The Grey Chronicles


Deming Management Method and GSPI, Part III

The Deming Management MethodThis post continues the previous blog on Mary Walton’s The Deming Management Method (1986). The Points, Diseases, and Obstacles constitute a broad prescription for reform. Dr. Deming’s work was a Japanese sensation in 1950s and rediscovered in America only in 1980s. Using the parable of the beads, Dr. Deming offers its morals: “Variation is part of any process. … Planning requires prediction of how things and people will perform. … Workers work within a system that is beyond their control. It is the system, not their individual skills, that determine how they perform. … Only management can change the system.”

In addition to the Diseases, the Deming Management Method identifies the lesser category of Obstacles that thwart productivity. These include:

Neglect of long-range planning “Even when long-range plans exist, they are frequently neglected because of so-called emergencies. … Policies on attendance and promptness can consume large amounts of executives’ time whereas in a climate of good management they would not be issues.”

Annotations: The longest range of plan GSPI have come up with has a duration of three-to-six months. Most strategic literatures agree that a three-to-six months planning duration is categorized under short-term strategic planning. With duration as short as that, it is only applicable to operations planning, not corporate planning. Neither is the announcement of a blast furnace could suffice as a long-range plan. Announcement of such plans is not a replacement for the actual plan. … Many local employees have lamented that GSPI management is reactive. One observer, moreover, described it as micromanaging the plant. Every effort seemed like a reaction to an emergency—putting out fires—of equipment breaking down during a priority production run, unavailability of operations personnel while the loading ships were waiting, out-of-reach spare parts which were requisitioned years ago as the product of why-why analysis but not purchased because the transactions were deemed as no movement, or making a fuzz out of a minor issue for the sake of debate and argument.

Relying on technology to solve problems “The supposition that solving problems, automation, gadgets, and new machinery will transform industry. … These are not solutions to deep-seated quality and productivity issues.”

Annotations: From TPM to Six-Sigma, these are but concrete examples of the management technology which GSHL maintains to be its core strengths. Refer to the previous posts on TPM and Six-Sigma deployment at GSPI. … Take for example, automation such as the deployment of a COBOL-based management information system, taken from an Ispat defunct system, renamed as GSPI Management Information Center [GMIC], bringing with it the bugs inherent to the old system, as well as the straight-forward encode-then-download-as-text information database. The GMIC system consists of modules generally serving production monitoring, mill scheduling, limited purchasing functions and management reporting. This writer, as well as other users, have been critical of this application suggesting improvements from its user-friendliness and even the display format to no avail. By July 2005, a migration from COBOL-based to Oracle SQL with Visual Basic were piloted. Unfortunately, newly hired contractual System Developers—uncertified Oracle programmers—have few years experience in actual manufacturing processes, in general, or steel manufacturing, in particular, that the modules in existence are rude reproduction of the pre-existing manual systems. The most obvious reason why these management technologies failed at GSPI is that there is no commitment to the resolution of problems, but rather only just a showcase of what GSPI is capable of doing.

Seeking examples rather than developing solutions. “Looking for solutions to problems used elsewhere and copied is a hazard. Examples by themselves teach nothing. It is necessary to know why a practice succeeds or fails.”

Annotations: The buzz word is Benchmarking. Unfortunately, some of the GSPI benchmarks are not readily verifiable, but based on data conveniently provided by expatriates with the usual admonition that if it worked in the other subsidiaries, it should work here! … Similarly, sometime in 2005, there was the notion of putting up a Knowledge Management [KM] portal! Computerization is the key to KM’s deployment, but existing facilities are vintage NSC 486 DX desktop computers, that at this Information Age should have been relegated to the museum. Without the necessary investment, it remains a distant dream. It cannot even deploy a Bulletin Board System as an additional function of the installed Lotus Notes because of debatable limits of servers’ space. … Most of the new technologies brought from the mother company, GSHL, have been initially deployed by expat-experts, who were repatriated after initial roll-out of these technologies then turned them over to local employees for administration. Although the local counterparts ably administered these technologies to the best of their abilities, the lack of management support for its general use, i.e., limited to a select few because of lack of funds to expand the system, the deployment have digressed through the passage of time.

