Organizational Failure Part 2: Crucial Deming Points

Dr. Deming was instrumental in rebuilding Japan after WW2; his radical innovation in quality control methods is summed up in 14 qualitative management guidelines. Some of these are critical to addressing and preventing organizational failure but interestingly not all. Note that in the case of systemic failure, the failure is unique in spreading between teams/organizations. What this means is that while many of Deming’s Points are crucial to a functioning organization, they may merely act to protect a team/organization from a propagating failure, not fix it. This is a topic that should be investigated.

8. “Eliminate Fear. Allow people to perform at their best by ensuring that they’re not afraid to express ideas or concerns.” The systemic failure symptom that occurs when this isn’t enacted is the suppression/punishment of reasoned dissent.

8. “Eliminate Fear. Ensure that your leaders are approachable and that they work with the teams to act in the company’s best interests.” The systemic failure symptoms that occur when this isn’t enacted are (a) conflict of interest and (b) workers received with malignant-condescension.

Here is where the Systems concept is highlighted:
9. “Break down barriers between departments. Build the ‘internal customer’ concept – recognize that each department or function serves other departments that use their output.” Note that with respect to this Point, an organization experiencing failure will consist of many teams that are acting defensively. These erected barriers between departments may serve a positive purpose and should be investigated prior to being lowered.

In summary, notice that three of the symptoms of systemic failure largely comprise the emotion of fear. If you read about the management of Alcoa under Mr. Paul O’Neill’s tenure, one of the significant departures from many management styles was his emphasis of workers and their safety above the product processes. By following Dr. Deming’s Points, including the ones listed above, Alcoa made significant gains in the market.

If I can find enough information, the incident in Mexico could potentially serve as a systemic failure example. Where over 100 people went to the hospital and Mr. O’Neill only discovered this at a board meeting from area nuns who ambushed him, an extensive failure is necessary to perpetuate such a large-scale cover-up.