Curious Cat: Deming on Management

Deming on being Destroyed by Best Efforts

Brian Joiner quoting Dr. Deming.

Best efforts are not enough, you have to know what to do.

Out of the Crisis, page 19:

Best efforts are essential. Unfortunately, best efforts, people charging this way and that way without guidance of principles, can do a lot of damage. Think of the chaos that would come if everyone did his best, not knowing what to do.

The idea is similar to the idea of working smarter not harder. Doing the wrong thing, more, doesn't get you where you want to go. You need to figure out the right things to do and then do them. Ironically, it is hard to figure out the right thing to do.

I am reminded of a quote I heard from Deming (though it may well preceed him): "Don't just do something, stand there." In the context of his management ideas this fits with the concept that working harder at what we have done is not what is needed. We need to figure out what to do and then do it. The quote also relates to the tendancy we have to tamper - institute "solutions" without understanding what is going on (often due to a lack of understanding variation). Tampering is also a failure created by best efforts. Many managers have learned their job is to act, even if they don't have the knowledge needed to make a rational decision: they don't just stand there, do something.

Quality and the Required Style of Management by W. Edwards Deming, 1988:
Best efforts will not ensure quality, and neither will gadgets, computers or investment in machinery.

I have also seen variation such as:

Ruined by best efforts (see Harehall page with more info)

Dr. W. Edwards Deming's management ideas have greatly influenced modern management practice. Many quotes and thoughts are attritbuted to W. Edwards Deming's system of management. Sometimes these represent his ideas accurately, and sometimes they do not. Here I attempt to clearly indicate what he actual said and include some of my thoughts on what he meant.

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Deming on Management