Deming on involvement of people

The performance of a system is affected in no small way by the behaviour of the people in it. They are affected in turn by variousl factors, their health and well-being, their state of mind, their competence and, last but not least, their motivation. This somewhat inconvenient situation is nevertheless recognised in its own somewhat clumsy way within ISO 9000. Involvement of People is listed as one of the 8 underpinning principles of quality management. The only problem is the auditable standard does not devote much effort towards defining any required system attributes that are likely to promote the principle, save perhaps for a bit of training (clause 6.2.2). It stands as a principle more or less absent of requirements

The main reason for the omission, perhaps, is that the subject is DIFFICULT. It’s tough. The concept of motivation is supported only by a lot of theories. Not laws or rules, just theories. None are proven and not all are necessarily consistent with one another. So dare I suggest that ISO 9001 takes the convenient option of side-stepping the issue for the time being? Let’s face it, many of us do the same. How often do we see adverts for “self-motivated individuals”. What should that tell us about the job? Don’t expect excitement? Don’t expect any thanks, recognition or encouragement? Maybe it should set the alarm bells well and truly ringing as we could often read between the lines “Mug required for god-awful job”

Deming, however, believed people do actually carry an inherent motivation. So maybe this concept of a “self-motivated individual” is no fallacy, after all. He believed each of us holds a desire to do a good job and we take pride in doing so. If true, that’s has to be a good thing, hasn’t it? Because, as leaders and managers, it gets us off to a bit of a flying start

But hang on a moment, we need to be careful. “Inherent” does not mean “unconditional” or “indestructible”. Motivation can be destroyed. It is destroyed – all the time. How often have we seen first day enthusiasm systematically crushed and replaced by seasoned cynicism and apathy? And here’s the rub. Who always gets the blame for this loss of motivation? Yes, the poor old worker

Good old blame. The management tool of choice for the terminally inept, as easy as credit and as versatile as a Swiss Army Knife

Anyway, whatever theory of motivation we subscribe to, it is underpinned by a fundamental law
People get pissed off

This links nicely back to an earlier post relating to the role of leaders in amongst all this malarkey. A key role of a leader, according to Deming, is to continually seek ways to make it easier for people to do a good job – remove the barriers. This post on Curious Cat refers to Deming’s views on this matter and calls on managers not to motivate but to “Stop De-Motivating Employees”

In other words, people are already inherently motivated – all we as leaders can do is mess it up … but sadly mess it up we usually do

In a very early post I highlighted the practice in a US Army Garrison of rewarding staff for making improvement suggestions. Deming was not one for that sort of thing at all. He deemed that to be extrinsic motivation, and you only need extrinsic motivation if you have failed to build intrinsic motivation into the job. He saw extrinsic motivators like that as a work-around and an indicator of a deeper, more under-lying, system malaise

Anyway, to summarise, we can perhaps take a useful and practical lesson from this great imponderable. That is, if the subject of motivation is so big and complex so as to freak us out, could we come at it from another, perhaps easier, angle, and focus on the identification and removal of demotivators?

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2 Responses to Deming on involvement of people

  1. Pingback: System design - make the right thing also the easiest thing | Capable People Blog

  2. On the topic of the ISO standards and the quality underpinnings, you do switch from “involvement of people” to “motivation of people.” While the topics obviously are highly related, they aren’t synonymous.

    ISO could never audit motivation. They are just looking at systems. But they could be a little more proactive at evaluating the systems for the involvement of employees.

    And in the end, you’ll need both. You’ll need systems, processes and skills to involve employees, and you’ll need to create the motivation for them to contribute well through those involvement opportunities.

    Jamie Flinchbaugh
    http://www.LeanLearningCenter.com

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