Friday, May 10, 2013

Solving the Workld's Problems: W. Edwards Deming in Everyday Life

Intro: I have various blog posts in various forms of disarray, all of them, in one way or the other, on the subject of solving the world's problems. I've decided they're unlikely to get much more "finished," so what the heck, let's infuse it with a good dose of wabi-sabi!

(Based on a reading of W. Edwards Deming, a really smart guy whose ideas helped make Japan an economic powerhouse, but who is almost completely ignored in the U.S. business world, for obvious reasons. His books are page-turners. Read 'em!)

One of the questions that Deming's management books continually bring up is: What is your job, what is your purpose, what do you want? 

Sometimes you have to face the basic logic that you are trying to do mutually exclusive things, and you need to decide. It may be that they aren't completely, unresolvably mutually exclusive. But in solving them, you have to look at how important the different elements/outcomes are, decide what you can and can't compromise on. If you had to pick one or the other, which is really more important? And how important is the other? Then you can start to wind your way to a possible solution.

Which I will illustrate with a few of the most controversial examples possible: for example, the sad story of the Catholic church's stand on abortion. Do they want to maintain the idea of human sexuality as shameful and wrong, or do they want to stop the killing of innocent babies? I'm using their terminology here, because if they really believe this is all about the need to stop killing babies, and they could do that by accepting the reality that people have always had sex outside of marriage, and will continue to do so -- wouldn't that be a no-brainer? Wouldn't they encourage sex ed and contraceptives? Condoms aren't even against their beliefs, so why not make them more accessible? If I could stop cats from being killed at shelters, and all I had to do was stop being an asshole to strangers in the world doing something I disapprove of that's none of my  business, of course I'd do it! And believe me, you have NO IDEA how many things I disapprove of.

A lot of people and groups who are opposed to abortion, though, keep carrying on as if they can have it both ways, without contradiction. But the truth is, like it or not, they need to pick, and if they don't, things are going to go on the way they have forever. If the shame were removed from sexuality, that would remove many of the stigmas, and people with unexpected pregnancies could deal with them in other ways ... as is in fact happening among more liberal neighborhoods of society. A girl doesn't need an abortion if she can have a baby in a supportive environment. Shame is never supportive.

Another example is the idea of the liberal media, which has been driving me crazy since the '80s. It isn't a conspiracy -- it's a business. I grew up in a time when the religion of business and commerce was developing, and I've heard decades of rhetoric about capitalism, free trade, free enterprise, supply and demand, giving the customer what they want, and keeping government out of business. (As if). Now, I'm a complete failure as a capitalist. I don't get it, and despite what self-help books sometimes say, it's not because I secretly long to be rich and lord it over lesser beings. This is where it becomes obvious that I am in fact a Christian, whatever I believe.

But that religion of capitalism is completely incompatible with the idea of society promoting higher values and ideals, be they the conservative Christian bring-back-family-values or anybody else's ... although those "Christian," "conservative" ones highlight the contradiction most strongly. The government is what's stopping your 12-year-old son from going to the dirty bookstore, and your 15-year-old daughter from going on the pill, and going to bars, and your 80-year-old mother from buying useless, potentially dangerous medicine that's supposed to cure whatever ails her. It's what protects people from being exploited by predators, physical or financial.

You want a free market economy or you don't. You want a society driven by traditional values or you don't. When the two are not compatible, people look at those of us pointing it out as if we're the problem. But what we see, clear as day, is that the refusal to face the contradiction is actually causing more problems than the problems!

No comments: