W. Edwards Deming asked us to reinvent management years ago, but instead we have been met with change programs focused on processes and workers.  Often I find myself at odds with lean six sigma folks that swear they are really about improvement but what they write or speak about is more tools, standardization and other strategies that do little to address the management problems that need to take hold to have improvement that is sustainable as well as profound.  All these efforts (although well-intended) ignore the fact that management must come to the table to change too.

Instead we have change programs that compromise the needed management change.  Too few challenge conventional management thinking in favor of “just getting some business.”  Some improvement dreamers hold out hope that if they show management tools at work magical change will happen.  Unfortunately, once you start down the process and/or tool path changing thinking goes out the window.

In an ideal world, we would have any improvement initiative not beginning with tools and addressing the management thinking problems first.  Every organization’s management team would know that if improvement is to occur that they must change too.  Instead we wind up with management believing they can skate while the tools and process improvement fix things.

Each time I see the wrong path taken, I know how much harder it will be to get management to accept the fact that they have to change too.  So, making lean six sigma folks upset goes with the territory as one systems thinker likens it to trying to save someone that doesn’t know they are in danger.  The tool and process people do not see it this way as they see something is better than nothing.

So what has to change in management?  A move from command and control to a systems thinking approach to management.  These are not always easy changes as many are embedded in management thinking through years of a repeated use. But what we find is the faster management puts better thinking in place improvement is usually immediate. 

However, years of building these complex structures in command and control can slow the improvement down.  With great irony, management that wants improvement fast sometimes gets in the way of immediate improvement.

Improvement can not continue to become less, it needs to become more.  This can only happen when fundamental management thinking changes.  A tougher path?  Absolutely, but one that can lead to dramatic and sustainable improvement.

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Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from www.newsystemsthinking.com “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about how to get started at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

Tripp Babbitt is a columist (Quality Digest and IQPC), speaker, and consultant to private and public service industry.