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How Deming’s 14 Points For Management Can Help Us Thrive in A Post-Pandemic World

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To overcome today’s challenges, and build a sustainable business for the long term, it’s time to transform how you get work done

The biggest challenges our organization faces, like most everyone else in our post-pandemic world, is shortages of parts and people. With global supply chains snarled, we find ourselves sitting on warehouses full of engines waiting for silicon chips worth a few dollars each. Meanwhile, we were incredibly fortunate to hire 500 new associates over the past year. But, we’re still shorthanded when you subtract the 250 or so employee-owners who retired at the end of 2020. And, despite the superhuman efforts from our human relations teams, that’s not going to change anytime soon.

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All I can see in front of us are all the opportunities we can’t get at—that we’re in danger of leaving on the table. That drives me crazy.

Anyone who knows me understands that I’m a big fan of efficiency and productivity. I’m always looking for “two-fers”—opportunities to get two things done at the same time.

Finding those “two-fers” and even “three-fers” is more important than ever these days, given the shortages we face. We need to find every angle we can to help ensure that every investment we make gets the biggest bang for the buck possible. We need to be as efficient and productive as possible with the resources we have on hand. We need to do more with less.

To do that, we can revisit W. Edwards Deming's famous “14 Points For Management.”

A Blast From The Past

I’m a big fan of the classics: books, movies, TV shows, whatever. I’m sure plenty of people, especially my kids, consider me old fashioned. But when I go looking for answers, I’m not always convinced that whatever wisdom the latest guru is offering hasn’t already been said before.

I have seen too many flavor-of-the-month management fads come and go. From Management By Objectives and Total Quality Management to Six Sigma. People are constantly chasing the “new” thing. But when I want inspiration, my go-to resources continue to be thinkers from the past like Deming.

He has profoundly influenced me, especially his philosophy that when things go wrong, nine times out of ten, it’s a system problem—not someone’s fault. Rather than blaming a person for variances or deviations, you should put your time and energy into improving the system. That was a key inspiration for us in creating The Great Game of Business. Our crazy thought was to build a system that we could all manage together, rather than chasing a charismatic leader or a new KPI.

Motivated by many of Deming’s “14 Points For Management,” we wanted to rethink how we worked from the ground up as a way to build a company that could stand the test of time.

Rethinking Work

Work can be boring and tedious. I’ve also always believed that people hate to be managed—especially if someone is yelling at them from the top down to be more efficient and productive. That doesn’t motivate anyone.

Rather, we thought that if we could get people pumped up to come to work—to want to come to work because they wanted to have fun growing something and making it better—it would be an incredible advantage. Inspired by Deming’s words, we wanted to: “Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.”

We wanted to instill a spirit of “Gotta Wanna.”

We wanted to bury the mindset that people should just do their job; nothing more, nothing less. We might call these the faceless people or the living dead. They don’t look or act healthy. They show up to work as a way to move onto something else—and we can’t afford that anymore. We need a Business of Businesspeople more than ever.

That’s why we teach our associates the rules of business—to demystify it. We want them to get a better sense of the big picture of where we’re going as an organization so they can then decide if it’s a place they can prosper in by investing their time there—or not. The numbers, some more than others, help you get at the truth.

Transforming The Workplace

As Deming taught us in his 14 Points, we want to take fear out of the workplace and to break down barriers between departments. We also want to find a way for everyone’s job to take on more meaning—to institute training on the job as well as a “a vigorous program of education and self-improvement”—to encourage them to pursue their dreams.

We want to open our people’s eyes to the kind of progress they can make every day toward fulfilling their personal and professional dreams—and not to live broke. Transforming how we approach work in this way can be the secret to creating a sustainable business that will improve the lives of everyone who works in the business.

Again, quoting Deming, “The transformation is everybody’s job.”

The first step is the transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from an understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The transformed individual will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people. Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for the transformation of the organizations that he belongs to.

As we like to say, “People support what they help create.” That’s never been truer than it is today. If we’re going to overcome today’s challenges, as well as those coming tomorrow, we need to do it together.


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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Transparency, Sustainable Business, Pandemic

Authors of our latest book, Change the Game: Saving the American Dream By Closing the Gap Between the Haves and the Have-Nots. Jack Stack is president and CEO of SRC Holdings Corporation. Stack, a graduate of Elmhurst College, came to SRC in 1979 as the plant manager of International Harvester (IH). In 1983, Stack and the SRC employees bought the company from IH and have turned it into what Inc. magazine has proclaimed “one of America’s most competitive small companies.” He is the author of the books, The Great Game of Business, A Stake in the Outcome, and Change the Game. Jack has been called the “smartest strategist in America” by Inc. Magazine and one of the “top 10 minds in small business” by Fortune Magazine. Darren Dahl is an experienced ghostwriter and business journalist, having written for publications like the New York Times, Inc., and Forbes, Darren has also ghostwritten multiple books, several of which have landed on multiple bestseller lists.

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About The Great Game of Business

Our approach to running a company was developed to help close one of the biggest gaps in business: the gap between managers and employees. We call our open-book approach The Great Game of Business. What lies at the heart of The Game is a very simple proposition: The best, most efficient, most profitable way to operate a business is to give everybody in the company a voice in saying how the company is run and a stake in the outcome. Let us teach you how to develop a culture of ownership, where employees think, act and feel like owners.