How to make a great country, better

The U.S. system of government is designed to be continually improved with the aim of “We the People” making progress toward “a more perfect Union.” The opportunity is to consider applying a proven method for reducing imperfection that will produce results where we all gain or, at least, are not any worse off.

“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.”Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

A problem with the word “perfect” is that the term can be used in a context where perfection can be perceived as being obtainable. The U.S. Founding Fathers were careful to prevent citizens from drawing this conclusion by using the phrase “more perfect.” Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi reinforced the “more perfect” theme in his statement: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

A 2016 Gallup survey indicated that 89% of Americans believe in God or a universal spirit. Many of the Founding Fathers were influenced by the biblical philosophy that only God is perfect and that man is imperfect but is expected to improve. Consequently, it might be concluded that life is all about reducing imperfection.

W. Edwards Deming, who is the founding father of many effective quality improvement methods, concluded that if he was to reduce his message to just a few words, it all had to do with reducing variation. Reducing variation is synonymous with reducing imperfection. A description of variation in a context that supports the interrelationship between variation, perfection, excellence, and quality is as follows:

American Society for Quality: What Is the Law of Variation?

“In simple yet profound terms, variation represents the difference between an ideal and an actual situation.

An ideal represents a standard of perfection—the highest standard of excellence—that is uniquely defined by stakeholders, including direct customers, internal customers, suppliers, society, and shareholders. Excellence is synonymous with quality, and excellent quality results from doing the right things, in the right way.

The fact that we can strive for an ideal but never achieve it means that stakeholders always experience some variation from the perfect situations they envision. This, however, also makes improvement and progress possible. Reducing the variation stakeholders experience is the key to quality and continuous improvement.”

Ideals are derived from basic human needs. America’s ideals were identified in the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Deming concluded that, without knowledge of common and special cause variation, 95% of actions taken to improve a situation results in no improvement and can make things worse. Knowing the difference between common and special cause variation results in a higher success rate because it leads to improving systems. Further, it leads to knowledge through assessments to determine what worked, what did not work, and what might be done differently next time to successfully reduce variation. (Assess your knowledge of the variation paradigm.)

By implementing the methods proven to be effective in reducing variation, the United States has the potential to surpass and then sustain the economic boom and prosperity it experienced after WWII (1947-1977) when the country had a global competitive advantage. But as Deming often remarked: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

Despite the conclusion drawn by major media outlets such as FORTUNE magazine and U.S. News and World Report that Deming’s work represents one of the most fundamental improvements in business if not human history, Deming’s work is still virtually undiscovered.

When Deming described the scope of the needed transformation, he used the term metanoia, which he defined as “penitence, repentance, reorientation of one’s way of life, spiritual conversion.”Norman Todd elaborated on this premise in his paper Metanoia and Transformation II.

A Way Ahead

Perhaps if more leaders recognize the connection between imperfection and variation, they might become more aware of the connection between science and spirituality. This, in turn, might lead to the broader application of Deming’s teachings.

Leading this change will require that a critical mass of leaders embrace the new paradigm for Quality Leadership that will support a Vision for Transformation.

Online school to be largest internet company in 2030

A top futurist predicts the largest internet company of 2030 will be an online school

Seems like an ambitious projection until you think of how fast the unmanned vehicle technology has progressed.

DARPA sponsored their Grand Challenge in 2004 that required a vehicle to autonomously navigate a 142-mile course. None of the 15 vehicles made it to the finish line. In 2005, five (5) vehicles completed a 132-mile course.

 

Crossover to Quality Leadership

In music or art, a crossover artist is an individual that is successful in a “genre other than the one in which they achieved their initial success.”

Two articles in the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) November 2016 issue of Quality Progress (QP) reinforce the opportunity to recognize the need for greater crossover from the non-science and business management disciplines. This crossover can be supported by embracing the broader concepts and strategies needed to support ASQ’s vision of being the global voice of quality.

In their excellent article, Understanding Variation, Nolan, Perla and Provost reinforce the need for the understanding of variation from a statistical frame of reference that is of benefit to almost everyone.  The article also  includes the quote from W. Edwards Deming that “Another half-century may pass before the full spectrum of Dr. Shewhart’s contributions has been revealed in liberal education, science, and industry.

“A liberal education is a system or course of education suitable for the cultivation of a free (Latin: liber) human being. It is based on the medieval concept of the liberal arts or, more commonly now, the liberalism of the Age of Enlightenment.” (Wikipedia).

In addition to the sciences, liberal arts can also be defined as including …  philosophy, history, literature, music, art, and other so-called “humanities.”  (greatideas.org)

In the same issue of QP, the article by QP Staff “Fresh Faces: A new generation of quality leaders,” reinforces the underrepresentation of the “humanities” in academic disciplines and career pursuits.

