If Russ Ackoff had given a TED Talk

Understanding Dr. Ackoff’s 1994 thoughts on systems thinking are essential in 2017 and beyond

It seems we haven’t learned much from intellectual giants like Russ Ackoff and W. Edwards Deming. In this short video, Dr. Ackoff destroys our current understanding of how we manage companies and how we proport to educate students. His comments are pointed and topical even more than 20 years after they were made.

bh 11/30/2017


Dr. Deming’s 14 Points

The 14 points for management (Out of the Crisis, Ch.2) in industry, education and government follow naturally as application of this outside knowledge, for transformation from the present Western style of management to one of optimization. This information is not new, but it is still topical. I post this here to remind us that great ideas truly stand the test of time.

image: Cover: Out of the Crisis, W. Edwards Deming
Cover: Out of the Crisis, W. Edwards Deming

Origin of the 14 points.The 14 points are the basis for transformation of American industry. It will not suffice merely to solve problems, big or little. Adoption and action on the 14 points are a signal that the management intend to stay in business and aim to protect investors and jobs. Such a system formed the basis for lessons for top management in Japan in 1950 and in subsequent years (see pp. 1-6 and the Appendix).

The 14 points apply anywhere, to small organizations as well as to large ones, to the service industry as well as to manufacturing. They apply to a division within a company.

The 14 points*

  1. 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.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
  3. Stop depending on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. Stop making business decisions based solely on cost. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership. (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear at every level of the organization, so everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, corporate ‘rah-rah’ and arbitrary targets for the work force asking for “zero defects” and new levels of productivity. Such cheerleading only creates adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.Corollaries to number 10:+Eliminate quotas. Substitute leadership.+Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
  11. Remove barriers that rob front-line people of their right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people in management of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (see Ch. 3).
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

The W. Edwards Deming Institute, All Rights Reserved & Copyright © 2000

*some artistic license taken for the sake of 21st century clarity

Agile Goes Big Using SAFe

This week I had the opportunity to meet and hear Dean Leffingwell talk on Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and its history. It was fascinating to hear him recount the early days of Agile, and how the SAFe came into existence. What impressed me most was how he continually tied Agile and SAFe back to the teachings of Taiichi OhnoW. Edwards Deming, and to the Lean concepts underpinning Agile. I am a late arrival on the software development scene, and I was working to improve First Call Resolution in an airline call center while people like Dean, Al Shalloway, and Mary and Tom Poppendieck were figuring out how to apply Jim Womack’s  “lean thinking” to software development. It was a great presentation and while I have many more questions than answers, I am sold on the concept that Agile can scale effectively.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a proven knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale. SAFe’s primary user interface is a “Big Picture” graphic (http://scaledagileframework.com/) which highlights the individual roles, teams, activities and artifacts necessary to scale agile from the team, to teams of teams, to the enterprise level. (The image at the top right is literally just one corner.) If you are serious about process improvement in the IT space, I strongly recommend you check this out.


Image-Detail of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Big Picture.

The Scaled Agile Framework is a proven knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale. Its primary user interface is a “Big Picture” graphic which highlights the individual roles, teams, activities and artifacts necessary to scale agile from the team, to teams of teams, to the enterprise level.

The Big Picture describes three levels of scale:
Team, Program and Portfolio. Each of these scales the essential agile elements of Value (requirements and backlogs) Teams (from development team through portfolio) and Timebox (iteration, PSI, budget cycle). This model of agile adoption has been elaborated primarily in Dean Leffingwell’s books Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements for Teams Programs and the Enterprise (2011) and Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises, (2007) and his scalingsoftwareagility blog.

Further Reading

Leffingwell, Dean (2011).
Agile Software Requirements, Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise,
Addison-Wesley Professional, ISBN 978-0321635846.

Leffingwell, Dean (2007).
Scaling Software Agility, Best Practices for Large Enterprises,
Addison-Wesley Professional, ISBN 978-0321458193.


Bob Hubbard, July 2013