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Aug 1, 2023

David and Andrew discuss the three types of power that leaders have: authority, knowledge, and persuasion. David also explains where the current style of "command and control" management comes from and what a nearly failed family vacation can tell us about power.

0:00:02.7 Andrew Stotz: My name is Andrew Stotz, and I'll be your host as we continue our journey into the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Today I am continuing my discussion with David P. Langford, who has devoted his life to applying Dr. Deming's philosophy to education, and he offers us his practical advice for implementation. The topic today is the Three Power Rangers and Their Sources of Power for Improvement. We are now on item number seven on the list that was given to us by Dr. Deming in the book, The New Economics. It's called, the title of the list is called Role of a Manager of People. This is the new role of a manager of people after transformation. For those of you who have the third edition, this is on page 86, and for those with the second edition, it is on page 125.

0:00:56.7 AS: So now let's get into number seven. So we're talking about the manager after transformation. He has three sources of power. Number one, authority of office. Number two, knowledge. Number three, personality and persuasive power or tact. A successful manager of people develops number two and three, that is knowledge and personality. He does not rely on number one, which is the authority of office. He has, nevertheless, obligation to use number one, as this source of power enables him to change the process - that's the equipment, materials and methods to bring improvement, such as to reduce variation in output. Dr. Robert Klekamp says "He in authority but lacking knowledge or personality must depend on his formal power. He unconsciously fills a void in his qualifications by making it clear to everybody that he is in a position of authority. His will be done." David, take it away.

0:02:02.5 David Langford: Okay, that's great. So this is one of my favorite points, which has three subset points or Power Rangers, sources of power for improvement. And I've used this with managers around the world for the last 40 years. And in some cases, they just drop their jaws and they're just amazed at how simple this is. But the more you think about it and realize what people, managers of people are not doing, it gives a roadmap about: what do you do? How do you do something? And I get that question all the time from superintendents and principals in my field of education, and people that do have a formal position. Then they wanna know: well, how do I get these people to do stuff, make things happen?

0:02:58.2 DL: So, before we get into each of the three Power Rangers, I wanted to give a little bit of context too, because I wanna remind everybody that, Deming lived through World War II and was a part of the quality improvement effort for World War II. And what happened during World War II is that a lot of the manufacturing was being done by women in the United States especially. And so when the war ended, you had all these military people coming back to corporations and moving into top management positions, and basically the management style that they brought with them was military. And so that's where you got phrases like, "My way or the highway," and, "You're not getting paid to think. You just do what I tell you to do and everything will be fine."

0:03:51.5 AS: Attack that hill.

0:03:53.1 DL: Yeah, right, which was totally opposite to the whole manufacturing thing that had been going on during the war and was really the key to the war machine was being able to produce huge amount of military items in a very short period of time.

0:04:09.3 AS: Well, and also when you think about that, David, it's interesting to think about the patriotism and the commitment to a cause that those women went into those factories to do. And so when it was all done and the cause was met, the challenge was met, then to be faced with that, it's like, "Wait a minute, we lost something here."

0:04:30.9 DL: Yeah, and then I remember Deming talking about it one time at a conference and stuff and talking about, basically, in those factories, women liked to get together and talk about what was going on, and their performance and everything that was happening in the factory. And then when the men came back in, they said, "No, we're not gonna have groups or teams or anything like that. You're just gonna do what I would tell you to do, and if you don't like it, then find someplace else to work." One of the phrases I always remember Deming used to say was that: "pretty soon you're left with only the people who can't get a job someplace else."

0:05:14.0 DL: And I've found that to be so true in every profession that I've worked in or helped people with, etcetera, and have... So it leads us to number one, your formal position. So yeah, you have a job. You're the CEO, you're the principal of a school, you're a headmaster, you're whatever it might be. You got the job, right? And so with that comes formal position that you need to be able have to do stuff and you have a job to do. And you may even be given goals by a board or something that it's your job to make this happen. Well, the question is, how do you make it happen? If it was just so simple that a new boss could come in and just start bossing people around and tell them what to do, and then they all do it and things get better, then we wouldn't actually need any of this Deming stuff, right?

