The Secret to Unstoppable Success: Master Your Systems, Not Your Emotions (W. Edwards Deming’s Legacy)

Every System is Perfectly Designed… To Change Your Perspective

Have you ever found yourself caught in a cycle of frustration, questioning why you and your team keep hitting the same walls despite your best efforts? I’ve been there too, feeling the weight of repeated failures and the temptation to point fingers at myself or others. But then I came across a profound insight from W. Edwards Deming, a pioneer in quality management, who famously said, “Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” This single statement has the power to transform how we, as self-aware leaders, approach our challenges in both business and life.

The System is the Culprit, Not You

Deming’s quote is not about resigning to fate but rather a powerful invitation to adopt a systems thinking mindset. Here’s a deeper dive into what this means:

  • The System: This encompasses every aspect of our environment, from processes and procedures to our mindset and the overarching culture. It’s the complex web of interconnected factors that drive outcomes.
  • Perfectly Designed: This phrase doesn’t imply that the system is flawless in a positive sense. Instead, it means that the system is producing the exact results it’s set up to achieve. If those results are less than desirable, it’s a sign that the system itself needs reworking.
  • Results: These are the end products, both intended and unintended, of the system’s design.

Embracing the Principle for Self-Aware Leadership

Here’s how I’ve come to apply Deming’s principle in my journey as a leader, and how you can too:

  1. Own the Results: It’s easy to blame individuals when things go wrong, but true leadership involves taking ownership of the system’s outcomes. If your team is underperforming, consider that it’s likely a systemic issue rather than a few bad performers.
  2. Challenge Assumptions: Take a critical look at your existing processes. Are they truly efficient? Does your company culture genuinely support the values you stand by? Sometimes, the systems we’ve grown accustomed to need a fundamental reevaluation.
  3. Focus on Improvement, Not Blame: Shifting from blame to problem-solving is crucial. When you understand that the system is flawed, you can direct your energy towards identifying and rectifying those flaws rather than assigning blame.
  4. Experiment and Iterate: Don’t shy away from trying new approaches. Experimentation is key to finding better ways to achieve desired outcomes. Test, measure, and adjust continuously—each iteration is a step towards refining the system.
  5. Lead with Empathy: Recognize that people are integral parts of the system. Understand their challenges and actively involve them in the problem-solving process. Empathy fosters a collaborative environment where everyone is committed to improvement.

Applying Deming’s Principle in Your Life

Deming’s insights aren’t confined to the professional realm. They can significantly impact our personal lives as well:

  • Fitness: If achieving your fitness goals feels like an uphill battle, scrutinize your system. Is your diet plan realistic? Does your routine accommodate regular exercise?
  • Relationships: Recurring conflicts might signal deeper, systemic issues in communication or expectations. Evaluating these patterns can help address the root causes.
  • Happiness: If you’re feeling unfulfilled, consider how your daily habits and choices contribute to this state. Small systemic changes in your routine can lead to a profound improvement in your overall well-being.

A Real-World Example: The Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is a shining example of Deming’s philosophy in practice. TPS focuses on continuous improvement, root cause analysis, and empowering employees to identify and solve problems. This approach has led to Toyota’s outstanding quality and efficiency, demonstrating the power of a well-designed system.

Conclusion: Empowering Change Through Awareness

By embracing the idea that systems are the key to results, we empower ourselves to become architects of our own success. This shift in perspective transforms us from victims of circumstance to proactive leaders capable of designing better outcomes. Whether we’re in the boardroom or navigating personal challenges, recognizing that “every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets” equips us with the insight to create meaningful change. Remember, every system is perfectly designed… to change.

This journey of awareness and improvement is ongoing, and it starts with a single step—challenging the system.