Deming’s 8th Point: Drive Out Fear
What was Deming talking about? “Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.” What Deming was saying was that staff need to feel “safe” and “secure” to take risks, make suggestions, and stick their neck out to help the organization to improve. He wrote,
Even a chief executive officer does not dangle the threat, implied or otherwise, of firing a subordinate. Instead, it is management’s job to encourage working toward the shared goals of the firm by helping to satisfy the human needs of job satisfaction and self-fulfillment.
The bottom line is that staff will learn, based on how they’re treated, what they should and shouldn’t do. They will then adjust their behavior accordingly.
Ask yourself this question, “Are my staff members willing to stick their necks out and take risks, or are they ‘afraid’ to do anything outside the norm?” This is a tough one. If you are leading an organization that is fear based, your staff won’t be honest with you when you ask them about it. If you ask your people if they are “afraid” of you or of taking risks, they will say, “No, of course not” even though it’s not the truth.
So, it’s hard to fix a fear-based organization. You don’t do it by trying to get your staff to admit they are afraid to do anything. You do it by changing your own behavior.
How do you respond when a staff member makes a mistake? Do you respond in a way that will result in the staff member being willing to move on in a healthy way? Or, do you respond in a way that causes them to experience something they will do anything not to repeat?
Driving out fear is the leader(s) of the organization changing their own behavior.