A coach not a policeman

Ahead of a new groundbreaking set of masterclasses presented by the CQI and Oakland Consulting, Andrew Holt sets out the quality interpretation of effective leadership  


Of the fourteen points on management set out by W Edwards Deming, all can be said to touch on leadership, but point seven mentions it directly.

Point seven states ‘institute leadership’. This sets out a number of central ideas about the importance of leadership within the quality narrative.

Firstly, managers don’t simply supervise. Deming made a distinction between leadership and mere supervision. ‘The job of management is not supervision, but leadership,’ he wrote in Out of the Crisis.

Secondly, there is a need to be a coach instead of a policeman. ‘A leader, instead of being a judge, will be a colleague, counselling and leading his people on a day-to-day basis. Learning from them and with them,’ Deming stated.

Third, emphasise the importance of participative management with a focus on improvement and quality. ‘Management must work on sources of improvement, the intent of quality of product and of service, and on the translation of the intent into design and actual product,’ wrote Deming.

The focus on outcome: management by numbers, management by objectives, work standards, meet specifications and zero defects, must be abolished, and this fuller, quality version of leadership put in its place.

Expanding on this, Deming stated: ‘The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people.

‘Put in a negative way, the aim of leadership is not merely to find and record failures of men, but to remove the causes of failure: to help people to do a better job with less effort.’

The leader therefore has a responsibility to improve the overall system. That is to make it possible, on a continuing basis, for everybody to do a better job with greater satisfaction. Improvement of quality will improve productivity.

In this way, managers must know the work they supervise. But Deming warned: ‘In most organisations, this idea is only an idle dream, as the supervisor knows nothing about the job.’

Our new series of Leadership Masterclasses, presented in partnership with Oakland Consulting, is designed to place quality at the heart of every organisation. At these events many of these principles will be explored and shown to be essential to effective leadership.

The first masterclass will focus on developing and leading a quality strategy to support the whole business:. It will enable leaders to translate strategic goals and objectives for quality into action: essential for any quality leader who wants to improve the overall system.

Find out more about our Leadership Masterclass series

Andrew Holt is technical content executive at the CQI and IRCA


One thought on “A coach not a policeman

  1. PaulS

    Good post, Andrew. I hope the masterclasses go well.

    It is worth pointing out that the work of Dr Deming culminated in the System of Profound Knowledge where Deming identified the need for a deeper understanding of psychology, systems, variation and knowledge.

    IMHO the 14 points for management and the 7 deadly diseases are a jotting down of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ while the SoPK is the management theory framework he proposed for leaders to use. Leadership is a cornerstone of the framework and it will be interesting to hear more about leadership an all the other areas.


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