The computers told the forecasters that they should stop issuing long range forecasts because the probability of a correct forecast was no better than chance.
Natural events are far more complex than a digital approach can ever define.
We can take a digital picture that looks great but when we blow it up we start to discover its limitations.
By trying to try to define complex systems in this way we are building in errors that become evident in the variation we encounter and are magnified massively whenever one complex system encounters another.
The second approach is the Analogue approach.
In nature the interaction of complex systems occurs all of the time without any trouble at all because when a wave hits a beach what happens, just happens.
If we try to define what happens to the wave or the beach in a digital way we will probably end up concluding that nature is at fault.
The digital approach to managing process's and operations will always have the same built in errors when it contains these complex natural components.
The component that causes most trouble is the human operator whose actions and interactions may be the most complex on the planet.
When treated in this digital way the complexities cannot be resolved.
The human being has to be treated in natural way that instead of trying to define the complexity of the condition simply creates the environment that allows the conditions to interact and come to a natural conclusion.
In this way we avoid the impossibility of trying to define a complex system and instead concentrate on the result when the two systems combine.
Try to define sex.
What is it, what starts the thought processes that lead to it, what are the physical changes that must precede it, how do we feel during and do we have to smoke afterwards, what about the partner, what appealing characteristics, body type, skin tone hair colour etc.
There are an enormous number of questions before we can define the act in a digital/analytical way and an even bigger number of answers to those questions.
The complexity of the analysis puts us off the act.
If however we appreciate the possibility of the act then all we have to do is to create the right environment for the act to take place and ignore the complexities because it is what people want to do.
The right environment could be as simple as a darkened room.
In the same way, if we assume that people want to be able to do a good job we simply have to create the environment that allows them to do a good job.
The right environment could be created simply by listening to the workforce and finding out what they need to be as good as they can be.
As Deming said, “Remove the barriers that stop people from being as good as they can be and count the smiles on Monday morning. "
Peter A Hunter
Author - Breaking the Mould
If you have ever experienced or learnt something which you then knew was instinctively right - you will never have forgotten it. Peter Hunter learned something years ago which, regrettably, most of us have still yet to learn.
When we do - once we have understood the simplicity of his book ‘Breaking the Mould’ - it will transform our lives forever!
Vic Baxter – Business Workout.