Monday, May 20, 2013

Did Dr. Deming really say what Dan Pink is saying today?

I read Julia McIntosh’s post rounding up the ASQ World Conference on Quality with unusual interest. Firstly because I wasn't at the conference and wanted to remain updated. Secondly  because Julia had written it. I am sure we all on the Influential Voices program have remained impressed with Julia’s dedication for the program. This post was a way to assess how good she is at writing – something she expects us to do every month.  Must say, she didn't need this assessment. Her post is a well-rounded summary of the conference and if you were not there, it is highly recommended reading.

I am delighted that Dan Pink was one of the keynotes at the conference. His work on what motivates us to give our best is amazing. I wrote about his book Drive in one of my earlier posts. I have also written about how quality professionals are risk averse for a range of reasons including personal traits of being calm, composed, academic, rigor oriented. Read Dan’s theory and think about the characteristics of quality professional and you won’t need a PhD to understand that quality professionals can not be motivated by short-term benefits. They need, in Dan’s words - Self-direction, autonomy, mastery and purpose.

John Hunter of the Edwards Deming Institute has supported Dan Pink’s findings a recent post. I read this piece with interest – looking for evidence on how Dan’s views are in sync with those of Deming’s. I found little. Now, I completely respect Dr. Deming for his work but am not sure how his views matched what Dan Pink is now saying. Deming's most famous point around managing people was eliminating work standards and management by objectives. What Dan is saying is that standards and incentives are good for repetitive and mundane tasks. So, a lot of credit is due to Dr. Deming but not on this point. Sorry.

If we adopt what Dan Pink is saying, then autonomy, mastery, and purpose are more useful in getting quality professionals to deliver. True. Not always maybe. I would rely on something Juran said on empowerment. Capability precedes empowerment. Similarly Stephen R Covey has written about trustworthiness being a function of character and competence. Only one is not enough. Similarly, if a quality professional is not trustworthy or capable of being empowered then trusting and empowering him/her will be disastrous.

A large majority of us would be managing teams where many of our team members are not yet ready for more responsibility. Using Dan Pink’s philosophy on them is a path to be walked with caution. Rushing to remove incentives for quality professionals may not work always. There is always some work which is repetitive and there are always some people who should be managed with the immediate lure of more money than the more long term lure of mastery and purpose. Once again judgment of a leader/manager in such situations is a perquisite.


John Hunter said...

Deming and Pink and Kohn and others do not think the purpose of people at work is to be the hands for a brain sitting in New York telling them what to do.

Dan Pink did say the carrot approach works for mundane, repetitive tasks without intrinsic motivation. Dan Pink does not say work falls into that category (that I have seen).

Many people that don't understand Deming or lean don't have respect for people and the importance of engaging people's mind at work. Those people could take Pink's claim that certain tasks can be done better with carrots but I don't think Dan Pink would agree. I know Deming wouldn't and I wouldn't.

I include some links for more info here:

I agree with the point that you can't just adopt strategies without understanding the management system in the organization. Building capability (of people and processes) is needed before you adopt some strategies. Trusting employees to make the correct decision if they don't have the proper knowledge is risky (when they don't understand variation, for example, or sub-optimization...

tim said...

Those less familiar with Deming's views on motivation can compare what follows to Pink's views.

The New Economics p 108:
People are born with a need for relationships with other people, and need for love and esteem by others.
One is born with a natural inclination to learn. Learning is a source of innovation. One inherits a right to enjoy his work. Good management helps us to nurture and preserve these positive innate attributes of people.
Family environment may shatter at early age dignity, self- esteem, and thereby shatter also intrinsic motivation. Some practices of management (e.g., ranking people) complete the destruction.

Anyone that derives meaning from extrinsic sources of motivation brings detrimental effects on his self-esteem. He feels that he has no control over the world. He is powerless, and may become despondent.
The loving mother, the kind teacher, the patient coach, can through praise, respect, and support for improvement, reenforce a child’s dignity and self-esteem. Children feel good about themselves when they learn how to master a new activity. They become more intrinsically motivated. They develop self-esteem and confidence. They develop self-efficacy. Their work is meaningful, and they will make improvements in what they do.
The most important act that a manager can take is to understand what it is that is important to an individual. Everyone is different from everyone else. All people are motivated to a different degree extrinsically and intrinsically. This is why it is so vital that managers spend time to listen to an employee to understand whether he is looking for recognition by the company, or by his peers, time at work to publish, flexible working hours, time to take a university course. In this way, a manager can provide positive outcomes for his people, and may even move some people toward replacement of extrinsic motivation with intrinsic motivation.

P 113 citing Alfie Kohn:
Rewards motivate people to work for rewards.

P 121
Effects of the present style of reward. The accompanying diagram (Fig. 10) shows some of the forces of destruction that come from the present style of reward, and their effects. What they do is to squeeze out from an individual, over his lifetime, his innate intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity. They build into him fear, self-defense, extrinsic motivation. We have been destroying our people, from toddlers on through the university, and on the job. We must preserve the power of intrinsic motivation, dignity, cooperation, curiosity, joy in learning, that people are born with. The transformation set forth in this book will year by year build up the bottom half of the diagram, and shrink the upper half.
P 122
One is born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, cooperation, curiosity, joy in learning. These attributes are high at the beginning of life, but are gradually crushed by the forces of destruction.
These forces cause humiliation, fear, self-defense, competition for gold star, high grade, high rating on the job. They lead anyone to play to win, not for fun. They crush out joy in learning, joy on the job, innovation. Extrinsic motivation (complete resignation to external pressures) gradually replaces intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity.
The transformation will take us into a new method of reward. We must restore the individual, and do so in the complexities of interaction with the rest of the world. The transformation will release the power of human resource contained in intrinsic motivation. In place of competition for high rating, high grades, to be Number One, there will be cooperation on problems of common interest between people, divisions, companies, competitors, governments, countries. The result will in time be greater innovation, applied science, technology, expansion of market, greater service, greater material reward for everyone. There will be joy in work, joy in learning. Anyone that enjoys his work is a pleasure to work with. Everyone will win; no losers.

