All posts by Cayce Will

Create Constancy of Purpose

W. Edwards Deming
W. Edwards Deming

William Edwards Deming, a statistician and professor, developed a theory of management based on fourteen points that he considered critical for management to become transformational and thus lead their business to greater success. He published his ideas in a book titled “Out of the Crisis” and I recommend you get a copy for reference. His thoughts and published works have led to the development of systems like Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and Lean. Deming’s work is not a blueprint for success, ready to be copied, but his fourteen points are a starting point for discussion, consideration and contemplation when it comes time for you to begin your journey of management transformation and improvement.

Let’s start this journey together, now, as we discuss Deming’s points and see how they may relate to you and your leadership style and business goals.

Point One: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

Seems pretty simple right? Well, this one little sentence is packed with complexity just waiting for us to unravel. This point squarely puts the onus on Management to make looking out for our employees the number one job, while the responsibility of the employee is to improve their product or service. The focus is not on the product or service; rather, the focus is on choosing to dependably improve our product or service. Acknowledge that what you offer isn’t perfect and can be done better. And if it isn’t done better by you, reliably, your competition will do it for you and put you out of business.

Deming also advocates that you focus your business on being competitive and providing jobs. To truly improve our competitiveness, I feel we must recognize the value our staff bring to our business, and concentrate on allowing them to self-improve. People—not the thing we produce or the service we provide—are at the core of our operation. Without our employees, nothing is made, nothing is sold, and no amount of marketing nor motivational speeches will change that – our staff make our business. Empower them.

The secret to success...
Benjamin Disraeli said it succinctly

Benjamin Disraeli said it most succinctly – and I believe Deming would agree – that to truly succeed in your business Management must fully embrace continuous improvement as a living element in our operations, making it the basis of the corporate culture. Staff should be 100% supported by the the company and the management. Staff should be empowered to make positive changes to improve their working environment and better their product or service.  And there should never be any doubt that the company fully supports continuous improvement efforts.

As we continue this journey through Deming’s fourteen points, we’ll see how each point can easily stand on its own, while at the same time often reinforcing one another—much like management and staff have their own jobs to do but must work together to keep driving improvement forward to increase productivity.

Next Article: Point Two – Adopt the new philosophy


Lean Overview

Why an overview? Sometimes after you’ve been doing something for a while, it’s easy to forget the basics. For example, if you play the piano and you never practice your scales, you might forget them or get a little rusty. Lean isn’t any different! Sometimes it’s good have a refresher on what it’s all really about, so that’s why this week I’ve decided to do a brief Lean overview.

First off, what is Lean? Lean is a continuous improvement philosophy. It’s based upon respect for people, customer focus, and having stakeholders at all levels be involved in the improvements—especially the frontline workers who “live” in that process every day! Lean practice focuses on identifying and eliminating waste to improve value from the customer’s perspective.

Some key concepts of Lean are:

  • Value is defined by the customer
  • Identify the value stream for each product
  • Create flow in your process
  • Pull from the customer, and
  • Continual pursuit of perfection.

What’s the value stream? All Lean thinking begins with a value stream! It includes all steps and activities in a process, from beginning to end. Value streams can be used to identify wastes (non-value added steps) to identify areas for improvement.

A Swimlane Value Stream Map from a kaizen in the Geological & Mining Engineering & Sciences department kaizen. (Click for full image)

What’s the difference between value added and non-value added steps in a process? The value should always be looked at from a customer’s point of view, so a value-add step in the process is quite simply something your customer finds valuable, or something that they are willing to pay for. If it is a non-value added activity, it means your customer doesn’t see that step as a valuable part of the process. A non-value added activity is considered waste.

Some steps in a process may be non-value add, but necessary. These steps might be required by legislation, might be a quality check, etc. It is not a step that the customer necessarily views as valuable and feels they should pay for, but it is something that must be done regardless.

How do we define waste? Waste is anything that does not add value in the customer’s eyes. There are three forms of waste: unevenness (variation or inconsistency in a process), overburden (excessive stress or strain on people/equipment), and non-value added waste (see our Waste Quick Point in the Tools & Templates section for more info on waste).