0:06:13.6 DL: But it's not so simple as being able to do that. And basically what Deming is saying in this point too, is that if you act like that and you use your formal position to make change, basically, you're not gonna be around long, because pretty soon the people that work for you are gonna start to kind of revolt, and either they'll find other jobs or the pressure will become on you to get out and get somebody else in there. This is also the reason that some boards think improvement means, we'll just hire somebody else. Well, that doesn't work either. I'll never forget a superintendent of a huge school district that I worked with, and I had asked him, when we started working with him, I said, "Well, what's been your method of improvement?" And he very looked at me very clearly and just said, "Well, we fire people."

0:07:17.3 AS: That's the Jack Welch School.

0:07:19.8 DL: Yeah, exactly.

0:07:20.3 AS: Take the bottom, bottom half or the bottom quarter or the bottom 10% and make sure you're firing them often.

0:07:25.8 DL: Yeah. But that's means that you're also in that category too, right? To improve your position, all we got to do is fire you and find somebody else in that position. But are you finding somebody else with the exact same philosophy or are you actually looking for somebody else that has a different philosophy? And I think that's really what Deming is talking about here, is that, hey, if you want to stay around a very long time, yeah, it might be your formal position, but don't use that unless you absolutely have to. I often tell managers, if suddenly there's a fire in a building, you're not gonna get a bunch of people together and have a meeting and say, "Okay, what do we do? And which way should we go?" And things like that. You're probably gonna use your formal position to take charge and say, "Let's get out of the building," etcetera. But then very quickly, you should get people together to say, "Okay, how could we have done that better? And how could we work through that and improve that whole process?"

0:08:31.6 DL: And so that's where I think point number two really comes in, is that, do you have knowledge of a different way to manage, different way to think? And that's all Deming, about statistics and understanding process analysis and understanding how people work together, and do you understand how to do Plan-Do-Study-Act - the PDSA process - to improve something? And so you're using your knowledge of theory and background to improve something. And the irony of that is, when you concentrate on using your knowledge to do stuff, you actually gain authority. Just 'cause people start to look up to you as, oh, he or she, they have a process of improvement and they just stick with it. Anytime that something comes up, it's never blaming people. It's always looking at what is the process? What's happening? Let's use a few tools. Let's analyze what's happening. Let's look at a flow chart of the process and let's improve the process. That's knowledge.

0:09:40.4 AS: So the people want to follow you rather than people must follow you.

0:09:46.6 DL: Yeah, that's a good way, it's a good way to put it. Exactly. So, I think of the three, probably that's most important, right?

0:09:57.9 AS: Yeah.

0:10:00.6 DL: And the other thing about these three points is that, maybe you're working in an organization, maybe you're just a teacher. I say just, maybe you're a teacher in a school, and there's maybe 200 teachers, and you see that things are not going well. What can you do? Well, you're not the person in charge, right? And if you just march into the headmaster or the principal or whoever and start telling them what to do, you're probably not gonna be around. But what can you do? You can use your knowledge of improvement. And through that process, you actually become very powerful, because lots of people wanna work with you, 'cause every time we do, we get things done and we look at problems differently. And then pretty soon, your boss is coming to you when problems arise or when process improvement is necessary and saying, "Hey can you help here? Help us work through this problem?" And that's a level of power that's for change or improvement that is significant, if you think like that.

0:11:14.2 AS: I was thinking about, if you're a young person going into the workforce, you don't have authority. I mean, you may be given it in a small position. I was a supervisor at Pepsi when I first started, so I had a certain level of authority, but there's no way I could use it when all of my work... All the guys working for me had been there 20 years or whatever.

0:11:33.7 DL: Yeah, exactly.