Anshuman Tiwari said...

Thanks John and Tim for your response.

John - I am glad you agree with some of what I said.

Tim - Thank you for these excerpts. I read them with interest. I am no one to argue with Deming. :) All I was saying is that while Deming's view were addressing all humans, Dan has made a classification in some ways. It is only carrying the work Deming did forward. Not contradicting it.

Cornell Colbert, CMQ/OE, LBC said...

Dan has said that incentives DO NOT work as most organizations believe. They only work when the task is only mechanical. But he states that "once the tack calls for rudimentary cognitive skill" then we see negative results from incentives. His point, it seems to me is in line with Deming and Lean Thinking. Treat people with respect and not like mindless machines where one can put a nickel in and get a toy in return.

I would hope that we are not suggesting that that the work of quality professional is simply mechanical and there for incentives should work to improve performance. I would disagree with this kind of thinking in a number of ways.

First, quality personnel must be able to use judgment to differentiate between what is within and without of normal operational parameters. In most cases this is more than a rudimentary skill. Quality personnel are also called upon to analyze data to determine root causes for outliers in the process and they must report out finding. It would be a mistake to think that because we make these "checks" repeatedly that it lowers the work to the level of mechanical.

But back to the question of did Dr. Deming say what Dan Pink is saying today? Yes. I think the two agree. In the final analysis, incentivizing work has a negative impact on the individual as well as the team.

Suresh Lulla said...

Anshuman, I agree with your comments on Deming, Juran and Covey. I wish to add that Deming's approach was bottom-up while that of Juran was top-down. Their approaches compliment each other. If you see it in this context, you may find that Covey's advocacy of trustworthiness has greatest impact when it is top-down. In other words, leadership through character and competence. Suresh

Michael Wittke said...

IMHO, not being able to trust employees to make the correct decision is risky, but not at a "quality" level. What you are basically saying is that you need to revisit your hiring practice(s) because obviously, you have hired the wrong people!

If you employees do not have the proper knowledge and skills, ensure that they either get it or, hire people that already "have" them

aravind108 said...

I profess what Juran stands for: "Capability precedes empowerment". It may be naive to disagree with Deming completely. But some of the Deming's points have been found hard to live by on the ground:

-->Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity.

-->Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals.
Dan Pink's statements need to be taken in a context. Incentives do tend to help but not always. IMHO, quality professionals at times tend to miss the wood for the trees and lose alignment with business. The need of the hour is to speak the language which enables business so aso to beat the perception of being a typical bottlenecks in the ecosystem!

Dennis Jones said...

Having actually met and heard Deming speak his comments regarding goals are missed by many. His point was a numerical goal limited companies to their true potential. If the goal was easily obtainable managers would stop improving once they obtained the goal (and bonus that went with it). So the only true goal was "continuous improvement" of every aspect of your business using statistical tools every day / forever.

His quote to make his point was the United States is the most under developed country in the world (limited only by its self imposed numerical goals).

Paul Hollingworth said...

@aravind108 I am not aware that Daniel Pink has ever stated "Incentives do tend to help but not always". Quite the reverse.

Pink states that the execution of all tasks requiring cognitive ability is impaired by the use of incentives: productivity of only the most 'mindless' of tasks may be improved by the use of sticks and carrots (for example, shovelling a pile of dirt from A to B).

Humans are naturally goal seeking, that is, we have an intrinsic desire to satisfy certain needs. The use of extrinsic motivators creates goal transference, where the natural intrinsic desire to take pride in workmanship is replaced by the need to achieve the target, in order to gain the carrot (or, more likely, avoid the stick). As Alfie Kohn points out a carrot is just a stick dressed up to look like a vegetable.

The pernicious effects of extrinsic motivation are many, but from a Quality professional's point of view, lets look at the big picture: consider what Deming had to say in his dedication to the 1980 ASQC reprint of Walter Shewhart's 1931 book Economic Control Control of Manufactured Product.
"To Shewhart, quality control meant every activity and every technique that can contribute to better living in a material sense, through economy in manufacturing" - "Economic manufacture requires achievement of statistical control in the process and statistical control of measurements" - "otherwise, production can only remain in chaos". Six years later, in Out of the Crisis, Deming said "Where there is fear, there will be wrong numbers" (P266).

Just from the above, I think it is clear that Deming was saying that we cannot expect to optimise a system of production by deliberately inducing fear and insecurity through the use of incentives.

All this begs the question, why, 50 years after Herzberg published his seminal work on motivation, are we still debating the use of extrinsic motivators?

The answer to this is quite simple. As Dr Deming often said:

"No one gives a hoot about profit".

Tristan said...

Pink's point was not that you should use carrot and stick motivational practices for primitive or repetitive work, just that it did not work for more complex knowledge work.

Deming's point was above that: carrot and stick motivation, while somewhat effective for repetitive workers, is not the most efficient method even for them!

They're similar points in a somewhat perpendicular direction.

Meanwhile, Pink's "Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose" fits really well into Deming's four points of the system of profound knowledge—principally they fall under the knowledge of psychology.

This does not mean that you don't still need the other three components of the SoPK to form a complete model of an organization and the individuals in it, but it's still a critical piece and a great component to advocate for.

Seems fully compatible and consistent to me.