…the interview with Newt Gingrich on Fox News would be a brilliant way to get the Detroit automotive companies out of the trouble they are in.
Here is Newt Gingrich taking the bait and laying the blame, making a troubling and complex problem simpler than it is, name-dropping the Toyota Production System along the way.
Well, in a lot of ways, and the auto industry is — a tragic situation. Remember that when we say the auto industry, there are an awful lot of factories in America today that are not General Motors, Ford, or Chrysler that are doing pretty well, whether it’s Honda, Toyota, Mercedes, BMW, Hyundai. I mean it’s amazing, if you look at the factories that are doing fine.
The fact is, over the years, though, that the Michigan delegation, and particularly the Democrats, with the Michigan delegation, has protected the United Auto Workers with really bad contracts, and the culture of the once big three, now troubled three, has been a culture which has refused to come to grips with reality, refused to try to change and reshape itself, and none of this is magic.
We’ve known for 20 years that the Toyota production system was a more powerful method of increasing productivity and solving problems, and yet the United Auto Workers refused to adopt that model, and General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler went along with them.
Are these last two paragraphs fair and balanced? You decide, as Fox News would say. There is truth in these statements but hey are disappointing coming from such an intelligent, well-read and influential man as Newt Gingrich. His possible insights have been reduced to mere partisan sound bytes.
Edwards Deming taught us that problems have complex causes. Simply blaming the last person, group of people, or the organizational bodies who are in position when the house comes crashing down is not useful. We learn very little from history unless we look deeply into it. Blaming the UAW, the policies of a particular political party, “management” or individual CEOs is counterproductive. The only fruit of blame quarreling, punishment, placing controls or bringing in a new bunch of people who will also be turned into miscreants in the eyes of history because the system they are working within is still flawed.
Responsibility and accountability are important. It is the job of leaders to change the system. Newt Gingrich, the head of the UAW, Congress, the heads of the Detroit 3 auto firms all need stop the senseless game of blame and get to work understanding the root causes. We’ve known for decades how to do root cause analysis.
To paraphrase Mr. Gingrich:
We have known for over 20 years that Deming’s system was a more powerful method of increasing management effectiveness and solving problems, and yet Republicans and Democrats refused to adopt that model, and the people of the United States went along with them.
Shame on us. Let’s stop asking the “five whos” and start asking the “five whys”.