The Deadly Diseases - Quality Management

Alongside his 14 points to guide transformation, Deming set out some ‘Deadly Diseases’ which would hamstring any organization’s attempts to become world class.

Lack of Constancy of Purpose:To plan a product or service that will have a market and keep the company in business and create more jobs. It is far better to adopt continuous improvement of all processes to produce a result that will bring customers back time after time than to work for the next dividend to shareholders.

Emphasis on Short-Term Profits:Is fed by corporate fear of unfriendly take-over and pressure from lending institutions and shareholders for a quick payback. Most Western companies are driven by the need to make money; the truly successful companies in the world have adopted a rather different approach -become world class in what it does and subsequently enjoy the long term improvement in market share and profitability that follows.

Evaluation of Performance – Annual Review:Pushes people toward self-interest because the assessment focuses on the end result not on leadership applied to help people improve their processes. A merit rating system rewards people who do well within the system and, therefore, it discourages people to improve the system. “Don’t make waves” or “Don’t rock the boat” are typical sayings that mean that if the individual values his “career” he will not do anything that jeopardises his annual rating. Both the organisation and the individual is the loser - neither has realised their full potential.

Managers spend much of their time managing or combating crisis - this is highly visible work which merits a good annual rating. On the other hand, the manager who quietly plans and achieves the requirements through a right first time approach is invisible - he just does his job. Although it sounds cynical, the manager who does not get it right first time but does an excellent job of ire-fighting is frequently better thought of because of the very visibility that crisis management provides.

Mobility of Management:It has become common practice for management to move from one position to another in different companies because this is good experience and hence good for the career of the individual. This may be the case, but for the organisation it is disastrous. How can a company have constancy of purpose when its management are forever changing?

Running the Company on Visible Figures Alone:A company cannot be successful on visible figures alone and whilst visible figures are important for practical reasons of everyday finance, the most important figures are either not easy or impossible to quantify. For example, a happy customer will buy again and advertise his delight with the product; conversely, a dissatisfied customer will make known the problems that he has suffered and dissuade others people from buying the same product. Better morale resulting from quality improvement and increased ‘pride in work’ will result in more effort and attention to detail, improving both quality and productivity.

In his book “Out of the Crisis”, Deming (1982) describes two further diseases Excessive Medical Costs and Excessive Costs of Liability which will not be considered further here since, unlike the other diseases, they are more indicative of the medical and litigation processes in America.

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