DEV Community

Mik Seljamaa 🇪🇪
Mik Seljamaa 🇪🇪

Posted on

Mapping and TQM

After WWII the Americans sent Dr. J. Edwards Deming to Japan to help sort out their manufacturing industry, which was an odd mix of the medieval and industrial ages, and war-shattered. Deming introduced ideas including collecting statistics from the mass production activities, asking the workers that performed those processes to think of the way of improving them and making sure that each worker understood what he or she was doing. These ideas were later developed into what we today call `Total Quality Management' (TQM).

The results (we are told) were extraordinary. Within a generation, Japanese industry soared and moved from building bicycles in sheds to a worldwide dominance of high-value industries like building ships, cars, and electronics. Japanese Methods' were re-imported to the West, and have been institutionalized in ISO 9001, an international Quality' standard that business has spent a fortune on, and which focuses on defining procedures for everything with lots of ticking and checking. The expected benefits have not yet been seen in general, and yet some organizations that have applied the work of Deming and his successors have seen staggering benefits.

Recognising the importance of mapping suggests another way of looking at what has happened here. Mapping can certainly be reawakened by trauma. One possible way to traumatize a person might be to:

Nuke them. Twice.
Rip apart their rigid, predictable feudal society.
Tell them the invader will be coming around tomorrow.
Leave them nothing for supper. 
Enter fullscreen mode Exit fullscreen mode

To eat tonight, this person is going to have to reawaken his ability to be imaginative. So by the time Dr. Deming got to Japan, the population he was to work with was already mapping. All of them. At once. Perhaps all Dr. Deming needed to do was take a leaf out of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, stand on a tea chest and shout, `Be most sensible to each other!'

When that worked so spectacularly, Dr. Deming and his colleagues would have naturally been impressed, and so started to work on methods that their work-force could use to get even more sensible, creating a culture which is an industrial powerhouse, but has the hidden requirement that it only works for mappers!

During the early reintroduction of `Japanese Methods', mapper people from Japan returned to America, and with the characteristic enthusiasm and habits of mappers they showed the American workers how to ask interesting questions about their work, collect data, interpret the data wisely and improve processes. They showed them how to write down a description of their jobs, look at those descriptions and see if there might be any problems lurking in there.

It worked wonderfully, but again it was accidentally teaching people mapping that had done the real work.

When the TQM ideas became widespread, the accidental teaching of mapping just got lost. The ideas were sold to the packer industry on their results, but packer industry just couldn't see the key bits of what they'd bought - the wisdom and reflection stuff.

Even creative management of high tech industries can be thwarted by the communication barrier. To the many of their workforce, the manifest artefacts of TQM look just like the stuff that Frederic Taylor, the father of scientific management threw about the place. Taylor gave us mass production before we had robots, by getting people to do the robots jobs. Perhaps that is an odd way of looking at it, but at Los Alamos, they simulated spreadsheet programs by sitting secretaries at grids of desks with adding machines! He was such a control freak that he used to strap himself into bed every night to counter his morbid fear of falling out. His slogan was, `Leave your brain outside and bring your body indoors'. Our culture, from schools to legislation and concepts of status, is still riddled with Taylorism. In this situation, the worst case result of introducing TQM without an explicit understanding of mapping will be dumb Taylorism. The best will be that we are confused about why we do what we do.

In some organizations, the results have been tragic. There is an obsession with micro-accounting, dumbing-down and writing poorly-designed job descriptions that are taken as absolute behavioural tramlines. Everything has to be done on the adversarial model of packing, not the intended co-operative model of mapping. ISO 9001 auditors appear in the workplace and perform swoop raids on the paperwork, aiming to catch workers out in trivialities of paperwork regulations, like a scene out of Kafka. In some organizations, workers become more concerned with avoiding blame for micro-violations of paperwork regulations than the work at hand, which becomes completely obscured by the intervening rituals. Think of Feynman's story of the six lines on the STS SRBs! Some people actually think that this is the idea!

Good TQM captures the experience in the workplace and condenses this knowledge into lists of things that are worth considering. These checklists simply remind mappers of issues they should use their mapper common sense to consider, where appropriate. The packer corruption is to regard the job as ticking the boxes as quickly as excuses can be found to do so. How much consideration is `sufficient' to a packer?

As the proceduralist orgy has progressed under the banner of `Quality' in too many places it has driven real quality, which is about doing one's imaginative best to do the best possible job for the customer, completely out of the window.

Ironically, there are some organizations (all of whom seem to be able to make intelligent use of information technology) that have invented a kind of real proceduralism'. Telephone banking companies have dropped the pretence that they are offering an intelligent service from real people, and openly acknowledged the anonymous, procedural nature of their business. This has allowed them to think about their procedures clearly, and produce very good procedures that satisfy customers' needs twenty-four hours a day at a low cost. This contrasts favourably in many people's eyes with an offensive counter-clerk performing a caricature of a pompous Dickensian undertaker and behaving as if the ridiculousregulations' he is applying are the customer's problem and not his.

Very successful financial organizations recognize that there are procedures that computers do well, and judgments that experienced people do well. They analyse their markets with mathematics run by the computers and leave the final calls up to the people. They can use different criteria to describe the jobs of both aspects of the overall system and evaluate the effectiveness of different algorithms and traders.

This gives an opportunity to try a mappers' technique. If we have Real TQM',Fake TQM' and `Real Proceduralism', can we say:

Real TQM Real Proceduralism
Fake TQM Fake Proceduralism

and ask if there are any examples of Fake Proceduralism': organizations that swear blind that they are mindless automatons while actually indulging in a frenzy of mapping? What about the British Army's journey to Port Stanley in 1982? Remember, an army is an organization that faces particularly difficult challenges. Even those that abhor all conflict can learn how to make their world more co-operative by understanding what makes an army more co-operative. The British Army is Fake Proceduralists? Now that's an interesting mapper way of looking at things because then we can look beyond the paper and the language and see what the organization does. The idea that they are all following rules all the time makes the British Army in action hard to understand. Once we realize that there are a lot of mappers in there, following the rules until the moment that they can see they won't work any more, things get clearer. We can also compare the customs of the British Army with the US Army. The Americans have always openly preferred an approach more like theReal Proceduralism' of the telephone bankers. They openly intend to do everything by procedure and get their mappers to write the best procedures they can, in readiness. When this works, it works very well indeed, as in the Gulf, but it is brittle because it does not give the packers using the procedures much room to react to changing circumstances. This leads to inefficiency, as in the Grenada invasion.

The lesson is simple. Without the underlying mapping, TQM turns into a black comedy. With mapping, the Quality stuff can educate and provoke, and the enthusiasm and joy in work that the TQM advocates talk about is nothing but general mapper high spirits!

In this model, the Systems Thinking approach advocated by Peter Senge (in The Fifth Discipline) can be seen as a collection of useful mapper concepts and techniques, optimized for management problems.

Top comments (0)