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Ative at Work

What is a Truly Lean Company? - Deming Distilled

Deming's work is the foundation of the Toyota Production System and modern-day lean. I recently conducted a workshop his 14 points for management. One exercise was to group them to get to their essence. Here is the the result:

  • “Practise engaged leadership” - hands-on and collaborative (points 7 and 2 – institute leadership and lead the transformation)
  • “Improve constantly” (points 1, 5 and 3 – provide jobs by building quality in and constantly improving the system)
  • “Look at the organisation as a whole” (points 9, 4 – end silos and look at total cost)
  • “Develop you competencies” (6, 13 – institute learning while working)
  • “Measure the system, not the individuals” (11, 10 – remove slogans, quotas, substitute leadership)
  • “Engage the people” (14, 8 – include everyone in improving the organisation and remove fear)
  • “Develop intrinsic motivation” (12 – remove the barriers to doing great work)

As you see, the lean principle of Respect for People is right at the core: leadership is participatory and collaborative, and the aim is to create jobs that people are happy to do.

A more elaborate description of a company based on these principles would be something like this:

A “Deming 14” company aims to sustainably provide great jobs by being highly competitive.

It is based on respecting the people and driven by their intrinsic motivation and the passion for doing a good job.

It leverages this passion to constantly improve the quality of the work by removing obstacles in the production system as they are identified. The focus is always on the end-to-end process rather than the individual steps.

It constantly takes the time to make experiments to learn how to do things better and uses the best new knowledge to improve.

To enable free, objective experimentation the company removes fear and focuses on the system rather than the individuals.

As a basis for the improvements, the company actively takes the time to learn on all levels, all the time in the context of the actual work.

The success of the company is built on engaging everyone in the work, and leadership is hands-on with an understanding of how everyone’s knowledge and contribution is needed to succeed.


Think about that for a second. How does your company compare?


PS: If you are interested in learning more about the 14 points and their application in IT there is a new edition of my handbook "Ud af krisen" available on our website as a free PDF-book in Danish. Get it here:

Published maj 07 2009, 03:12 by Martin Jul
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About Martin Jul

Building better software faster is Martin's mission. He is a partner in Ative, and helps development teams implement lean/agile software development and improve their craftmanship teaching hands-on development practises such as iterative design and test-first. He is known to be a hardliner on quality and likes to get things done-done.
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