Japan’s phenomenal economic success ushered in a new economic age. Probably no single person is more important in the postwar economic resurgence than W. Edwards Deming, the great statistician who consulted with countless businesses, both Japanese and American, about quality improvement. His book, Out Of The Crisis, was an analysis of why western industry was in such deep trouble and what leadership had to do to emerge from the crisis successfully.
I began a series of posts a while back with Deming’s 14 Points. In the post, I list Deming’s 14 points, his outline for western industry’s emergence from “the crisis.” I believe these 14 points are, in fact, an outline for great leadership, definitely translatable to the church.
Deming’s 1st Point – Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.
Deming suggests a radically new definition of an organization’s objective. Rather than existing to make money, the organization should exist to stay in business and provide jobs through innovation, continuous improvement, and maintenance of everything.
Deming was addressing what he called “2 problems” with the leadership of the time. There are problems of today and problems of tomorrow for an organization (like the church) that hopes to stay in business for the long haul. He says that too often “the problems of today” occupy all of the leadership bandwidth. There’s no energy or focus devoted to the long-term plan or strategy.
Applying this point to leadership in the church means a couple of things.
First, we must intentionally plan for the future. I don’t mean next week, next month, or even next year. I’m talking about 5, 10, 20, 30+ years into the future. Bill Hybels said, “The local church is the hope of the world.” Right? So it’s pretty important that we stay in business changing lives until Jesus comes back. A strategic planning process that has a pretty long “planning window” is a must. If your church doesn’t plan strategically, make a decision to change that now.
The second thing Deming was talking about was “continuous improvement.” He advocated the empowerment of those who were performing the tasks to actually “own” the improvement of systems, processes, and methods associated with those tasks. Deming felt that leadership at the time spent more time attaching blame when something was broken than it did to implement solutions. The “85-15 Rule” states that 85% of the problems are the fault of the “system” and only 15% are the fault of the individual(s). Guess who is responsible for the “system?” That’s right, we as the leadership are! There’s that pesky mirror again. Deming pointed out that those doing the job day in and day out, not “management” were most qualified to find and eliminate problems.
Therefore, empowering people to make decisions and change things is a must.