Create Constancy of Purpose – First of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management

“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.”

– W. Edwards Deming, Point 1 of the 14 points for management, page 23 of Out of the Crisis.

Over the next months we will be looking at each of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management. The 14 points were not meant to be a list of items to consider adopting. And they were not meant to be a checklist you seek to mark as complete. Understand that the points were all interrelated within his management system as we examine each of them separately.

Constancy of purpose is about long term thinking and about thinking of the organization as a system. It relates to creating organizations that push decision making to those where the important is being done – where the individuals that know the most about the situation are.

This point squarely puts the onus on management to make looking out for their employees the number one job, while the responsibility of the employee is to improve their product or service. The focus is not on the product or service; rather, the focus is on choosing to dependably improve the product or service. Acknowledge that what is offered isn’t perfect and can be done better, and if it isn’t done better, reliably, the competition will do it.

People—not the product or the service—are at the core of all operations. Without the employees, nothing is made, nothing is sold, and no amount of marketing nor motivational speeches will change that. They must be empowered.

To truly succeed in business, management must fully embrace continuous improvement as a living element in all operations, making it the basis of the corporate culture. Staff should be 100% supported by the company and the management. Staff should be empowered to make positive changes to improve their working environment and better their product or service.  There should never be any doubt that the company fully supports continuous improvement efforts.

Constancy of purpose is vital, yet it is sometimes lost through the use of clumsy language. There is talk of the mission, vision, objectives, aims, goals and strategies, attempting to create some form of hierarchy in an effort to convince management and important others that it actually means something.

A common purpose unites and helps to ensure that the right things are done well. It is the basis of continuous improvement in any system and achieving an objective. Measures should be derived from purpose (the customer’s purpose) and when those measures are employed work gets done and method is liberated.

The bottom line: making profits every quarter is not an appropriate purpose, whatever constancy it is pursued with. The purpose should be in terms of goods or services provided to a population of customers, with profits a by-product of doing this well.

Dr. Deming concluded that creating constancy of purpose requires

  1. innovation,
  2. research and education,
  3. continuous improvement of product and service, and
  4. investment in the maintenance of equipment, furniture, and fixtures, and in new aids to production in the office and in the plant.

Constancy of purpose also implies “sticking to the plan”. This is where a good strategic plan, which articulates the Vision, Mission and Values of the organization, comes into play. It is important to carefully create the strategic plan, and then live it. The strategic plan ought to leave enough room for tactical flexibility, to deal with short-term economic and marketplace anomalies, but it ought to be strong enough, and visible enough, to endure.

In the next blog post we will be looking at the next of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management: adopt the new philosophy.