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The Fourteen Principles Of Leadership

Dr W. Edwards Deming proposed that there are fourteen key principles in management. He explored these ideas in his book, published by MIT Press, Out Of The Crisis. We here at The Agile Works have explored these ideas and put them into digestible chunks as part of our explorations of company culture.

Principle One: Make Your Purpose Improvement:

Striving to improve upon current practice, and stressing the importance of this progress will allow for the foundations to form around the idea of conversation. Sharing opinions, improving upon company culture, building upon what is already standard activity in your organisation to increase efficiency or employee engagement and satisfaction is essential. You should avoid short-term and quick-fix solutions to issues around the workplace, and instead try and build something stable that can be cemented into daily life in your work environment.

Principle Two: Adopt A New Philosophy:

This principle stresses the idea that the current means of working is not necessarily the best way forward, otherwise, you would not have decided to instigate change in the first place. With that in mind, they stress a change in perspective, where instead of being a reactionary company, which releases content etc. in response to rival corporations’ releases. Instead, he suggested focusing on the needs of the customers, instead. With a changed perspective, you can allow your company to focus more on creating products which serve these purposes.

For more pieces exploring change philosophy and company culture, you can read: Speak It Into Existence and 2012, Adrian Helmsley and A World Post-Covid

Principle Three: Don’t Depend On Inspections:

By depending on the opinions of outsiders and onlookers, you could potentially be ignoring valuable internal feedback from those above you, under you, and your colleagues, let alone those in other departments. By having a greater reliance on the insight of those affiliated with your company, they may be able to acknowledge more issues that crop up within inter-departmental collaboration etc. that an outsider would not necessarily have the need to examine.

Principle Four: Use A Single Supplier

Having a consistent supplier for products that you use in the process of creating your own is essential. When you work with a variety of suppliers there is less of a sense of consistency, and you cannot guarantee that the quality of each supplied product will be the same across multiple sources. This means that the quality of your product, created in using theirs, may not be up to scratch. By finding and utilising a singular supplier you can manage to not only establish a rapport with their respective sales department, as a B2B company exchange of products and services. The next most important thing is to acknowledge that if there were to be a fault in a product that you had bought from a supplier, it would be easier to identify the issue, because there would only be one complaints department to converse with, and it would mean that you could single out batches of orders to reduce the need for product recall from sales.

Principle Five: Strive For Constant Improvement

There is always room to grow and improve our products and services. The market is constantly in a process of transitioning, especially in the wake of the pandemic. There is no room for complacency in the business world, as you will simply be eaten alive by other companies with similar goals. By constantly striving for he stars, you can be sure you’re remaining competitive

Principe Six: Encourage Learning From One Another

The next principle provided explored the idea of consistency. Allowing employees to share their skills, learn collaboratively amongst themselves, means that variation can be reduced in performance by creating a central foundation of common knowledge in departments. Being able to communicate this variety of knowledge and understanding will allow individual members of your team to work well with colleagues that they do not necessarily collaborate with usually, because, there’s shared information. Thus providing cohesive teamwork.

Principle Seven: Implement Leadership

Most people have opinions on what makes a good leader, whether they themselves are a strong figurehead in that role, or whether they are the person who refuses the role out of fear that they are not the conventional model of a leader. But, not every leader presents themselves in the same way. This was something that was understood by Edwards Deming, who acknowledged that a policing form of leadership, will not necessarily bring out the best work in your colleagues, and instead suggested adopting a coach-like practice; formulating solutions to issues that arise in work and helping create an environment where your colleagues can hone their skills and work to their upmost potential.

Further reading on the idea of leadership can be done on our blog with: Be The Leader You Wish You Had

Principle Eight: Talk The Fear Away

In order to work to your upmost potential, you do not want to be in an environment where you are afraid to speak up with ideas or worries about processes. Instead, Edwards Deming encouraged communication to be an outlet to allow colleagues to speak their minds; understanding that the goal is not to blame people where things are complicated, and errors crop up. The stress is to make their employees feel appreciated and valued at work.

Principle Nine: Focus On Departmental Consensus Not Compromise

In order to allow a stronger sense of collaboration within a company, it would be best to break down the barriers that currently exit between the departments in your organisation. If you are able to recognise the functions of each department, and the people within them, thus humanising the daunting figure of the finance department etc. you can discuss issues with significantly less rigidity.

With this in mind, stressing internal communication, conversation and team building will provide rapport between the department and make conversations between them easier, less stringent and allow room to further communicate in a reasonable manner, not needing to mediate as you would in formal talks. Instead you can find yourself in a situation where you can simply negotiate, explore your options and come to an agreement, instead of attempt to people please to the best of your ability because your department is your priority, who cares about everyone else?

For further reading on the topic of communication within the workplace, and the importance of seeing that we are all just people in roles, you can read our articles: Humanising The Shadow-Man and Empathy And Leadership

Principle Ten: An Ethos, In Clarity

The next principle stressed by Edwards Deming was to communicate with clarity; instead of using cryptic and vague instructions, you want to be direct; explain what you expect from your employees, make the ideas tangible, memorable and accessible, and then validate the efforts being made, by providing direct, face-to-face feedback and praise for good work. Because, how will workers know if they’re doing the right thing, if they aren’t being told so.

Principle Eleven: Measure The People, Not The Process

When exploring productivity, the rate of improvement, the rate of success etc. you need to remember, we aren’t machines; doing our best is going to be different on each day due to factors out of our control, we cannot be regulated to perform functions through algorithms and programming, instead, we are people with thoughts that may cloud our minds at work, feelings that may influence our decision making, and we’re each an archive of experiences that are unique only to ourselves. There is no regulating that. Instead, you should focus on trying to encourage your teams, discuss with them whether something is impairing them. Maybe Samuel has a migraine, surely the migraine is punishment enough. Offer him medication if you can, and rectify the situation. Maybe Hannah is struggling to implement new practice because she’s so used to the old way, but she’s trying, keep encouraging her, she’ll find her feet soon enough.

Principle Twelve: Stop Using Pride As A Motivator

Denning also encouraged the removal of monetary gains as a motivator to keep workers consistent, as it encourages internal competition and can create a hostile work environment. Commission based work, with financial bonuses can make every colleague you eat lunch with a rival, and in an organisation where you are stressing communication, collaboration etc. using commission to encourage proactive working is simply detrimental.

Principle Thirteen: Educate, And Encourage Self-Improvement

Providing everyone with the opportunity to hone their skills is essential, it allows for the teams throughout the organisation to acquire a steady stream of new information to include in their pool of common knowledge. By providing courses, classes, and certifications for your departments across an organisation, you give yourself, and your colleagues plenty of room to grow, together, without singling anybody out.

For more reading on why self-improvement can improve workplace engagement, you can read our post: Pink and White: Engagement At Work

Principle Fourteen: Let Everyone Transform

The last principle was simply to not allocate the role of transforming a business and the way it functions to just one person, or a small, select team. If change is everybody’s responsibility, it makes the idea consistent, arguably easier to implement and allows room to give everyone a say in how they want their working world to look.

Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (, is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.

He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.

The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.

To book a consultation, or for any enquiries, you can contact Arvind via the following email address:

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