Have you ever wondered where and when the medical profession learned about germ theory? Thanks to someone who was willing to challenge the existing surgery methods and experiment to uncover new methods, surgeons now thoroughly scrub before surgery and wear protective gear during surgery. How did that significant change in thinking and behavior occur?
In 1847 Hungarian-born physician Ignaz Semmelweis, while working at an obstetrics unit in Vienna was astonished and concerned with the frequency of child fatalities that occurred after birth when assisted by medical students. The rate of child death was 10-20 times higher than those that occurred with births assisted by midwives.
Semmelweis’ concern motivated him to do a meticulous examination of the clinical practices. By experimenting, he discovered that the medical students who assisted in childbirth often did so after performing autopsies on patients who had died from bacterial infections. He theorized, the medical students were unknowingly passing on the bacterial infections to the mothers and the children. Semmelweis instituted a strict policy of hand-washing with a chlorinated antiseptic solution and the mortality rates dropped by 10- to 20-fold within 3 months.
Semmelweis used a problem-solving process that exemplifies Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge Theory. He had a theory. He collected data to test the theory. He made a change to the processes. He generated significant improvement. He didn’t blame people. He didn’t try to control people. He didn’t threaten, evaluate, or criticize people. He used a sound scientific problem-solving method. This is exemplary of a great Deming manager. Deming wanted management to work on improving the system in order to optimize that system over-time. He wanted managers to create an environment which would provide joy and pride for employees while they continuously adding value to customers. He wanted managers to question prevailing theory. He wanted management to be able to predict. Deming created his System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) to help managers to accomplish this.
Deming believed that management needed a transformation and that first step in that transformation was the transformation of the individual. (Deming, The New Economics – Second Edition, 1994) He explained how a manager who understands the key elements of SoPK could then apply those same principles to achieve significant positive results just as Semmelweis did.
Are you teaching, coaching, and encouraging employees to experiment? If you do, employee engagement, innovation, productivity, and customer experience will improve.
Wally Hauck, PhD has a cure for the “deadly disease” known as the typical performance appraisal. Wally holds a doctorate in organizational leadership from Warren National University, a Master of Business Administration in finance from Iona College, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania. Wally is a Certified Speaking Professional or CSP. Wally has a passion for helping leaders let go of the old and embrace new thinking to improve leadership skills, employee engagement, and performance. See other resources here.
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