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  • Writer's pictureBill Holmes

Mankind’s Greatest Invention!

management, project, leadership
Good organizations do the basics well!

“Put a good person in a bad system and the bad system wins, no contest.” W. Edwards Deming

“Management by results - like driving a car by looking in rear view mirror.” W. Edwards Deming

Even allowing for hyperbole, the Deming Quality Wheel is an amazingly important concept. It was designed to bring the scientific method first developed by Galileo to the business environment, and has been subject to reinterpretation by giants in the field of quality like Shewhart and Ishikawa. It has stood the test of time.

So why do many organizations reject it? Lets take a look!

Notice I describe the wheel as a “concept”, not tool. Just like you should "be Agile” as opposed to "doing Agile". To maximize the benefit of the Deming philosophy you must understand it, not just do it. We can gain insight by decomposing the four parts of the quality wheel. While Deming’s initial focus was on the manufacturing process, I am going to apply the concept more broadly.

· Plan – You need to have a plan! What are you trying to accomplish and how are you going to accomplish it? How is your plan aligned to the organizations strategic priorities, and how will you determine the outputs of the plan are in alignment? Notice that Deming applies a systems approach rather than a goals approach, and I chose the quote above to emphasize that concept. Determine what you are trying to accomplish, then develop a plan to get there. How simple is that?

· Do – Execute against your plan. Remember this is not a goals-based plan, it is a process focused plan.

· Check – What happened? Did you execute against your plan, or was the plan flawed? Did you achieve your anticipated outcomes? If not, why not? What are the root causes of the plan's failing?

· Act – Apply the real world experience of executing the plan and apply data and common sense to make modifications to the plan.

Then do it again!

Notice that this is the cornerstone of both waterfall (predictive) and agile projects. A waterfall project compares actual performance to the project plan and uses integrated change control to align the plan to the experienced reality. Agile projects dramatically speed up delivery of working software to the customer. After each iteration, the team conducts an introspective to identify and implement enhancing modifications.

Plan, Do, Check, Act.

If this is a process based on centuries of scientific inquiry, why don’t more organizations follow it?

Because planning is hard! It requires you to understand your strategic objectives and develop a plan to logically move the organization there. You must develop a detailed understanding of core processes and evaluate them in the context of the strategic objectives. Each process needs to be evaluated for both strategic alignment and efficiency, and a path forward developed.

Then you must execute the plan, and in executing accept where you got it wrong and organizationally commit to improvement.

It is always easier to just set a goal.

So many organizations just set goals.


To my many subscribers, I apologize for being late with this post. I became the grandfather to a beautiful baby girl over the weekend, so I am going to cut myself some slack! My daughter and granddaughter are both doing well, and as I type this they are all at home resting. I also was the Best Man in a Zoom wedding, which was a very interesting experience. In spite of the fact that the "guests" were all over the country, it was a beautiful ceremony. It was an action packed weekend! I promise I’ll get back on schedule.

#leadership #management #project

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