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Hi. I’m Norm Orlowski, and welcome to Program Book Talk. Our guest today is the author of the book The Symphony of Profound Knowledge. It is a book based on W. Edwards Deming’s profound teachings and insights into the management of organizations and the art of leadership and living. The author, Edward Martin Baker, one of Deming’s most valued associates, shares with us his deep understanding of Deming’s system of profound knowledge and how we can apply the principles to nonprofit organizations. Mr. Baker spent 20 years with the Ford Motor Company, including five years as Corporate Director for Quality Strategy and Operation Support where he assisted Dr. Deming with his seminars and was a trustee of the W. Edwards Deming Institute.
NORM: Good morning, Ed. Thanks so much for joining us this morning.
ED: Hi, Norm. I do appreciate your interest in the book.
NORM: Well, it certainly caught my attention with the Symphony of Profound Knowledge. My first question that I have, Ed, is when most people hear the name W. Edwards Deming, the knee-jerk reaction, and I’ve got to say it was mine also, is to associate him with the automotive industry back in the ‘80s, and the audience that we work with, the people that will be listening to this, are really nonprofit. Does Deming’s philosophy apply to this sector, and is it still relevant in 2017?
ED: Sure. Well, it’s true the automotive sector was interested in 1980 because it was hard hit by increasing sales of Japanese products. As they began to make the recovery, especially after Deming went there and did some teaching, they attributed much of their success to his teaching. He taught a few things. Primarily, that management must understand that as a system that imagines, develops, produces, and markets a product or service, as a basis for economically producing quality products and services, and especially quality, means that the customer is part of the system. So quality can be evaluated without knowing what the customer thinks about the organization and its products and services. Now, Deming’s teaching did get narrowed in the minds of many people who were automotive manufacturing. But, teaching applies not only to manufacturing, but to all processes and systems, especially the service processes. Healthcare is beginning to apply some of his ideas, and it is finding its way into education, but very slowly, of course. It especially applies to administrative processes, especially in government agencies. So regardless of the product or service, his system of profound knowledge addresses the management of people, and people, of course, constitute every organization and every process.
ED: So, it is people who preside over processes, and leadership is the enlightened management of people as human beings, not as machines. True, we’re not in the machine age really anymore, but even in those days it was human beings that made results possible. Especially for any service organization, Deming focuses on reducing management reliance on extrinsic sources of motivation, that is bonuses and paid performance rather than creating an environment where people are intrinsically motivated. So regardless of your organization, management must demonstrate the leadership that creates an environment where people love their work for its own sake and for the positive results they can contribute to the organization, customers, and society.
NORM: Well, you know, when people love their own work, it certainly does ring a bell with the performing arts and orchestras and any kind of fine arts because we know that those people just love what they do. So your title, The Symphony of Profound Knowledge, of course, as I have mentioned before, piqued my interest because of our relationship with arts organizations nationwide. Can you tell me, what was your motivation to write this book and to use the symphonic analogy?
ED: Well, for one thing, I wanted to expand people’s view about Deming. There has been a narrow depiction of him especially by people that never met him and really never studied his work completely. He was an accomplished musician. In fact, in April of 1993, an evening dedicated to his music was presented by the Washington Civic Symphony of Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. It was titled W. Edwards Deming, The Man and His Music. He often used music and the analogy of the symphony orchestra to explain how the blending of talents by people in a system, particularly the orchestra, can produce a quality performance. He explained that the benefits of managing an organization is a whole system, and not a collection of parts, will have tremendous benefits for an organization. In a professional orchestra he liked to point out that players are there not to play solos, as prima donas trying to catch the ear of the listener, unless, of course, a solo was called for, rather they are there to support each other.
ED: He went to say an orchestra is judged by listeners, not so much by illustrious players, but by the results of working together. In a symphony orchestra that is the job of the conductor as manager. In a jazz quartet the players can self-manage. In other performing arts such as a theater, play, or musical, that is the role of the artistic director or somebody like that. I was influenced by books on leadership that were based on performing arts models.
