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.

A Critical Flaw in the U.S. System of Government

Note: This article was re-posted on Linkedin (with a few minor word changes) under the title: “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 flaw is that we lack a shared 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.

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.

Business Culture and Financial Success

 

Top Bridgewater exec explains how its intense, unique culture helped the world’s largest hedge fund make $50 billion

Interesting insight on the correlation between culture and success.  Ray Dalio provides further insight in his e-book titled Principles by Ray Dalio,

W. Edwards Deming estimated that only 5% of management actions applying traditional methods resulted in improvement. Appears that Bridgewater has a higher success/failure ratio.

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.

 

Quality Leadership and the U.S. Constitution

Preserving the ‘genius’ of the Constitution  by David Keene – The Washington Times – Monday, September 12, 2016

The success of the American Republic is directly traceable to the wisdom and work of the 55 men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft a constitution designed not so much to empower government, but to limit that power. Forrest McDonald,...

The U.S. Constitution was designed on four components of change that the world-renowned quality expert W. Edwards Deming labeled as a System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK).

These components include an understanding of the human behavior that influences motivation (psychology), action (systems), feedback (variation) and learning (knowledge).

The Constitution identifies “top management” as the citizenry and assigns “We the People” the responsibility to work towards the ideal of a “more perfect union.”

Quality Leadership is all about reducing variation from the ideal.  

Median Trend Chart and Interpretation

Trend Chart – A line graph of data plotted over time

  • Generally, 25 data points are needed to get meaningful results
  • Plot the values on the chart and connect the dots.
  • Calculate the median and place this on the chart. The median is the value separating the higher half of a data from the lower half.
  • In the data set {1, 3, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9}, the median is 6
  • In the data set (1,2,3,4,5,6, 8,9) the median is 4+5 / 2 = 4.5

Interpretation *

  • 5 Points in a row rising or falling indicates a change in the process
  • 6 Points in a row above or below the median also indicates a change
  • Points (outliers) that appear farther away from the median than others may indicate either a change or a temporary or unusual event
  • Also look for nonrandom patterns – too close or too far from the median, or cycles. The people closest to the process may be able to provide an explanation of the behavior

* Acceptable standards range anywhere from 5-8 data points. Can also just use 7.

More Info:

Run Chart: Creation, Analysis, & Rules

Right number or Right Action?

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.

An Olympic Tie? Not Possible

The recent tie between Simone Manuel and Penny Oleksiak for Olympic gold in 100m freestyle was the eighth tie in Olympic events since 1928.

Given the variation principle, a tie is never possible. A tie is awarded because of the decision by federations as to what they consider being “close enough.”

Everyone and everything is unique – one of a kind.  We accept that no two people have the same fingerprints or in other words, there are no ties. Each Olympic competition is unique; there are no ties.

Technology’s Touch: How a Photo Finish in the Olympic Pool Gets Resolved.  Inside the timing suite for the Olympic swimming races. How accurate are those touch pads and clocks?

The question becomes that given that a tie is impossible, should a “tie breaker” technology be used to break the tie?

I predict that as progress is made in understanding and managing variation, technology will evolve to the point that science will be applied to eliminate the ties in Olympic events.

 

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?

Working with Idiots and Getting Better Results

The first step needed to improve any situation is to admit that you have a problem.

In his Washington Post article “We think our enemies are idiots, and that’s a problem – The psychological explanation for our partisan strife,” psychologist and college professor Adam Waytz suggests that among the causes that prevent people from effectively working together to resolve problems is the belief that others, especially those who disagree with us, have lesser minds. Waytz and his colleagues have coined this as “the lesser minds problem.” He goes on to state that “Physiological research shows that in virtually every way, we assume that the minds of our peers are less rich than our own minds.”

Those with “lesser minds”—i.e., “the idiots”—are thought to be less sophisticated, thoughtful and empathic, with a lower capability for reason, emotion and discipline. Waytz further states that “The minds of our peers may seem lesser, but the minds of our political opponents seem downright moronic.”

Given that someone will disagree with us and we will disagree with others, everyone may be considered an idiot by someone at one time or another.

In my article “Improving Health Care – A Better Way,” I introduce the work of Jonathan Haidt, who also identified a theory to help explain conflict between people that may account for some of the political polarization.

“Haidt’s research indicates that moral responses are instinctual—human beings are born preloaded with basic moral values. He believes that political attitudes are an extension of our moral reasoning, which accounts for much of the vitriol that surrounds liberal and conservative ideology.

