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Over the weekend, I was preparing my paper for the International Deming Conference in March.  I decided to look at some videos of W. Edwards Deming on YouTube and other assorted mediums. Having attended Dr. Deming’s 4-day seminar I felt the familiar pull of a lost message about American management and that the Western style of management needs to change.  That was in 1984 . . . and not much has changed.

Dr. Deming in one video outlined the 5 Deadly Diseases of Management.  They are:

  1. Constancy of Purpose
  2. Emphasis on Short-Term Profits and Thinking
  3. Annual Rating of Performance/ Merit Pay
  4. Mobility of Management
  5. Use of Visible Figures Alone

All of these things Dr. Deming warned us about in 1984 are present in almost all American businesses and government today.  The banking crisis we are finally emerging from in the emphasis of banks to seek larger and larger profits to achieve targets.  Short-term thinking isn’t just accepted, it is encouraged.

The problems with mobility of management are rooted in the lack of knowledge that management has about the systems in which they manage.  Many lack the basic knowledge of their systems and manage based on common sense.  But common sense can only be achieved by having knowledge from being in the work understanding it – outside-in as a system from a customers point of view.  Anything less is leads to waste and sub-optimization.

The financial targets in American business are highly visible to anyone who manages and in government the focus on visible costs.  A shame that very few can answer a simple question like, “what measures matter to customers?”  Most will say, “oh yeah, that too”, but have no idea from their functional perch.

And so we live with high unemployment that is firmly rooted in bad management.  Education is a top priority in the US and many states to help America become more competitive.  A noble aim, but our problem is not just education . . . it is the wrong management theories being taught that deepen our plight.

Join me for the International Deming Conference in New York City on March 21 – 22.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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