Coaching and Deming
I regularly lament the relative obscurity of Bill Deming and his work. I’m not the only one. God only knows why he’s not better known. Just about everyone who knows of him – and in particular his System of Profound Knowledge – is a fan. How could it be otherwise?
Even just one aspect of his work – his so-called 95/5 rule – has so many implications for businesses everywhere.
I’m not going to get into that today, nor into all his many insights and contributions. Except for the seeming contradiction the 95/5 rule raises in the whole field of personal and team coaching (and, incidentally, training, as well as my immediate specialism these days, therapy).
Aside: By ‘personal coaching’ I’m thinking of things like agile coaching, life coaching, executive coaching and so on.
Here’s the thing: if we believe the system is responsible for 95% of an individual’s performance (in a job or task), why “work on the five percent”? Is that not rather… incongruous?
Granted, folks sometimes hire their own e.g. life or fitness coaches for their own personal reasons. Let’s set aside these cases and focus on those rather more common cases where organisations hire the coaches for one or more people in the organisation. Agile Coaching seems a common example of this.
The aim of such coaching appointments is often to get the people being coached to “perform better”. And most often, the implicit assumption is that it’s the performance of said individuals that should be the focus of the coaching efforts.
How many folks who seek coaches for their teams actually consider the 95/5 rule? How many coaches see their role as much more working on the system than working on the individuals concerned?
“If you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do.”
~ Frederick Herzberg
I can personally attest to the endless frustrations arising from coaching situations where it’s been the system that needed to change, not the fine folks already doing their best in badly designed, badly organised jobs.