Reliance on quality control departments “Quality belongs in the hands of management, supervisors, managers of purchasing, and production workers. They have the most to contribute. But quality departments, wielding figures that show what happened in the past—not what will happen in the future, which they cannot predict—often mystify managers to the point that they continue to leave quality in the department’s hands”

Annotations: With the Quality Division for both Rolling Mills wielded by one head, there is no guarantee that such unique organizational structure serves the requirements of the respective Rolling Mills: Hot-Rolling and Cold-Rolling. One cannot be both judge and jury of the same issue, or advocate dissimilar rhetoric for different parties simultaneously. How could anyone disagree with the Quality Service Level Agreement between the customer, the Cold-Rolling Division, and supplier, the Hot-Rolling Division, when the ultimate signatory for each side is one and the same person! Probably, the other subsidiaries also have this similar feature. At least, Janus has two heads or faces, facing in opposite directions to see both future and past. It is really lonely at the top when you can only talk with yourself.

Blaming the workforce for problems. “Workers are only responsible for only 15 percent of the problems, the system for the other 85 percent. The system is the responsibility of management.”

Annotations: Armed with GSPI’s Culture of Management and Culture of People, it is as though that management is not part of people. People, here, means the workers—mere employees, so to speak, i.e., those not part of the elite group called management. When problems do arise, the powers-that-be are wont to find who the culprit is, no stones left unturned. The usual chorus: the system is virtually blameless, it is the people who usually make mistakes! So where is the empowerment of employees to make responsible decisions and be accountable for the results? Nada! On paper, GSPI’s Culture statements really look attractive, even workable, but in practice it does nothing for both management or the people. Call it: blowing in the wind or building castles out of sand!

False starts “The wholesale teaching of statistical methods—without a corresponding change in corporate philosophy—is one such false start. … A QC Circle can thrive only if management will take action on the recommendations of the Circle. … otherwise they simply disintegrate. … Moreover, QC Circles cannot solve problems of management, which are the real problems.”

Annotations: Most GSPI supervisors and the rank-and-file have been trained on the basics of Six Sigma methodology. Some supervisors have even completed advanced courses for Green and Black Belts. Enthusiastic at first year, many projects have been completed and offered considerable savings on various improvements on quality, productivity, and reduction of costs and rework. Some of the projects even saved GSPI millions, paper millions should the correct term! Why Six Sigma is not a way of life at GSPI? The simple answer: recommendations of the various Six Sigma teams remained unheeded or unsupported by the same people who introduced the concept. How could a team come up with a baseline process capability when in fact the processing facilities are not even at par with the baseline of such processes when Malaysians left NSC to the dust? There are even no available computers to run the Minitab computations, and some resorted to bringing their own laptop computers just to finish their assigned Six Sigma projects. Meanwhile, GSPI have supplied most expat-experts with company-purchased laptops which were used for seemingly corporate’s mission critical activities: surfing the web, emailing friends and family back home, or just doing something with it! … Of course, GSPI aimed for synergy, that overused term again, between Six Sigma and TPM. Yet, TPM is also bogged down by the same lack of spare parts to return the equipment and facilities to basic conditions (the baseline for Six Sigma). One such management representative even castigated this writer because he claimed that my TPM team was asking for spare parts to complete the Jishu Hozen steps instead of procuring these ourselves, using our own money thus helping the company in our own little ways! Huh? This was at a time when personnel salaries were delayed for more than a week! How’s that for ironic? Even the simple construction of Ishikawa Fishbone Diagrams is confounded by the small bones when they redound to lack of corporate finances, and the lecturer advised the trainees attending the seminar on productivity improvement tools to just ignore the fact!? These are really real problems!


Walton, Mary (1986). The Deming Management Method. New York: Perigee, 1986. pp. 33-88. back to text

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts on this site do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


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