Dear President Bush,
It is clear you have not taken me up on my suggestion of studying the leadership teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Two aspects of his System of Profound Knowledge, systems and variation, could be helpful as you wrestle with the Iran situation. What systems exist in Iran encouraging the election of an inflammatory leader? How does the leader of Iran compare to leaders from elsewhere in the world? If he is that much different, then he is a special cause. Understanding why the special cause exists is necessary. Action to bring that outlier into an acceptable range is desirable; however sometimes all that can be done is to isolate the special cause from the greater system.
The United States proposal of a treaty to stop nuclear proliferation is reminiscent of company human resource strategies. When an employee comes to work malodorous and poorly dressed what frequently happens? The human resources department issues a company wide reminder of the companies dress code highlighting the sections on personal hygiene and proper work attire. The offender has no idea this is targeted to them and continues to come to work in stinky clothes. The best thing to do is for the offender’s boss to sit them down for a one on one.
Iran is already party to the nuclear nonproliferation agreement. They maintain their development is for nuclear energy and not for nuclear weapons. For years the world community shared its concern with Iran that its technology could be used to build nuclear weapons. Implementing a new worldwide treaty to get at Iran is like sending out the HR policy to get at the one smelly employee. It is a system change for a special cause, one of the two types of management errors cited by Dr. Deming. These errors result in losses, i.e. they do not work.
Another system may be in need of exploration. What draws the people to elect sociopaths as their leader? Is it the win/lose nature of competitive elections that draws narcissists to run? Is it the chance to wield power over others rather than help uplift the people in their country? How can an electoral system screen out hypercompetitive, psychologically maladjusted candidates? There are several data points in the world today that indicate the system is not set up to do such a thing. Are they common cause variation or special cause variation on the world leadership stage? When you can answer that question, I’ll know you have studied Dr. Deming’s work.