Deming-based Transformation LO2923

Martin Charles Raff (
Sat, 23 Sep 1995 08:45:37

Replying to LO2781 -- (my own msg) Was: Intro -- Martin Raff

David J. Skyrme asked (in a msg off the list) about my experience of
leading a Deming based transformation--

> What were your first steps?
> What kind of reaction did you receive?

I discovered a new way of working on a visit to the Nissan motor car
factory at Washington, County Durham, England. There I saw a way of
working with little hierarchy, people on the shop floor working in teams
to use data to improve their own processes and tremendous enthusiasm from
the shop floor. I appointed Julie Beedon (now a colleague in consultancy)
as my assistant on change and we learned about Deming together.

We used two of our 110 local branches to pilot the new ways of
working and began to try to introduce the leadership team in the
Region to the new ways of thinking.

The initial reaction of the clerical people, who were the vast
majority of our employees was sceptical but most of them fairly soon
became enthusiastic for change. The leadership team had, when we
started a very dependent relationship with me, (I was at that stage
a strongly "command and control" leader), and they took part because
I wanted them to, without necessarily believing in it. Later, I
began to change my leadership style and some of them became
enthusiasts while others continued to drag their feet, although
almost no one was completely unchanged six years later. But the
clerical people's commitment helped to carry things forward even
where the local management was lukewarm.

The initial reaction by my colleagues in other Regions of the
Service was one of disbelief and incredulity. When people in our
Region began, early on, to talk enthusiastically about a new way,
there was some suspicion that we had gone collectively mad! But
when 3 years later we leaped, in a period of 12 months, from bottom
of the league table to top, my colleagues began to look seriously
at what we were doing and we became very influential.

I found David's points about PAIN and GAIN being motivators for
change in leaders ringing true. My PAIN was our Region's poor
performance. My GAIN was in wanting to make a difference and to be
respected by my colleagues as an effective leader. But I would add
another - BELIEF. I really believed a better way was needed and
possible. The influence of Deming and later Senge, Block, Robert
W. Jacobs - author of Real Time Strategic Change, and others, helped
to reinforce my belief and to develop a vision of what better would
look like. Helping leaders to BELIEVE that they can lead
transformation is, I suspect, the most difficult bit.

Martin Raff
phone and fax: +44-1789 840418