0:11:34.8 AS: And do it would be foolish for me to do that. And so, I definitely used my personality and I didn't have much knowledge, so I had to try to acquire knowledge, which was making me...I took a note and just thought about, to be able to use knowledge as an a form of management, you've gotta acquire it, and it comes through your own acquisition plus also hiring people can acquire knowledgeable people that are around you that can help to solve things. And then as I started, and in my case, David, what we were doing was we were filling Pepsi trucks every night, and they were all wrong. So the drivers in the morning would come in and they'd have to waste a lot of time counting their trucks, counting what's on their trucks, and then going back and getting what was missing.

0:12:24.3 AS: And I had to then develop...I had to then acquire knowledge of why were we making these mistakes? Which one on my staff was doing really well? How could we learn from that? And how could we do it so that we could lock those trucks and guarantee those drivers that that truck was accurate? And it took me many months to get to the point where I acquired enough knowledge to be able to then have the authority to go, "All right, now we've done all of this. Now, this is the way we're doing it from all that we've learned." So anyways, this is just me rambling, but that was just something that I thought about.

0:13:00.9 DL: Yes. No, that's a good... That's a really great example. That's a great, great story about that. And I'm sure that it took a while for the drivers to trust that it was actually right.

0:13:14.7 AS: I mean, I had to negotiate with them, and I'd tell them, "Look, if you find a problem out there, we're gonna fix that," and blah, blah, and all that, but then they were like, "Well, if I find a problem out there, I don't have the product to sell, so it has to be right," which basically it was, there's a lot of teaching actually involved in that to help everybody understand.

0:13:33.9 DL: Yeah, exactly. So then point number three is about personality. And so, you probably have worked for people, if you've had several jobs, everything from delivering papers on up to a current job you may be in now, you probably worked with people that are just really great people to get along with, right? And that's a source of power. I mean, they get things done because they're just really nice people and supportive, and they just have a really great personality about how to work and what to do. And I can visually see people in my mind that I worked with over the last 40 years that, just great people like that. But it's not enough, because you might be a really great person to work with. "Joe is really a great person to work with, and he's really fun and everything else, but he never gets anything done." Because he doesn't have the knowledge of basically the Deming philosophy about how to get stuff done, right?

0:14:45.7 DL: So what Deming's talking about here is that these are the three Power Rangers, the three sources of power, that if you wanna get something done and move forward and improve something, really you have to think about it as an inter-relationship of parts to the whole, of these three areas working together. So if you start concentrating...and the explanation in the following paragraph, he talks about, well, you don't have any knowledge and your personality stinks, and so what you rely on is your authoritarian position just to tell people what to do, you won't last long and also you're not gonna improve things. Things are not gonna get better when you do that. So you may have a formal position, but he talks about concentrate on two and three, your knowledge and your personality, and you will start to see a major transformation.

0:15:44.8 DL: Everybody knows you're the boss. You don't have to go around and tell people you're the boss. By virtue of the formal position, you have that. And I always take these things down to a teacher in a classroom. A teacher, that's a formal position that a teacher has. I have authority over these students during this time period, right? And I've known teachers that that's all they concentrate on, is the authority. And again, we've talked before about oftentimes, especially in like grammar school or primary school or elementary school, you're physically bigger than them and so you use that as part of your authority, that, "I'm the boss here. You do this, out you go." Well, even very little kids don't respect that.

0:16:42.1 DL: I think I told a story one time of 5-year-olds testifying for a state board of education, and they were so amazing explaining all these wonderful things that they were doing in their classroom and collecting data and improving stuff. And one of the board members said, "Well, where's your teacher when all this is going on?" And this 5-year-old, without hesitating, grabbed the microphone and said, "The teacher's not in the closet, you know." And as soon as I heard that, I thought of these three points. That little person knew they had been coached and mentored and taught a process of how to work together and improve that classroom, and the person that he looked up to was the teacher. So even at 5 years old, these things come in to play in a very real way, so.

