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In Their Own Words

Nov 27, 2020

In our 43rd "Deming Lens" episode, host Tripp Babbitt shares his interpretation of wide-ranging aspects and implications of Dr. Deming's theory of management. This month he looks at Management Theories contrasting Frederick Taylor and the work of W. Edwards Deming.

Show Notes

Deming Lens - Episode 43

Taylorism Flaw #1


Taylorism Flaw #2

Taylorism Flaw #3

Taylorism Flaw #4

Taylorism Flaw #5

Taylorism Flaw #6

Taylorism Flaw #7

Taylorism Flaw #8




Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:14] In this edition of The Deming Lens will complete a series on mangement theories contrasting Frederick Taylor and the work of W. Edwards Deming.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:31] Hi, I'm Tripp Babbitt, hosts of the Deming Insitute podcast, and in the last Deming Lent, the 40 second episode, I talked about Frederick Taylor and scientific management and things of that sort and in essence, brought in the book Deming's Profound Changes, coauthored by one of the members of the Deming Institute Advisory Council. And it's an important book. I've mentioned it before in previous episodes. I've talked about this, but I think it's from the perspective of how a manager thinks. I think it's helpful to understand kind of what's being taught in universities and colleges versus what Dr. Deming was talking about. And I I my personal admiration for this book has to do with being able to differentiate between what Frederick Taylor did in the early nineteen hundreds and what Dr. Deming proposed in his system of profound knowledge that he wrote in 1992. And we're talking about, to me, a huge difference. In matter of fact, the the difference I use are a way to describe it is the Fosbury flop.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:10] You know, Fosbury the Fosbury flop is the way everybody does the high jump today. But when it first came out in 1968 at the Olympics, it was something very new.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:22] So I want to walk through these things as this episode be a little bit longer. But I want to walk through these eight things that I ended the last episode with. And they are were the flaws of Taylorism. And I'm going to take you through kind of three levels for each of these things.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:42] One is how Taylor the floor of Taylor's thinking what the book Deming's for Profound Changes talks about in terms of what's referenced as Neo Taylorism, which is kind of taking what Taylor did in the nineteen hundreds or early nineteen hundreds and the way management has kind of played it out in today's world. And I think these things, even though that means profound changes, a little bit dated now too, it's still relevant and kind of where we've been and kind of how Dr. Deming saw things. So let's just start and I'll walk through these and you'll see some recurring themes in here, as I did years ago.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:03:30] And I've focused in on some of the overlaps of the thinking as far as the flaws go. So let's just jump into them. So the first one was belief in management control as the essential precondition for increased productivity. That was the flaw associated with Frederick Taylor and his thinking and the way this is played out.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:03:57] You think in terms of Neo Taylor ism or the way it's played out today is that your boss is your customer. I mean, they are the ones that, in essence, tell you what to do on a daily basis. They're the ones who judge the judge and jury of your work. And this is pretty widespread, I would say, in most organizations.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:04:22] Now, the way Deming viewed things was that management job is not to control and that management's job was to coach and to provide methods and tools. And for me, the emphasis on methods really struck home because Method's gives you a way to achieve what you're trying to accomplish. And not many there's not a lot of focus in management today on methods. It's more what type of leader are you? Do you have emotional intelligence and things of that sort? And what I think is really missing is then I think those are soft skills. And I'm not saying they're not important.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:05:05] They're very important. But there's also the hard skills or what I reference is hard skills, which are methods to do things like innovate and, you know, the ways to look at data and ways to develop your synthetic thinking. But we'll talk about some of those a little bit later.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:05:24] The second thing was belief in the possibility of optimal processes and. The needlestick way, and I think you could even go back to Frederick Taylor himself, and so there was always one best way to do something and everybody's always looking for best practices or, oh, the competitor did this. And we've got to copy that because there have been so successful. Sometimes they're been successful with it. But the impression is that what they're doing is cool.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:05:52] And so we've got to copy what somebody else is doing. And Deming was his advocacy was for there was always a better way and that that mindset always exists. There's always a way to do something better. And for instance, technology can help us see new things, but it doesn't necessarily have to do them or accomplish them. So that's one of the big differences then between Deming and Taylor,


