Over the years I have been exposed to a great deal of material on managing certain aspects of organizations and employees. Some material has been better than others and of course I learned from the old trial and error method. But, when you are dealing with people and their lively hood, you want to minimize the mistakes. The following blog entries are a few of the important lessons and associated stories I’ve learned during my working career. Hopefully, by reading and understanding these blogs you will not have to make the same mistakes I’ve made with others and myself.
I’m starting with the lesson that seemed to immediately change how I viewed the world around me, and it all started in 1988 when I was employed with AT&T in Kansas City as a Quality Management Consultant and Trainer.
In February of 1988, I attended the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s training session in Los Angeles, California and have not seen the world the same since. Dr. Deming’s words had such a profound impact on me that there was a transformation in my thought process and they in turn affected my behavior.
Prior to attending the seminar I had viewed several videotapes of Dr. Deming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming) and was not really looking forward to having to sit through hour after hour of his presentations. I was primarily attending to add to my professional credentials. Since it had been rumored that his health was declining and it might be one of his last outings, I made the decision to attend.
One of the things I noticed on that first morning was that the seminar must have been a sellout. It looked like every seat had been reserved and was occupied. I began to think that there might be something to what people said about him. I did notice that his presentation skills had not improved from the tapes. After the first couple of hours I observed that many of those attending were starting to wander out and not return. I just knew it was going to be a long week. I could not have been more wrong.
When I went to bed that Monday night I was not feeling well. I was tired from the long day, and I had the symptoms of a head cold. I went to bed early and immediately drifted off to sleep but as I often do, I had a dream. This one was about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/gettyb.asp ). When I awakened from the dream I started wondering why I had dreamt that particular storyline. As I went back through the address I came upon the words “they gave their last full measure of devotion.” Maybe that was what Deming was doing; giving his last full measure of devotion to the businesses of the United States.
The next morning I was hearing what he was saying and not letting my preconceived perception of him get in the way. After the first hour that morning, I was hooked. His words were gradually changing how I saw things. Later that morning I discovered that when I thought he was reading from his book “Out of the Crisis” he could not have been. He had to put his glasses on to tell us from which page he was reading. He couldn’t have been reading the words because he wasn’t able to see the print. That revelation really opened my eyes to the depth of his knowledge and commitment.
Needless to say, that week in Los Angeles changed my life. I have never looked at the world around me in quite the same way. It was as if I had donned a new set of glasses and what I was seeing through them was different than before. A question I had for myself was – how am I going to take what I’ve learned this week and deliver it to my customers/fellow employees and have them see the world as I now saw it? I didn’t have an answer to my question immediately, but I kept mulling it around in my head. The personal challenge would just not let go.
I had one regret, when I left the seminar that Friday. It was that I had not gotten Dr. Deming’s signature in my book he wrote. It was my own fault because the first day when I had the chance to do so, I didn’t take the opportunity. After that, when I wanted it, I couldn’t get close enough to him to do so. To this day I am disappointed that my copy of the book doesn’t bear his autograph.
The following is one of Deming’s videos on Youtube.com: