The Pledge

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No, this is not about the movie Animal House, Flounder, pledge pins or John Belushi.  Instead this is a pledge I took years ago while attending a Deming User Group seminar done by John McConnell:

“I swear, that I will never, under any circumstances what so ever, draw specifications, tolerances or any other arbitrary limits on a control chart.

On such charts I will draw only control limits calculated from the data drawing only from the Shewhart model.”

And so it was that I learned that the system governs performance and not arbitrarily set targets or numerical goals.  A system operating between the limits(UCL and LCL in the above diagram) set by the data would continue to operate there until entropy would take over and deteriorate the system or method would come along and improve the measures.

A waste of time and money to send management and worker out on a mission to hit an arbitrary target without understanding that the system dictates performance that is predictably between the limits.  Also, management has to understand that a predictable system means that the problem is not that of the worker and that management must solve the problem of improvement.  As the system dictates performance, so does management thinking about the design and management of work.

A poorly designed system will certainly have a greater impact on an worker’s performance than anything a worker can do.  Setting “stretch goals” and performance targets will either frustrate an individual or cause them to manipulate (a nice term for cheat) the system, especially if carrots and sticks are involved.

So, take the pledge by first understanding variation or start by reading Service Metrics: What You Need to Understand.

Leave me a comment. . . share your opinion!  Click on comments below.

Make the new decade a profitable and rewarding one, start a new path here.  Download free from “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 LinkedIn at

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

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