0:17:41.6 AS: I would like to bring this back to constancy of purpose for a second, because...and I wanna think about, there's a book I recently read by Richard Rumelt, which is called Good Strategy Bad Strategy, and it's an excellent book about setting corporate strategy. But he talks about how businesses kind of move in waves, where you have a decentralization period of time where you're expanding and your giving authority. And then, basically the organization can lose focus, and then it's gonna require the authority of the senior management to say, "Okay, we have to, at some point, restructure and refocus this," and then you rely on more centralized, and he was just talking about the waves of that. And then I was thinking about the authority, from a positive perspective, is the role of the leaders of an organization, of the school, of a business, the role of those leaders is to set that direction.

0:18:37.5 AS: And you do have to claim authority or else you can't...that's what I also liked about what I learned from Deming when I first started learning, is that you can't just go, "Okay, what do you guys think our direction should be?" I mean, that is a fun question, but ultimately, as a leader, you got to really make sure that the constancy of purpose and the aim is there, and that sometimes requires what I would call good authority, authority coming from a knowledgeable and experienced perspective, but there must be authority.

0:19:07.3 DL: Right. Well, you could be the manager that comes and says, "Look, we need to reestablish our constancy of purpose. So let's talk about some ideas about how we can go about that and that are different than what we've done before, because obviously that's not working. So let's work together to figure out a good pathway that we can make that happen." So that's using your personality to run a meeting and get what you need to have happen, but you're bringing people with you instead of doing stuff to them, so.

0:19:39.2 AS: Yeah, I have one little story to tell about this authority concept, is that in our coffee factory many years ago, my business partner Dale was sitting in the office up above the roasting area and he started to smell smoke. And roasting coffee has... We have roaster fires that happen in the roasting machine. And basically, he went rushing down to realize that a fire was raging in the roasting machine, particularly in the chimney, and was getting down into the machine. And so the first thing he did is he just started yelling, "Everybody out!" And he got everybody out of that building first thing, except for one or two men that were there working. And with one of the guys, he said, "Grab that little hose," and he's got this little hose that they had to try to cool down the plate that he had to unscrew all these screws on. And he told the other guy, "Get up to the top of the building and start pouring water down the chimney of this roaster to start putting this fire out."

0:20:49.6 AS: And then they eventually got the whole thing out. But it required authority at the time to save the factory and to save the lives of the people. And so authority is necessary. It's just that that authority came at a time of emergency. Also, the other question is, is it good authority? There are people that give really bad advice in the middle of an emergency. And so, you know...

0:21:14.2 DL: Yeah, but then, points two and three come into play, personality and knowledge, because the very...soon as that crisis is over, the very next thing that guy should have done is bring everybody in and say, "Okay, what do we do to make sure this never happens again?"

0:21:31.8 AS: Which is exactly...

0:21:31.9 DL: Yeah, and if it does happen, what's going to be our process?

0:21:38.7 AS: Which is exactly what happened. And they analyzed why it happened and it was because they hadn't been maintaining the machine by the schedule that they had set. So they had to set up a better schedule to make sure that all of the husk that's coming off of the coffee, the chaff, is taken out on a daily basis and all clean. And so, we've never really had a major fire like that, and that's been, probably be 15 years ago.

0:22:00.3 DL: Wow. No, that's really a great example. So if you have a crisis, my advice to managers always is get through it. And then as soon as you get through it, bring everybody together to just say, "Okay, how do we make sure this never happens again?"

0:22:15.6 AS: Yeah, it's the balance between short-term and long-term. Last thing, I want to just highlight something that you talked about at the beginning that many people may not really understand is that, that workforce change that happened after World War II. And this is something that shaped a lot of Dr. Deming's observations. And that is, the estimates are that there was about 4-5 million American men who came back from Europe after World War II. And we know that there was a large amount of women in the workforce there. And so about 4-5 million men was about 3-4% of the 140 or so million population of the US. So, it wasn't a small number, but if you actually look at the labor force of the US, it was roughly 50-60 million of that 140 million that were in the labor force at the time. So we're talking about 7-8% of the labor force.

