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Dragon and Phoenix

January 30, 2010
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Shown here is a woodcut of a dragon and a phoenix.  In Chinese tradition, they represent action and reflection, respectively.  American managers typically prize execution above all, with the result that they are poor planners.  Working in Europe, I found just the opposite.  It is rare to find a manager who is truly talented at both.

Deming saw planning and execution as a cycle.  You take some action, and then gauge the results before acting again.  Management consultants use a four-stroke cycle called Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA).

Note how the dragon and phoenix circle each other in the woodcut, like yin and yang.  If you studied management, you may be aware that the Deming cycle dates back to 1938.  You may not have known that it dates back to the Ming dynasty.

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