Systems Thinking – Does it take a crisis?!?!

The default management system that we use is Taylorism or Scientific Management. It’s our default management system because when it was introduced it was highly successful, became deeply rooted, and now is the default management methodology in all parts of an enterprise.

In World War II there was a change in the way that factories were managed. Factory workers went overseas to fight the war and women, farmers, and those physically unfit to serve moved in to occupy vacant positions in factories. Faced with the crisis of needing a reliable supply chain the Army introduced a training program called Training Within Industry or TWI. It introduced a different management system into factories. If you analyze that management system you’ll see that it very clearly reflects the 14 points of management made famous by W. Edwards Deming.

I post-war Japan there was another crisis. There was no industry, there was poverty, and there was idleness. General MacArthur pulled over American resources to train the Japanese and help them rebuild their industry. The system that was adopted by the Japanese is the Deming Management System.

When Deming returned home he was ignored until 1980 when Ford, in it’s own crisis, threatened by the high quality of imported automobiles, sought Deming out as a consultant to help turn around their business.

It’s beyond dispute that the management system we use for knowledge workers and in product development is a management system that fails. It’s counter productive. We know that there is a better way and we know how to move to a better way. The better way is based upon the Deming cycle — PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) — and it’s implemented for closed loop and experiential learning; for improvement.

If we know how to move to the better way, why don’t you? Do you prefer to wait for the inevitable crisis? As Deming said “Survival. It’s optional.”


Contact us to learn more about how Systems Thinking and the application of our Product Development Operating System can help your organization become more efficient, productive, innovative, and competitive.

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