Foundation Principles for Quality Leaders

Principle:  A comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine, or assumption (Merriam-Webster).

Variation. Individual and group capabilities in managing variation have always been the key to success at any age and in any aspect of life.

Assess your knowledge of variation?

Excellent quality.  The result of doing the right things, right.

  • Efficiency – doing things right.
  • Effectiveness – doing the right thing.

Responsibility. Within an organization, top management is responsible for quality because they are responsible for the design and execution of the systems. Systems determine the majority if not all in some cases, of the result.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    • How do “We”  describe more perfect or better?
    • What feedback do “We” need to assess progress?
    • What methods will “We” use to assess that change resulted in an improvement?

Reducing variation. The key to achieving excellent quality

  • Law of Variation – American Society for Quality
    • Everything and everyone varies – no two people or things are ever exactly alike. The closer things are to the optimum or ideal, the higher the quality and lower the costs (tangible and intangible).

Variation either gets better or it gets worse as defined by one or more individuals. (1)

  • Example: Health care is a human need that will never be perfectly met. Improvement that leads to greater access means fewer people go unserved.

ImprovementReducing variation from the ideal.

  • Standard:  Actions to improve a process and system result an outcome(s) where everyone affected by the change in the near, mid and long-term – benefits or at least, are not any worse off in the long-term. Everybody wins.
  • Ideal – Represents a standard of perfection that is uniquely defined, dynamic, and can never be perfectly met.
    • Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” –
      Vince Lombardi
  • Continuous and Continual.
    • Continuous – uninterrupted in time; without a break – 24×7.
    • Continual – regular or frequent; with a break.
    • Example: I maintain my car on a continual basis and expect the travel system to be continuously improved.

Four interrelated areas that are common to any successful change.  Anyone that has successfully made and sustained a positive change has reduced variation. There are four interrelated areas that are an integral component of change.

  • Motivation – Desire for a change.
    • Extrinsic – driven by a reward or punishment.
    • Intrinsic –  do it for the love of it, feels right, fun, enjoyable, aligns with purpose
  • Action. All action is accomplished through a process in the context of a system.
    • Process – Transforms inputs into outputs that meet expected outcomes.
    • System – A system is a collection of processes with a common aim. Systems determine 85-100% of the result.  
    • Aim. An ideal aim of a system is to meet a human need (s).
    • Example. A daily commute to work or school is accomplished through a process (habit) that is made possible by a transportation system. The aim of the system includes allowing for a safe, economical, convenient, and enjoyable trip. The system includes the needed infrastructure (roads, bridges), energy (gas, electric), technology (cars, planes, trains, bicycles) statutes and regulations, licensing, insurance, law enforcement,
  • Feedback
    • Variation either gets better (more needs being met) or it gets worse (the same or fewer needs are being met).
    • Quantitative – Numbers
    • Qualitative – Words
    • Example: In the case of commuting, quantitative would include time and expense. Qualitative would include your description of the experience regarding safety, road conditions, the behavior of other drivers, etc.
  • Learning – The Story
    • We often share our story with others of a change that was made with others that describe what was done, why, what was learned, the result, and maybe any surprises that were discovered along the way.

Application Frameworks

Context.  The broader perspective that supports the value of the change:

Systems of Profound Knowledge (SoPK). Dr. W Edwards Deming developed a comprehensive theory of management. that integrates four interrelated areas. These areas and the concept in a more common context (in parentheses) are identified below:

  • Psychology  (Motivation)
  • Appreciation for a system (Action)
    • In his book When Jesus Came to Harvard, Making Moral Choices Today, Harvey Cox made the following observation regarding moral choices:
      • “…. there has been an emerging convergence of the two ways of thinking that includes the consequences of action and inaction.”
      • “We can now do great evil without intending to. What we need today is more awareness, a wider recognition of how vast systems we are caught up in can do terrible things and how we can contribute to evil without even being conscious of it.”
  • Knowledge of variation,  (Feedback)
  • Theory of knowledge (Learning)

The academic and business case that supports the foundation for the SoPK and Executive Decision Making was developed by Dr. Gregory H. Watson.

Variation either gets better or it gets worse

  • The Taguchi Loss Function. The more a product deviates from the ideal (nominal, optimum), the higher the cost to society.
  • W. Edwards Deming: “Anything less than optimization of the whole system will bring eventual loss to every component in the system” (W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics, p.53)

Leading Change – “Critical Mass” of leaders required.  Deming estimated that the number of leaders needed to achieve critical mass could be calculated as the square root of the number of people in the organization. So a critical mass for a hundred person organization would be 10 people.