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

 

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.