I’m an exponent of a “”New Standard for Quality Leadership” that is derived from the contributions of Walter Shewhart and W. Edwards Deming.  This new standard and supporting paradigm requires the application of a broader understanding of variation. The more comprehensive description – “What is the law of variation?”  is available on ASQs website.

The so what?  The current state of quality represents the modern day equivalent of the belief that the earth is flat.

The better paradigm can be immediately applied to improve quality in any aspect of life and at any level.  Evidence of the shift to the new paradigm will include outcomes that can only be brought about when  …” the full spectrum of Dr. Shewhart’s contributions has been revealed in liberal education, science, and industry.

 

Eliminating Grades in School – But Not Feedback

LinkedIn Post:

Why We Should Stop Grading Students on a Curve, by Adam Grant, NYTs, Sept 10, 2016

After analyzing grading systems, the economists Pradeep Dubey and John Geanakoplos concluded that a forced grade curve is a disincentive to study. “Absolute grading is better than grading on a curve …

In 1924, Walter Shewhart developed the statistical methods that reinforce why ALL grading of students should be stopped.  Shewhart’s methods were classified during WWII and although declassified after the war and accepted internationally, the understanding of the concept that supports the methods is relatively rare.

The “So What?” A belief that the traditional use of grades adds value is the modern day equivalent of believing that the earth is flat. If you want to discover “the new continents,” adopt the better methods that support continual improvement and learning.

A Quality Transformation is Non-Partisan

Reply to a LinkedIn post

Quality transformation: Helping the most of us, Posted on August 8, 2016 by David Schwinn

In this month’s column, David Schwinn comments on Robert Reich’s book, Saving Capitalism, and makes a call to action. Do you agree? Join the conversation!

Part 1 of 2.  I hope this post opens the needed discussion on the differences between a quality transformation and a “transformation” from the perspective of partisan politics.

Robert Reich’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders along with his stated “deepest respect and admiration for Hillary Clinton” is available in one of Reich’s Facebook posts.

I would suggest scanning through Reich’s posts to help assess the degree of respect he has for those that disagree with him but yet would be needed to support and sustain change In the long term.

A recent example of this partisan approach is the Affordable Care Act. An introduction to a better approach derived from the contributions of W. Edward Deming is introduced in my article at FedSmith.com: Working With Idiots and Getting Better Results,

Part 2 of 2   In the context of W. Edwards Deming’s work, philosophy, and guidance on transformation, partisan political solutions represent tampering which makes things worse.

Deming’s NONPARTISAN strategy for transformation has a higher probability of achieving outcomes where we all gain or at least, are not any worse off. Deming’s approach provides “the method” where we can work together in striving towards the optimal, e.g., the “more perfect union” the U.S. Founding Fathers envisioned.

Political parties do identify the polarity on issues and studies of solutions indicate suboptimal results — government policies that benefit the few (“elites”) at the expense of the many.  Ref: Does the government represent the people?  The outcome from this study has led both conservative and liberal media to suggest that the U.S. has “transformed” from a republic into an oligarchy.

A quality transformation will require the application of a new and proven standard for Quality Leadership, e.g., a new leadership paradigm.

Application of the Deming Philosophy in Today’s World

Response on LinkedIn: Deming The W. Edwards Deming Institute +Official Group+

Deming Folks — Is some Evolution in order? (Yes!)

“There are 12 clowns in a circus ring. You jump in the middle and start reciting Shakespeare. To the audience, you’re just the thirteen clown.” (Wolinsky).

How do we stop being perceived as the 13th Clown as the “Survival of the Fittest” Battle against the “Bolt-ons”?

Reply:

Davis, I would expect that you could address “any situation” within the scope of your services – especially the ones dealing with data. Ditto on most if not all consultants that integrate one or more aspects of the Deming philosophy.

Consultants are also constrained by the Deming philosophy and would likely tend to avoid the controversial aspects that might affect a client’s desire to contract for their services. Consultants also compete among themselves to promote their particular perspective and expertise.

On your point on “evolution”, solutions likely need to be stratified. I would think it may be possible for Deming related consultant groups to agree on practices that avoid the appearance of being perceived as the 13th Clown. I would assume this group would include consultants that align Deming with Lean.

Deming earned the position where he was not constrained. He condemned the prevailing style of management in America and stated that transformation (to the better methods) was everyone’s (American citizens) responsibility. In the U.S. by law, We the People own the system – we are top management.

Evolution will also require that Deming’s philosophy be translated into a more common language that can be and will be applied to any aspect of life. For example, the basic concepts of the SoPK are more commonly expressed as Motivation (psychology), Action (systems), Feedback (variation) and Learning (knowledge).

