Total Quality Education: Profiles of Schools That Demonstrate the Power of Deming's Management Principles

By Michael J. Schmoker; Richard B. Wilson | Go to book overview

Chapter Nine
DEMING IN CONTEXT:
TQM IN THE CONCEPTUAL
LANDSCAPE

According to Deming, "Experience alone, without theory, teaches management nothing about what to do to improve quality." In this chapter we shall explore the theoretical underpinnings, which reveal the richness of Deming's insights. These can be found in history, as well as in work being done in the areas of psychology, sociology, and political thought.

Deming's concepts and principles, far from being just another fad, have deep and substantial roots. We will attempt to show that Deming's theories are in accordance with some of the best thinking now being done. Then we will elaborate on some of his key concepts as they apply to schools we have described in the preceding chapters.

Much of what Deming advocates is common sense. Although Fortune magazine calls Deming's methods "starkly simple and effective," they are based on new thinking — new "mental models," as Peter Senge might call them. Some of what Deming advocates is unorthodox, even jarring in its departure from conventional wisdom. For this reason, a closer look at some of his concepts can give us a better understanding of this new territory.


Deming and Csikszentmihalyi: A Near-Perfect Parallel

For Deming, a sense of "joy" must characterize our working lives. If this seems like overstatement, consider the work of Milhalyi Csikszentmihalyi, former chair of the Psychology Department at the University of Chicago. He has done landmark studies on what makes people happy and fulfilled. In his widely read book, Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience ( 1990), we find important clues to support Deming's ideas about the relationship between productivity and employee satisfaction. Speaking of management, Csikszentmihalyi writes:

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