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Businesses must form a 'cooperative culture'

A funny thing happened after my last column, published Wednesday, March 3.

The following morning I received an e-mail from Taiwan advising me that I had made a mistake. I had written that Dr. Deming had studied under Sir Ronald Fisher at Oxford and I was advised that Fisher had not taught at Oxford but at University College in London.

He is, of course, right.

I continue to be amazed, not so much at my fallible memory, but at how small this world really is today.

W. Edwards Deming was often asked for a roadmap to guide people in the application of his philosophy. It seems people always wanted a magic recipe. He would, on occasion, vent his frustration with top management by responding, "What? You want me to tell you how to do your job?" Then he would proceed to do just that.

In February 1981, he was under persistent pressure from a client at a private seminar from their management for such a roadmap. He relented and on the evening of the third day of his seminar he wrote Twelve Principles of Management. During discussion of these principles the next day he added two additional ones.

Deming's 14-point Theory of Management basically encompasses his thoughts in a sequential format. They are broad lines of action that management must take if the organization is to achieve a true quality transformation.

"You cannot separate the 14 points," said Deming. "Number one is the foundation. Without it, there is no point in talking about the others."

Point number one is:

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

Management, suggests Deming, has two problems: those of today and those of tomorrow. Both must be addressed.

The problems of today would include "putting out fires," meeting daily needs of organization and individuals, getting out today's work today, and avoiding the tendency to automate today's solutions without proper thought for the future.

Problems of tomorrow include retaining constancy of purpose, improving competitive position or strengthening operational position and providing long-term benefits.

The customer's expectations also must be addressed in the company's search for constancy and all plans must be developed with the company's long-range mission and vision in mind.

It is the responsibility of the top management to provide a clear definition of the aim of the organization and determine how to implement changes through communication and organization.

Management must be visibly active and unwavering in their commitment to the purpose, including committing financial re-sources to innovation, research and education as well as improving designs and aids to production. Peter Senge of Harvard said, "Few, if any, forces in human affairs are as powerful as shared vision."

Point number two is:

Adopt the new philosophy. In this new economic age, Western management must awaken to the challenge, learn their responsibilities and take on leadership for change.

One of Deming's broadest mandates, this point demands a comprehensive change in management's attitudes on everything from personnel to distribution. It means a whole new corporate culture, in which employees feel empowered to innovate, ask questions, and exercise leadership.

High-level executives, middle management and line employees and suppliers must contribute to a cooperative culture that is focused on delivering the finest products and services to the customer.

This is difficult, because senior managers must change decades of business practices. Anything less, however, means adhering to the old ways of waste and rework, inadequate supervision and a declining competitive position.

Deming would tell management that the Japanese (or today maybe Chinese) are not your problem. The problem is yourself. He would say, "Quality is made in the boardroom. It can be no better directed than that."

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently assists area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at