0:23:11.4 AS: And so this wave of command and control men who had been trained through boot camps and all of that, of command and control, it kind of explains why Dr. Deming railed against what then started happening was that all of a sudden, the joy was just destroyed. The aim that the women in particular that came to these factories producing, that aim was kind of demolished by these marching men that came in. So any thoughts on that, David?

0:23:43.3 DL: Well, in wartime, it's just constant crisis management. That's all it is. And that's why the military relies so heavily on chain of command and who's in authority and who's in command here and all those kinds of things, because you're just trying to survive a situation. But when you're not in wartime, that's the time to actually improve processes, get things done, understand a different way to work and operate. But even in those kinds of situations, military commanders that concentrated on two and three, knowledge and personality, got a lot more done and saved a lot more people than just "do it my way" kind of thing, so.

0:24:29.9 AS: Yeah. Well, in wrapping up, let's just now revisit what we've been talking about, and that is, ultimately, it's authority, knowledge, and personality. And these are the three factors that Dr. Deming is talking about. And ultimately, we want to develop personality and knowledge, and then ultimately that leads to higher authority. And the idea of command and control type of authority is only really useful in times of emergency, but most of the time, you need to use the others. Anything you would add to that?

0:25:10.0 DL: Yeah, that's a perfect way to think about it. That's a great, great wrap up to it. And Deming talked a lot about business, but I always gonna wanna bring it back that this applies to anything, a classroom, a family. If you're treating your family like that, you have a different kind of problem. And I don't know if I've told this story, but I have five children and I live in Montana. And so we had a really bad snow year, one year, and there was, just terrible in February, just so much snow and everybody's sick of it and everything else. So my wife and I dreamed up this scheme that we would get tickets to take all the kids to California and go to Disneyland and all these great things, but we wouldn't tell them. We would just get up in the morning like we're getting ready for school.

0:26:01.9 DL: And so we're sitting around the table and my wife says, "I'm sick of this snow. I'd like to get out of here, and who else would like to get out of here?" And the kids are all like, "Yeah, I would like to get out of here. When can we do that?" And she said, "Well, our plane leaves today at 11 o'clock, so here's a list. Go pack these kinds of things." And they were like "Wow, where are we going? What's happening? This is so exciting." And we didn't tell them anything, so they had to figure out when they got to the airport, where the plane was going. And then they said Orange County, and they, "What? Orange County? What's in Orange County?"

0:26:39.6 AS: Oranges.

0:26:39.8 DL: So, they figuring all that out. So we just thought we were so clever using our position of authority to do this. And after about three days, we are sitting around a dinner table and the kids are all kind of moping and we'd been taking and spending money going to Disneyland and all this great stuff in Southern California and all these wonderful things, and they liked it, right? And I said, "Gee, what's going on? You guys are just tired or just all kind of silent and kind of moping and everything else? And didn't you like what we did to today?" "Oh, yeah, that was okay," and da, da, da. And then finally, one of my daughters said, "You know, we talked about it and we just want to go to the beach," because they'd never seen the ocean.

0:27:29.3 DL: And I was like, "Oh, these three points," right? Yeah, I had the position of authority as father and I could make this decision and spend all this money to do these wonderful things, but if I just used some personality and knowledge and asked them to begin with, "Hey, if we go to California, what would you really like to do?" "Hey, we'd like to go and hang out at the beach 'cause we don't have an ocean." I could have saved thousands of dollars and lots of headache if I just had a little bit of personality and knowledge certainly in the situation, so.

0:28:02.5 AS: What a great story. And kids can play on the beach for weeks. I know.

0:28:03.9 DL: Oh, yeah.

0:28:04.1 AS: I was young, so yeah, that was crazy.

0:28:09.1 DL: That's what we did. The rest of the trip, we canceled everything and we just went to the beach every day, and they were happy as could be.

0:28:13.5 AS: And it's easier on you.

0:28:15.7 DL: Yeah.

0:28:17.7 AS: Yeah. Well, David on behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for this discussion. And for listeners, remember to go to to continue your journey. Listeners can learn more about David at This is your host, Andrew Stotz, and I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming. "People are entitled to joy in work."