Tripp Babbitt: [00:06:23] The third thing, a narrow view of process improvement. Now we get into this subject of synthetic thinking a little bit. And Neil Taylorism is management reorganizations were use our use today as a substitute for actual improvement or in the book they reference process improvement. I think it's just improvement in general. But this is in essence, what the book said from a Neotel Ristic standpoint. Dr. Deming was about process improvement. And I like to distinguish greatly at this point something I've learned over the years, which is process improvement.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:07:07] The way that it's looked at today is far less effective than systemic improvement. And this means that you have to become a synthetic thinker and understand that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that many organizations are, you know, the same process improvement and Deming.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:07:28] But what we really want to do in order to become effective is achieve systemic improvement to make the hole better. So this is a good Segway into the fourth thing, which is low level sub optimization instead of total system improvement.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:07:50] So there's this recurring theme now of systemic improvement, or I like to reference synthetic thinking that you need in order to improve an entire system.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:04] And the Neo-Tayloristic view is and we see this in organizations all the time, probably have it in your organization, are quotas or targets for individuals and teams and departments and things of that sort. So this is, again, breaking the parts down and trying to optimize each of the pieces within an organization that you cannot contrast that against Dr. Deming's thinking and the story or the way to convey this. I think best that people can kind of get is when he used an orchestra and that an orchestra.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:42] Doesn't have a group of 150 primadonnas trying to play their own solos. They all have their moment or maybe they never have their moment, but they all know what their role is within trying to create music that's pleasing to the ear. And and along with that, because you are able to get hundred and fifty people to cooperate in order to achieve the aim of creating beautiful music, you know, everybody wins.There's a satisfaction associated with the whole system operating well.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:22] The fifth thing is the cause of defects in a Tayloristic mindset is people, you know, oh, we've got to find somebody to blame and you know, somebody and this is very, very prevalent within organizations. And so because of that and the Neil Taylor mistake or the more modern application of Taylor's thinking, we see all of these worker motivation schemes. And this this can be distinguished from Deming and synthetic thinking or systems thinking that defects are from the system and not people. And Dr. Deming's favors a famous percentage was 94 percent of the defects are from the system and only six percent is from the individual or special special causes or events.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:10:18] The sixth thing, separation of planning and doing neo Taylorism again, separation of management from the workplace in the front line is still even today. Unless you're a small organization, will see management will be on some floor, maybe upper floor of an organization and they don't really come into contact with the people, you know, where the work is being done or with front line people.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:10:46] And Dr. Deming's view was that there was a need for management to understand the processes that they manage, that you needed to understand the work that you were managing as opposed to just collecting data on what's going on. And that we need to value the contribution and value created by the worker and that's that is a huge shift for a lot of organizations, is just that we're talking in terms of culture change. This is one of the things that I see organizations struggle with a lot, because that isn't the reason I became an executive or a manager, was to, you know, be around, you know, the front line workers doing stuff. I can manage them with the data and, you know, process charts and things of that sort.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:11:37] The seventh thing, failure to recognize systems and communities in the organization that Neotel Ristic or modern view of this has worked is viewed individually instead of collaboratively.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:11:54] And this whole collaboration piece when we talked in terms of the orchestra comes to mind when you think of the systems which you're involved with. And there's a couple of things I pull from this. One is abdication of management's responsibility for the welfare of employees. We see this played out from an artistic standpoint.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:12:17] We get layoffs, we get rank and yank, although we're seeing less of that nowadays and at its height during the 90s and even the early 2000s. And, you know, we got to contrast this with Dr. Deming's view of, you know, what is best for society, what is the greater good, what is really the aim here where everybody has an opportunity to win?


Tripp Babbitt: [00:12:46] The eighth thing is view of workers as interchangeable by bionic machines. The need tailor a Ristic view is failure to recognize the major effect of the system on an employee's performance. And this is one of the things I think when I'm discussing with management or executives about their organization and their performance is that they because they're not synthetic thinking is something you have to develop within your organization. I don't think you just say you need to understand the whole and people get that they need excuse me. They need to do it. Why? They're looking at their own organization. And so Deming is a promote promotes basically that the system, as I mentioned before, the 94 percent is what you need to focus in on.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:13:44] And and by focusing in on the six percent or even just the individual, you're going to lose out what gains that you get of systemic thinking. And we hit this again, we're talking in terms of process improvement problem. And I and I wish Dr. Deming would have used the word systemic improvement process improvement. Again, we're talking about analytic thinking, of kind of trying to optimize the pieces, the individual, the team, and not understanding how the whole might gain and that sometimes different departments may need to give a little as opposed to get.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:30] And sometimes the way this plays out from a Neo-Tayloristic standpoint is we have profit centers and maybe not. You might go so far I'd never heard it talked in terms of, you know, the individual must show profit. But certainly in terms of individual departments, I've heard of, you know, H.R. departments and finance departments have to show that they're profitable. I don't understand the thinking there because they're they're they're enablers. They are not the ones that create value for the customer.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:15:06] But those are the eight things. Deming's view was very different.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:15:11] And that's why I say that Dr. Deming and his system of profound knowledge is a huge leap from where Frederick Taylor taken us and how we've made it.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:15:26] Tried to make it better by what we're teaching in universities and, you know, Dr. Deming's message still isn't broadly taught at universities and certainly far less understood by universities and what what he did. And so this offers huge opportunity, I think, for an organization, you know, trying trying to compete in a global marketplace. This that is this week's Deming Lens. And we will talk to you next month.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:16:01] Hi, this is Tripp Babbitt. One way that you can help the Deming Institute. And this podcast is by providing a rating on Apple podcasts. If you have additional comments, you can reach me at