Dr. Deming on Joy of Work, Innovation and Leadership

Having worked in Quality management role for a long time, I could not have afforded to miss insights from Dr. W. Edwards Deming whose thinking was way ahead of time. Dr. Deming is remembered for transforming Japan into a formidable business competitor through his management and leadership practices, especially Deming’s 14 principles.

In 1994, at the age of 92, Dr. Deming gave his last interview to IndustryWeek magazine which I read with great interest.

In part 1 of his interview, Deming says,

The source of innovation is freedom. All we have—new knowledge, invention—comes from freedom. Somebody responsible only to himself has the heaviest responsibility.

3M is a 100 years old company that thrives on innovation. 3M’s William McKnight first instituted a policy known as 15% rule – that engineers can use 15% of their time on whatever projects or initiatives they like. Later, Google also had a similar policy. McKnight used to tell his managers,

“If you put fences around people, you get sheep. Give people the room they need.”

This is even more crucial when an organization grows and if you want good people, you cannot manage them traditionally. They would want to do things in their own way. Providing a conducive space for performance is one of the primary responsibilities of a leader.

In the same interview, Dr. Deming also touched upon a topic businesses are still struggling with – how can leaders enable joy at work? He suggested,

The alternative is joy on the job. To have it, people must understand what their jobs are, how their work fits in, how they could contribute. Why am I doing this? Whom do I depend on? Who depends on me? Very few people have the privilege to understand those things. Management does not tell them. The boss does not tell them. He does not know what his job is. How could he know? When people understand what their jobs are, then they may take joy in their work. Otherwise, I think they cannot.

If we keep all the glorification of leaders aside, the two fundamental tasks of a leader are to get great talent (good people who care) and then help them succeed by providing clarity, reiterating the vision, mentoring and serving to their needs with a focus on achieving business outcomes.

After reading insights by Deming in this interview, I was only wondering about the depth of Dr. Deming’s passion about better business and better leadership that kept him engaged even at 93!

I am glad I stumbled upon this interview.

In 100 Words: The Pursuit of Happiness

My one year old son seems to be in a perennial state of happiness. His playful presence and vibrant energy makes everyone around him happy. He knows how to make the most of simplest of things. “What’s his secret?” I was thinking to myself when heard I this wonderful story from a friend.

A man once asked a Buddhist monk, “I want happiness.” The monk smiled softly and said, “First remove ‘I’ – that is your ego. Then remove ‘want’ – that is your unending desire. Now all you are left with (and were born with) is ‘happiness’.

I got his secret!

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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In 100 Words: Why Wait?

Driving to the office everyday is a very humbling experience.

Just a few kilometers on the bustling highway, there is a crematorium with two chimneys emitting light-grayish fume. Passing through a cemetery or crematorium, I come face-to-face with mortality. We are all going to die – and that itself should be a powerful provocation to realize the preciousness of life, to think about one’s priorities, be more human, joyful and grateful.

People who survive near-death experiences often tend to live more intentionally and fully afterwards. My point is: Why wait for such rude reminders when you can do that right away?

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Note: I met super-talented and amazing Kiruba Shankar yesterday and my conversation with him sparked the ideas outlined in this post. He is working on a very exciting project “Unkick the bucket” where he attempts to discover our true priorities in life.

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Also Read: Other 100 Word Parables

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Stay Tuned! Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page.

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Photo Courtesy: ProAudience on Flickr

Monday Thought: Do We Have Time to Notice the Beauty?

As we begin the new week, I want to share a very interesting real experiment that was done at Washington DC Metro Station by Washington Post. (Caution: This is a 2007 feature and some of you may have already read about it earlier)

Joshua Bell is one of the greatest musicians in the world. On a cold January morning at Washington DC Metro Station, he stood against a wall and played one of the most intricate pieces ever written for 45 minutes, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. During those 45 minutes, nearly 2000 people walked past him on their way to work.

Amazingly, only 6 people stopped by and listened for a short while and about 20 people gave money, but did not stop to listen. At the end of 45 minutes, Joshua Bell (whose last super-hit show tickets were sold at minimum of $100 per seat) collected mere $32.

Imagine world’s best musician playing incognito at a busy/crowded place with the most expensive instrument – and very few people appreciating the gift of Joshua Bell and the beauty of what he was playing.

I first read this story on Patrick Driessen’s blog and then read the source feature  at Washington Post.

As Patrick rightly concludes,

“If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?”

Interesting question to ruminate upon this week! Have a great one ahead!

Hindsights from Guy Kawasaki

I simply love the way Guy Kawasaki writes. I have linked to his articles on this blog earlier and every time I read him, I end my reading with some realization, some learning and something more to ruminate upon.

Today, I stumbled upon a great piece he wrote way back in 2006 called “Hindsights” on his blog. While I strongly recommend reading this piece at his blog, here are a few excerpts for those who are running short of time 🙂

“Pursue joy, not happiness. Take my word for it, happiness is temporary and fleeting. Joy, by contrast, is unpredictable. It comes from pursuing interests and passions that do not obviously result in happiness.” –

“My father was a senator in Hawaii. His dream was to be a lawyer, but he only had a high school education. He wanted me to be a lawyer. For him, I went to law school. For me, I quit after two weeks. I view this a terrific validation of my inherent intelligence. And when I quit, neither of my parents were angry. They loved me all just the same.”

“One of the biggest mistakes you can make in life is to accept the known and resist the unknown. You should, in fact, do exactly the opposite: challenge the known and embrace the unknown.”

“You’re learning in a structured, dedicated environment right now. On your parents’ nickel. But don’t confuse school and learning. You can go to school and not learn a thing. You can also learn a tremendous amount without school.”

“Learn to like yourself or change yourself until you can like yourself.”

“Winning is also a means to play again. The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the unlived life is not worth examining.”

“By and large, the older you get, the more you’re going to realize that your parents were right. More and more-until finally, you become your parents. I know you’re all saying, “Yeah, right.” Mark my words.”

Some great hindsights represented with equal profoundness – Isn’t it?