From the now extinct Dharma-Haven.org website a good explanation of one of W. Edwards Deming’s lessons for us:
The people work IN a system.
The job of a manager is to work ON the system,
To improve it,
WITH their help.
Workers work in the system, which management created or allowed to continue. Management must work on the system to improve the process. With instruction, workers can be enlisted in this improvement.
A leader, by virtue of his authority, has obligation to make changes in the system that will lead to improvement.
The problem is not in the people but in the system. People are doing their best.
You cannot control quality–you have to produce quality. Culling defects and punishing workers adds no quality. Quality comes from improvement of the process.
What I find particulary interesting is “The people work IN a system” and “The job of a manager is to work ON the system,” in that that is at the core of the message that Michael Gerber talks about in his books The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It and The E-Myth Contractor : Why Most Contractors’ Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It and Susan M.Carter writes about in her book How To Make Your Business Run Without You.