Deming’s Profound Changes – A Conversation

Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sometimes reread certain books that have depth and knowledge associated with them.  Out of the Crisis, The New Economics,  The Deming Dimension and The Reckoning are those that I have revisited a number of times.  Another called, Deming’s Profound Changes was written by Ken Delavigne and Dan Robertson.

Deming’s Profound Changes outlines the American perspective on management.  This perspective is rooted in Scientific Management (aka Taylorism) developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor back in the early 1900s.  The authors do an excellent job of breaking down the elements of Scientific Management and describe what they call Neo-Taylorism or the “New Taylorism.”

An analysis of Taylorism leaves us with eight flaws (from Deming’s Profound Changes):

  1. Belief in management control as the essential precondition for increasing productivity.
  2. Belief in the possibility of optimal processes.
  3. A narrow view of process improvement.
  4. Low-level optimization instead of holistic, total-system improvement.
  5. Recognition of only one cause of defects: people.
  6. Separation of planning and doing.
  7. Failure to recognize systems and communities in the organization.
  8. View of workers as interchangeable, bionic machines.

The book goes on to describe how these flaws have continued to embed in themselves in the design of organizations.  This is done through a comparison of the Taylorism flaws as perpetuated in the New Taylorism.  The comparisons in the book leave you feeling that the US has absorbed the bad and entropy has taken over the rest of the American perspective.

I was fortunate enough to spend close to two hours speaking with one of the authors – Dan Robertson.  He shared with me that Perry Gluckman was the source of their (Ken Delavigne and Dan) inspiration to write Deming’s Profound Changes – interestingly the name of the slides Dr. Gluckman used. Dr. Gluckman was directly guided by Dr. Deming in learning his method.  Dan described his interactions with Dr. Gluckman as sometimes confusing, but that the careful guidance of Gluckman always allowed the learning to advance.

Dan Robertson is from Indiana (Clinton county), but lives outside the Bay area today.  He is traveling back to Indiana this week and I hope to have coffee with him in late June or early July to learn more about his experiences.

Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect.  His organization helps executives find a better way to link perspective to performance.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for Reach him on Twitter or LinkedIn at

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