I support the transformation by framing Deming’s contributions as providing a new standard for Quality Leadership. http://wp.me/P7eYCh-j

In avoiding being the 13th Clown, I think any Deming advocate needs to explain what Deming meant when he concluded that “it all had to do with reducing variation.” How was this argument supported in Deming’s books Out of the Crisis and The New Economics?

Applications of Knowledge of Variation?

Response on LinkedIn: Deming The W. Edwards Deming Institute +Official Group+

What are the different ways that a knowledge of variation can help an organisation become or remain competitive? In other words, what are the key areas where applications of such knowledge can make a positive difference?

Interested in diverse applications, and also be specific if you can. Perhaps this can help leaders who have heard of this theory but unsure where it can be used for in their organisation.

Reply:

People have been successfully managing variation since humans have been on the planet. Walter Shewhart developed the NEW paradigm for managing variation. Deming was the first to recognize the significance of the paradigm and illustrated the application in his books Out of the Crisis and The New Economics.

A “knowledge of variation” would include common and special causes, stable and unstable systems and tampering.

ANY success story at ANY time in history can be aligned with what Deming labeled the SoPK. “What’s New” is introducing Shewart’s new terms and concepts in the context of the SoPK.

The “So what?” is the theory that application of the NEW paradigm will result in a 97% increase in performance (ref: TNE, pg. 38) which is easy enough to test.

The challenge may not be in overcoming the lack of knowledge of variation but in overcoming the lack of the desire and commitment in understanding and applying the knowledge.

On the plus side, what an opportunity! It’s like living at a time in history where the accepted paradigm was that the earth was flat. You can take people to the new world, and they may enjoy the visit, but they don’t want to live there.

Conventional wisdom indicates that you need a “crisis” to support a major transformation. Contrary to the subject of Deming’s book that he titled “Out of The Crisis”, I don’t think society has acknowledged a crisis – yet.

Examples: http://successthroughquality.com

FBI Investigation, Variation, System Improvement

The Director of the FBI completed the agency’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email and concluded that her actions represented COMMON CAUSE variation.

In Director Comey’s words: “… one of my employees would not be prosecuted for this,” and he further stated that “They would face consequences …”   (Typically, “consequences” for a federal employee, a member of the military or federal contractor would not be made public and could include revocation of the security clearance, the loss of the job, and being ineligible for a security clearance in the future).

To indict, although Comey concluded that the management of the emails was “extremely reckless,” the FBI did not find the evidence needed to prove an intent to violate the law.

Comey has further stated that it would have been “virtually unprecedented to bring a criminal case against Clinton under current laws” and it would have only been the second case in 100 years.

 Comey: ‘Nobody’ Uses 1917 Law Making Gross Negligence in Handling Classified Material a Crime

Why hasn’t a law that cannot be enforced been changed?  

A poll of voters conducted by Rasmussen concluded that “Most Disagree with Decision Not to Indict Clinton.”

A Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey – taken last night – finds that 37% of Likely U.S. Voters agree with the FBI’s decision. But 54% disagree and believe the FBI should have sought a criminal indictment of Clinton. Ten percent (10%) are undecided.

Could most everyone agree that an ideal outcome would have been a recommendation by the FBI and a decision by the Justice Department that most, if not all citizens would conclude was just, fair and protected national security?

Will the decision by the Justice Department lead to improvements in the system to include changes in the law, or will it be concluded that the “status quo” is good enough?

In America by law, We the People are “top management.” What improvement to the system do “we” need to make to support needed change?

Democratize the enterprise

Escaping the Prison of the Prevailing System of Management in the Western World: Observations from a Deming Four-Day Seminar in May 1991, by  Craig Anderson, Audit Resolution Specialist at FEMA

The LinkedIn post from a current federal employee reinforces the impact that the contributions of W. Edward Deming continues to have in helping to address the political and economic issues facing America.

As a federal employee, I attended Deming’s four-day in 1988. The question that Deming asked that had the most impact on my life was when he asked: “What percent of your performance is due to the system?” I was an auditor at the time for the Navy and wrote down 98%. (A correct answer can range from 85-100%).

This conclusion led to the realization that in America, “We the People” own the system and are what Deming would refer to as “top management.” This understanding leads to the question: “How do “we” transition from our “prevailing style of management” that supports action by our political representatives that lead to solutions where we all win or at least, are not any worse off?

For private sector organizations, one of the most positive trends for organizations that have embraced the Deming philosophy has been the transition to Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs).  Given Deming’s admonition that transformation is everyone’s job, creating more “owners” (top management) along with applying the better methods is a great way of optimizing the performance of the organization.

Federal employees as owners, work in and on the system but must have the support of their fellow owners to bring about the needed improvements. Within the federal government, perhaps a good first step for us is to support policy changes to adopt the better approach for managing and interpreting data along with eliminating individual rankings and performance bonuses for federal employees.

Additional information to support the needed transformation