According to Haidt, an individual’s beliefs and actions are influenced through a filter of values that include caring, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. These values provide a foundation that is needed for a society to function. He believes that liberals focus more on caring and fairness and undervalue the importance of loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty. Conservatives also value caring and fairness, but not at the exclusion of loyalty, authority, sanctity and liberty.”

However, as Waytz points out:

“Bridging the gap between our own minds and other minds requires colossal efforts of deliberation, humility and cooperation, but recognizing why this gap exists to begin with can help start us on our way.”

Bridging the Divide – A Better Method

Waytz reinforces that judgments regarding the variation between people can become a self-fulfilling prophecy:

“If we believe our political opponents are as rational, thoughtful and empathic as we are, then we are likely to pursue political compromise through rational debate, civil discussion and collaborative analysis of the facts. But if we think our opponents are mindless, then rational bias rather than objectivity.”t makes sense to forgo civility and push our opinions across the table with brute force and discount any counterarguments as rooted in irrational bias rather than objectivity.”

The contributions of W. Edwards Deming in helping organizations and industries do the right things were recognized by the editors of FORTUNE magazine as among the greatest contributions in business history.

Deming felt that American management failed to tap the potential of all employees. As a result, he believed that the United States was one of the most underdeveloped nations in the world. He also remarked that if he were to reduce his message to just a few words, it all had to do with reducing variation.

“Businesses” are organizations that consist of people. Put another way, the Deming application framework for improving individual and group capability by reducing variation from the ideal may be among the greatest contributions in human history.

The underlying premise of the Deming application method includes the following:

  • Every individual is unique. As a result, each individual will have unique potential and capabilities.
  • People can agree on facts and ideals. Within organizations, ideals are expressed in vision statements and facts are provided in accounting and performance-related reports.
  • People can find common causes to problems, can choose to agree to disagree and then can choose to work together to get results where everyone wins. For example, when discussing the gap between the ideal end state expressed in the vision and the actual performance that occurs as part of a strategic assessment, organizational leaders can develop a consensus on the actions that need to be taken to close the gap (i.e., reduce variation).
  • People will always have different opinions, beliefs, perceptions, values, norms, morals and theories as to the identification of problems, their root causes and the solutions to solve those problems. These differences are fundamental to understanding, learning and improvement. An organization that “learns” leverages the diversity in the workforce to identify and implement better solutions.
  • There will never be the “perfect answer” in any given situation. The number of solutions could be infinite, but when implemented, some solutions will have better results than others in the near, mid and long term. Deming advocated the application of the Shewhart cycle for learning and development (also referred to as the scientific method).

The Shewhart cycle consists of four phases:

  • Plan a change or test aimed at improvement.
  • Carry out the change or test, preferably on a small scale.
  • Study the effects to help ensure that the change minimized the cost of the two types of mistakes—treating common-cause variation as special-cause variation and vice versa—that can be made. This information is the basis for determining if change resulted in improvement.
  • Act on what was learned.

Applying Deming-based methods requires an understanding and basic knowledge of the interrelationships between people, systems and their respective variability. This awareness and insight leads to the “new knowledge” that is needed for helping determine when changes to policies, systems and processes result in improvement.

The U.S. Founding Fathers applied an unconscious or intuitive understanding of these principles when they designed the U.S. political system. The justice system also integrates these principles. I provide a little more background on this in my papers “Drive Out Fear: Having the Courage To Do The Right Thing” and “The Deming Paradigm for Reducing Variation: Unknown by Most, Misunderstood by Many, Relevant to All” which I presented at the Deming International Research Seminars.

A quick assessment of your knowledge of variation can be completed in a couple of minutes. If you have five minutes, my article “Revolutionize Government in Five Minutes or Less” may be of interest.

A Way Ahead

French intellectual and author Marcel Proust remarked that “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Bridging the gap Waytz identified between our own minds and other minds requires “new eyes” and a method.

Deming provides the new eyes and the method that successful leaders have always used on an unconscious or intuitive level when leading others to achieve success.

A more common knowledge (conscious awareness and understanding) is an alternative for getting past individual differences. With conscious awareness and understanding, you can accept the fact that individuals vary and choose to develop more positive relationships with those individuals opposing your point of view instead of considering them enemies or idiots.

The more pervasive application of the Deming principles and methods has the potential to support a new era of leadership that is critical in addressing the challenges of our times. These challenges include unemployment, underemployment, adequate healthcare, national and economic security and a better method for exercising our individual and collective responsibility to take action that results in progress toward achieving the more perfect union our Founding Fathers envisioned.

Deming’s genius in providing the framework needed to successfully address these challenges may one day be considered as among the greatest contributions in human history.

 

The longer version of this article written to support civil server reform is available at FedSmith.com.