Thursday, February 5, 2015

Justice, PDCA and Paris, part 2

By Pascal Dennis

Last time I talked about the two aspects of Justice:
1) Adherence to a standard – e.g. a code, law, or for Lean practitioners, an image of ‘what should be happening’

2) “The habitual rendering to each man his lawful due” – Spinoza. In other words, ‘fairness’ – too each, his own.
I suggested that standards protect an organization from chaos, the force of entropy. If we relax our standards, our business results inevitably decline.

Then I asked:

1. Which standard do you think is best, freedom of speech or political correctness (not offending anybody) - and why do you think so?

2. What’s the purpose of standards in an organization, and in a society?

We’ve had interesting comments – thanks, all.

Here are my thoughts on each question:

1. I believe freedom of speech is a higher standard than ‘don’t offend anybody’, and that we need to protect it.

Freedom of speech is also freedom of thought, and both are the wellspring of creativity, fun and prosperity. Without freedom of speech, there is no Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Steve Zuckerberg – and no Albert Einstein, for that matter.

How many Steve Jobs have repressive societies produced? Jobs was difficult, opinionated, abrasive. So were Socrates, Copernicus and Galileo.

So were Aristophanes, Cervantes and Solzhenitsyn. So were Avicenna, Rumi and Naguib Mahfouz. Such people call it as they see it, and if it offends, too bad.

I’m sympathetic to our Muslim colleagues who found the cartoons tasteless and offensive, and to our Christian colleagues whose values are regularly mocked in mainstream publications like the New York Times.

But the remedy is far worse than the disease.

“Drive fear out of the organization,” Deming taught us. He was right – again. Fear kills kaizen, as does political correctness.

(Can you name an interesting politically correct author? Is there a funny PC comedian?)

Similarly, in an organization, kaizen challenges the status quo. Lean practitioners always face the forces of inertia, the corporate anti-bodies, that seek to stifle change of any kind, even beneficial change.

I remember a local union president fighting our efforts to reduce ergonomic burden in some very bad jobs. “We like our jobs just the way they are!” he thundered.

Thankfully, that was some years ago, and both management and the union have embraced a better approach.

2. The purpose of standards in an organization it to support our Purpose by making problems visible.

Thus, in my view, a corporation has every right to not publish material that might be offensive to its customers. In fact, it would be foolish to do so. Why offend your customers?

The purpose of standards (values) in a society is, likewise, to help citizens achieve their purpose – happiness, freedom and prosperity, or some permutation thereof.

Freedom of speech trumps political correctness, in my view, because it better supports happiness, freedom and prosperity.

In summary, Justice is about adherence to standards, and about fairness. Justice informs PDCA and the Lean business system, just as surely as it informs society.

Justice does not exist in nature, only in the human heart and mind. That’s why we treasure it so.

Best regards,


1 comment:

  1. I don't think anyone disagrees that freedom of speech is the more important principle. But that's not the same thing as saying "political correctness" has no place in discourse. I might protect someone's right to say or print that, for example, homosexuality is abhorrent or unnatural... but they're not gonna be able to say or print it without hearing me refer to them as an unqualified bigot. And if some company has formal (or informal) policies that make the lives of certain employees harder...I'm gonna boycott them and suggest that others do so as well. So, "freedom of speech" doesn't forgo the need to watch one's mouth.