Prevailing Style of Management
The fine mind of W. Edwards Deming is to be found behind a lot of altThink, especially in relation to management theory and practice. Just as we use conThink to represent conventional thinking, Deming might have enjoyed conMan[agement] as a term for what he called the prevailing style of management.
Here Bill Bellows explains more:
"Beginning in the late 1980s, Dr W. Edwards Deming used the term “the prevailing style of management” to describe the administration style of organisations that are characterised by directives that foster, if not promote, sub-optimisation, wherein what’s good for the organisation is subverted by what’s good for the elements of the system.
One persistent symptom of this management style is “reductionism”, as practiced by reducing cycle time, waste, non-value added efforts, variation, part counts, and costs, all with the assumption of savings for each “separate” acti on and the ability to tally these savings using addition. Missing is the realisation that savings only add when the accumulated efforts are independent of each other. Sub-optimisation results when the local savings trigger unintended consequences, including losses that surpass the anticipated savings.
Additi onal symptoms of these organisations are the apparent existence of a “most important part” (as opposed to a strong sense of the purpose and relatedness of all parts), and a prevalence of blame placed on individuals (rather than the greater system in which they operate). The management actions (and thinking) that unknowingly sustain such nonsystemic behaviors are driven by an unrecognised and, therefore, un-stated, set of beliefs and assumptions
that are the focus of this arti cle. Another tell-tale sign of these beliefs are management practices that focus on parts and ignore, if not underestimate, relationships and interdependencies. A favorite mental picture of the prevailing style of management is a view of the completed individual elements, seemingly independent and floating in close formation, never connected to each other.
Instead of a focus on the relationships between the elements of the many sub-systems within an organisation, the prevailing style of management divides wholes into manageable parts and tasks and then assigns measureable completion requirements to these elements. The essential feedback mechanisms within this task-focused environment are measures of percent completion for all requirements, including being on time, on budget, and, ideally, defect-free, always and everywhere.
Within moments and, well before the ink dries, silos are created as task owner’s focus with a palpable sense of accountability on their own responsibilities. “One for all” and “all for one” interdependencies are overlooked
as the essential systems conversations, including “How well do the elements integrate?” or “How well did my
element perform?” are replaced by a laser-focused accounting on the “goodness” of each element. Team work equates to “my task was completed,” “my team is me,” and the remarkable discovery of the letter “i” in team."
Read Bill Bellows's full article The Last Straw published in Lean Management Journal
This entry is abridged from an article by Bill Bellows, Associate Fellow and Lead InThinking Network at Aerojet Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, California.
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