Human Psychology

First published in LinkedIn 15 Dec 2014

Deming completes his System of Profound Knowledge with a focus on human psychology, in particular what motivates people to go to work enthusiastically, labor with ingenuity and want to make their jobs better.

What makes an amateur athlete dedicate much time to the sport and endure daily sacrifices to reach new goals? What makes a young person want to enlist in the armed services? These examples make us realize that people are not motivated by money or recognition alone. More powerful than these are the intrinsic motivations of being proud of one’s team or work, building with others something bigger than oneself, leaving a legacy of good deeds.

On the other hand, what can kill these positive desires? Primarily, fear, when it permeates an organization and particularly the workplace. Fear is the enemy of collaboration, which is necessary for a system (read company) to work, fear triggers abnormal behaviors which create uncontrolled situations and fear destroys the environment where everyone can learn unafraid of asking questions.

For this reason, Deming put a great deal of responsibility on managers to create a positive work environment free of negative incentives like not meeting sales and production quotas, pay for performance schemes and job ratings, where everyone can find pride of workmanship, problems are solved and people get better at their jobs constantly.

HumanPsychology

This notion was similarly developed by Stephen Covey through his concept of effectiveness, which he defines as a balance between the production capacity of an organization and its capability to continue producing over the long term, that is, without “burning” resources, especially employees’ morale.

Another great Deming insight on human psychology is that all humans are different and thus grow differently in their careers and lives. From this realization follows that everyone must be educated differently, not in cohorts like schools generally do. In the workplace this means that managers must recognize, develop and apply this plethora of aptitudes and skills for the improvement of their organizations.

Not realizing the differences between employees and failing to invest time in their development has an impact so large over production and quality that is has been recognized as one of the “wastes of Lean”, namely the waste of human skill.

A great article in Harvard Business Review discusses ways to create meaning in work by letting employees experience small successes in things that matter to the business. What better way to realize this than by creating an environment of continuous improvement where employees routinely get to solve problems as they appear? This way the workforce would grow the habit of applying their human endowments of pattern observation, critical thinking and common sense to making work better for themselves and their organizations.

This completes my brief review of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge which was developed to help managers build prosperous companies and teams.

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