Principle 9: Break Down Barriers between Departments

Deming’s Principle of Management n. 9 full statement is as follows:

“Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems in production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.”

To illustrate this point, Dr. Deming likes to tell the parable of the shoes. It seems that the technical staff of a shoe factory designed a shoe they thought would be a surefire hit. They made six prototypes for the sales force, and sure enough, the sales people returned with orders for thousands of pairs. A success story? No. There were so many orders the factory couldn’t fill them. The designers and sales had never consulted manufacturing. The plant manager put his foot down. The sales force had to tell the wholesalers they couldn’t fill the orders.

Within a large organization, it is common for departments to work at cross purposes. Each department is a functional silo, working towards goals that may be inconsistent with the interests of the whole. Restrictions and barriers always lead to less than optimum results. The development of new products calls for active planning and the involvement of as many people as possible if the ultimate goal —customer satisfaction— is to be reached.

Many types of problems can occur when communication is poor. For example, service personnel working with customers know a great deal about their products, but there is often no routine procedure for disseminating this information. The main problem is that the use of different production methods makes each department and division focus more on the optimization of its own work, with no consideration of other departments’ needs in order to live up to the firm’s overall quality goal.

Summing-up: Abolish competition and build a win-win system of cooperation within the organization. People can work superbly in their respective departments, but if their goals are in conflict, they can ruin the company. It is better to have teamwork, working for the company.

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