I first saw my dad (Harry Hart, the founder of Washington Rock) reading Out of Crisis about 10 years ago. The cover was blue and featured a small portrait of an elderly man. The portrait was of the author, W. Edwards Deming.
My dad talked about Deming a lot and something called the Deming Method. I didn’t understand who Deming was or why his methods mattered, and I thought this was a management fad that my dad would grow out of.
Turns out, my dad is still passionate about Deming’s philosophy today. Last year, most of my co-workers and I hunkered down for a four-day conference and learned firsthand what the Deming Method was and why my dad was so passionate about it. Most importantly, we learned how we could use it ourselves to make Washington Rock a better company and a better place to work.
Who was Deming?
Deming was a leader in management consultation, and he is credited with helping Japan improve the quality of its products and set the standard for quality manufacturing. Deming condemned management theories that punished workers and set subjective goals. Instead, he taught companies to achieve success by working together as a team to improve their processes, leading to better quality products and happier employees.
To teach us about Deming’s methods and to give us tools to help apply them, David Langford presented at last year’s conference. David’s tools helped us to identify problems in the process, brainstorm how to solve them, and evaluate our improvements.
Second Annual Company Conference
Last week, David returned to review our progress as a company and help us continue to move forward.
David met with management and discussed intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. We learned that intrinsic motivation—motivation that comes from inside ourselves—is more powerful than extrinsic motivation. It leads to a better work environment and higher levels of production.
We discussed ways to motivate someone from the inside, including providing support to them and giving them more control over their situation.
One of the ways to give others control over their situation is through one of David’s tools called a Parking Lot. A large piece of paper is hung in a common area and is divided into four spaces. The top left space is for positive feedback (+). The top right is for things that need improvement (Δ). The bottom left is for questions (?), and the bottom right is for ideas (I).
Team members can write down their feedback on the Parking Lot whenever needed, and team meetings can spend time addressing feedback, resolving problems, and discussing ideas.
The Parking Lot is an example of a tool that can be combined with other tools to reveal common problems.
With management focused, the rest of the company came in to review the tools we had learned last year. We combined the tools in the PDSA method (Plan, Study, Do, Act) to figure out the biggest problems and to work on solving them.
The goal was to identify the smallest changes we could make that would make the most amount of difference. Then we worked toward setting specific goals that would help change bad habits and reinforce good habits.
Each group took a turn talking about a specific problem and how they used David’s tools to work through the problem and determine a solution. The topics covered everything from how to improve employee orientation to how to streamline work orders. It was a positive learning experience for everybody.
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