ED: Yeah. Particularly Max De Pree, who was the chairman and CEO of Herman Miller, wrote two books that influenced me. One was Leadership is an Art, and the other one is Leadership Jazz.
NORM:Oh, really? That’s interesting.
GUEST: And Peter Vaill, psychologist and professor of human systems, wrote a book called Managing is a Performing Art and Ben and Rosamund Zander wrote a book about Possibility (The Art of Possibility). Ben was conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.
ED: Yeah, I guess you know him or know about him.
ED: And, Rosamund was a family therapist. Marvelous, marvelous piece of writing. So all of this came together and pointed me in the direction of representing Deming’s system of profound knowledge as a symphony in four movements.
NORM: The one thing that you had mentioned, and certainly I can see how the conductor, when you are conducting a passage or whatever, that we don’t want someone to be heard above another musician or whatever, so I understand the appreciation for a system and being a key component of a composition and orchestration of music, and it is also a key component of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. But really, Ed, I have a problem. I come from the school of performance evaluation. We’re a sales organization, so I am certainly going to look at performance evaluation. Deming throws this out the window in a nutshell. What does he replace it with?
ED: Well, you know, this is a concern most people have when they first encounter Deming’s teachings. But he doesn’t throw out performance evaluation, not at all. Rather, he disagrees with the way it typically is conducted. The use of rating and ranking to force individuals into a distribution from what is best to worst, and the so-called worst or labeled dead-wood or weeds must be removed, as if they weren’t human beings.
ED: He was once in a seminar, I was there, and somebody asked him, “If we can’t use performance appraisal, what can we replace it with?” He replied, given the current way performance appraisal is usually done, he said, “Can you find a better way to beat people?” That’s the way he understood where performance management is being applied.
NORM: I see.
ED: If people understood how a system varies and that performance during any rating period can be due to the system that doesn’t give the people the wherewithal to contribute all they can, or hires people and places them in jobs for which they are a poor fit, sure, their performance will be less than desired. So it’s management’s job to know the source of poor performance as well as excellent performance. Performance is an interaction with the individual talent and the system. And management must know their contribution of both, especially when the system interfered with individual’s ability and motivation to contribute. So Deming wanted the annual review to be replaced by frequent conversations between an employee and supervisor.
NORM: I see.
GUEST: He used to say, “Replace the performance review, a very mechanized process, with leadership.” Allow people to enjoy their work and not be afraid and worried about their ranking. Ranking and rating interferes with cooperation. It makes people afraid, afraid to step out and maybe make a great contribution to the organization.
NORM: I see. It kind of reminds me of some of the terms that I have heard over my career in management by wandering around. “The One Minute Manager” comes to mind, where you are catching people doing things right, and the talking with them, rather than the performance evaluation where you sit down and you’ve got a budget, like you say, a distribution of who gets what and who doesn’t get something. Interesting.
ED: Wandering around, knowing what’s going on and seeing of management has provided a system and enables people to do their job.
NORM: Well, in your book you explain Deming’s concepts in four movements. I know this is probably a lot to ask for, but can you give us just a brief overview or a thumbnail sketch of each? The first movement is the theory of knowledge. The second movement is the appreciation for a system. The third movement is knowledge of variation, and the fourth movement is knowledge of psychology. So can we start with the first movement and just give us just a brief overview of the theory of knowledge?
GUEST: Well, let’s give it a try. The four movements again are like the movements of the symphony. There are parts, but each part is part of a whole. So each movement is part of a whole. The theory of knowledge, and that’s a tough one, also known as epistemology, a word that people probably try to avoid. That’s the study of what constitutes knowledge for each of us, to what extent we think is so, is actually that way. In other words, what is our reality. In the book, I use the term “map and territory”. It came out of general semantics. A mental map contains the words, the images, the thoughts, the theories, the memories, the beliefs, everything that is in our head that we use to navigate through life. It is what determines what our reality is. So the map, just like any map, a geographical map, the map represents the territory, represents the world outside of us. We each see the world in ways that are both common to individuals in a culture and also unique to each person. To the extent that a map accurately represents the territory, we can be more successful in navigating our path through our lives and in organizations.
Let me give you a metaphor I learned from Russell Ackoff, another great system thinker, and friend of Dr. Deming. He used the metaphor of orange slices. Now, the cross-sectional view of an orange sliced vertically is different from the view one gets when it is sliced horizontally. Yet both are views of the same thing. Ackoff explained this with an example. When asked, “what’s a hospital?”, three people answer from their own slice of the orange. The physician viewed it as a place to practice medicine. The patient saw it as a place to be cured, to get well. A member of the hospital administration saw it as a place to care for sick patients or to prevent illness.
So what I’m saying here is that we must share the way people view the organization, and all those views are valid. And, out of sharing those views, can come more knowledge and a better understanding of the environment in which one lives. Now, a key component of Dr. Deming’s theory of knowledge is prediction, because the accuracy of prediction, which you use knowledge to make the prediction, is a good measure of what a person knows. No matter what he says, prediction is an observable measure of knowledge. Now prediction can take the form of a sophisticated plan, a strategy, a decision, or even a hunch – any statement about the future, and these statements require knowledge, they require theory based on subject matter expertise. So to the extent that a mental map is aligned with the world to which a prediction refers, accuracy of prediction will be improved.
NORM: So the better one can make a prediction, that would indicate the knowledge about that particular subject is pretty good.
NORM: Wonderful. So the second movement is appreciation for a system.
ED: Yeah, appreciation for a system is a key component of the composition and orchestration of music. It is the key component of Deming’s system of profound knowledge. He made the point about a system using this ancient Japanese poem. Is it the bell that rings; is it the hammer that rings; or is it the meeting of the two that rings? Just as in a symphony, orchestra, or a theatre performance of a play or musical, the parts must play in concert. The process of thinking often within business, education and government organizations and within family and life in general, can be fragmented. In other words, we don’t connect the parts to the whole. We don’t see how the parts interact, and that could result in action that could be harmful and could cost an organization materially, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Likewise in our life we tend to separate the various areas.
Work is separate from play; play is separate; and separate from family and spirituality and so on. So he was looking for an integration of the parts of our life. We work in organizations where specialists don’t communicate with each other or are unable to do so because of their specialist languages or because systems of reward and punishment inhibit communication. Lots of organizations are separated into departments, usually organized top-down, often called silos; and individuals in those departments don’t communicate much with others. In fact, they are pitted against each other for high grades and high rankings. So again, the organization tends to be fragmented and not functioning harmoniously as an orchestra or a play.
NORM: The third movement is Knowledge of Variation.
ED: Processes vary, and therefore the product and service outcomes of the processes vary. Deming’s main question about variation is that management must know, what do the differences mean; what do the differences in performance mean? Are they due to the actions of that individual, that individual can control, or is it due to the system that is beyond his or her control, but up to management to correct. And I’m talking about the system includes rules, and equipment, and human resources management, and the way people interact and share. Knowledge of variation enables us to understand the irrationality of processes of grading, rating, and ranking of employees, in all kinds of organizations and schools and even at home, when, Good Lord, one parent will tell another child, you’re not as good as your sibling, in my view. Finally, it tells us among other things how to understand numbers and how they reflect the behavior processes and how to interpret the number,
NORM: And the fourth movement is the Knowledge of Psychology, a huge subject there.
ED: I touched on that in my previous comments, but essentially it is limiting the amount of management’s reliance on extrinsic motivation – bonuses, pay, and other things – and trying to replace it with more intrinsic motivation. Make the work desirable for its own sake. People want to be proud of their work and feel like they are making a contribution beyond financial rewards. Deming gave one quick example about replacing intrinsic motivation with extrinsic motivation – A child who wanted to wash the dishes to help his mother and was then given a quarter, which then diminished the value of that work for that child. So that’s what we do. We take intrinsic motivation and destroy it by having total reliance on financial rewards. Of course people need to earn a good living. But it must be properly managed and not be a substitute to intrinsic motivation.
