The 5 Whos

By Al Norval via   Article

Dr. W. Edwards Deming – “People work in the system that management created”

“Dr. Deming said many incredible things but this quote is one of my all-time favorites.

It was triggered by a recent problem solving session with the senior leadership team of a large corporation. The team was examining a problem and like many teams was going down the route of the 5 who’s instead of the 5 why’s. They ended up blaming the people for not following the process and saying something like – if only Joe or Cindy followed the procedures, everything would be OK.

Dr. Deming knew better. He understood that people inherently tried to do a good job but what prevented them from performing to the best of their abilities was the system they worked in. The system that was created by and owned by the management team. The workers didn’t have the power to change the system. They may have been able to make improvements within the system but only management had the power to do system kaizen and to change the system.

That’s where his famous quote originated where he said that 90% of all problems were management’s responsibility and workers were only responsible for 10% of all problems. The root cause of most problems ultimately is the way the work is designed within the production system.

As I work with management teams, most struggle to grasp this. The separation between actually doing the work and the design of the system for doing the work.”


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