NORM: Finally, Ed, if a nonprofit organization that we assume is going to be the bulk of our listeners listening to this broadcast, wanted to implement the concepts from your book, where would they begin? For instance, one of the things I can hear resonating throughout, your analogy to a symphony or a play or whatever, I can see that from an artistic standpoint, it would seem like, an orchestra is doing all the things from Denning’s concepts. But we’re talking now about the organization as compared to the performing end of the organization, the marketing department, the fund raising department, the executive director, the board…so how could someone, just a bite-sized piece, begin to implement some of these things other than getting the book and reading it, which will let our listeners know how to do that too. Any suggestions, any thoughts, where do you begin?
ED: Well, all the components you mentioned for sales and marketing, those are functions that are in any organization. A nonprofit is like any organization, it is people. It is the management of people and their interactions, whether it be in sales or whatever components are in that. So it behooves, I think, the leaders of the organization to understand their system and what will influence the performance and the outcomes accepted by their customers. The first thing Deming said for any organization is to ask what business are we in. In fact, I remember working with an automotive company, and management was pondering – what business are we in? Are we in the transportation business or are we in the entertainment business. And, the answer you come out of that question will help define your purpose and the things you do in the organization. So that is kind of critical – what business are we in.
NORM: So that would be the first step that you suggest, what business are we in.
GUEST: I think that’s important. And also, to begin to define the processes, and this you can’t do over night, and you can start slowly. But what are our processes; who presides over each process; and how do they interact with each other? Are people sharing? Is marketing totally separate from production, or you know, whatever other department or function is in the organization. So I think process flow charts are a good start, and then people could begin to define relationships.
In the book I define a method I use successfully in mostly service organizations to develop a matrix of interactions. Once the process is initially defined, and the process definition could change over time, people get in a room and play two roles simultaneously – that of supplier and provider. As a supplier, first they state what their process is, and then another person in the room as receiver of the outputs of their process will state how they use those outputs from the other process and what kind of problems they are having. So the supplier, then in the role of supplier, the person will agree to make some changes if they’re necessary. And this goes on and on until basically, the system understands their roles and relationships in the organization, continually updated. Now, I’m not saying you do this overnight, but to start doing something like this and to understand that the organization is a system of processes, and once that is understood, good things can happen.
NORM: It lets them see what it’s like to be on either end.
ED: Exactly, exactly. I mean, you know, it’s the old saying “put yourself in the other guy’s shoes.”
NORM: Yeah, exactly.
ED: That should be a formal way to do that, you know. That’s what I’m saying.
NORM: Well, those are some great tips, Ed, and I really appreciate you taking the time. Your book, the title, again, was very intriguing to me. I have done some podcasting with some consultants that specifically work in the performing arts industry, and they were certainly familiar with the name of Deming, and hopefully there will be some people that want to take a look at this and implement this in their organizations.
ED: Before we go, I just want to repeat the subtitle of the book. It’s Deming’s Score for Leading, Performing, and Living in Concert. An organization, even if they’re not physically making music, they can play in concert.
NORM: Ed, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your day, and again, thank you for taking the time.
GUEST: Thank you for your interest, Norm, I appreciate that.
NORM: Our thanks again to Ed Baker for this exclusive interview. Ed’s book, The Symphony of Profound Knowledge, is available at Amazon.com. Thanks also to Aileron, a national nonprofit helping private business grow. If you’re interested in the many courses Aileron offers to entrepreneurs, you can contact them at aileron.org. Ed partnered with Aileron to make this book possible.
I’d like to close with a quote from Chapter 10 of this book: “What would be the result if the orchestra conductor were evaluated on meeting cost, productivity, and efficiency targets? The musicians would be encouraged to perform as if they were soloists without regard to the music score or to what the others were doing. If musicians were evaluated on their individual performance, they would play as fast and as loud as they could in order to stand out above the rest. The conductor might be rewarded for the efficiency of the orchestra in completing the symphony in record time. Of course, the result would be noise, which would not be a quality experience for the audience.” Is this too farfetched as a metaphor for traditional management methods driven by financial targets and internal competition for rewards?
Food for thought. I’m Norm Orlowski. Good selling.