In order to govern, or to manage, we tend to add more and more rules to guide the people. That is fixing the symptoms and not the root cause. Lao Zi advocates going after the right values and simplify the rules to minimize interferences to people production process. Lao Zi teaching is best illustrated by Deming's experiments. DaoDeJing 57.DaoDeJing 57 Original Text and Translation
Use righteousness to rule the nation.
Use surprises to fight a war.
Use non-interference to gain the support of the world.
How do I know why these advice work? Because of the following:
The more taboos and rules that you should not do these nor that, the people become poorer.
The more weapons the people have, the more blur and chaotic the country becomes.
The more skills the people have, there will be all kinds of strange inventions.
The more complex the laws become, the greater the number of thieves.
Hence, the wise man says, "I interfere not and the people change by themselves，
I like to be still and the people becomes righteous by themselves.
I do nothing and the people become rich by themselves.
I desire nothing and the people become simple by themselves.“
W E Deming's Funnel Experiment
Deming, the Quality Control Guru, who was credited with helping Japanese industries to achieve high quality, conduct a "Funnel Experiment" to illustrate why tempering makes a stable system worse off. You can do a search on Youtube for "Deming Funnel Experiment" to watch the consequences of various tampering. A good example is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Z3o64FAtvA, The more we tamper with the system, the greater the variation. This is the point that Lao Zi was making.
Focus on the Key Virtues and Principles
Many people confuse Lao Zi 无为 No Action as taking no action. But that is not what Lao Zi meant. The chapter begins with "Rule with Righteousness". On this foundation, we are not to act against, i.e. violate such righteousness. In fact, Lao Zi encourages us to 为无为, do "no violating actions". We are to review our policies and rules to see if any one of them violate the righteousness. If so, we must remove those policies. For a business entity, the righteousness is defined by the mission, visions, and values (MVV) of the corporation. We are to communicate, promote and enforce such.
The best way to communicate and promote is to see behaviors that exemplify the MVV and then publicize such behaviors or stories. The best way to enforce is to show the negative examples and tell people not to.
Deming tells us not to worry about variations that fall within control-limits, but to look at the systemic factors in the environment, methods, people, machine, measurements (e.g. calibration), materials (the 6M) and policies that influence the behavior of people.
Self-Management or Self-Directed Team
The world is getting to be so complex and moving so fast that no one is able to know all and lead all. The best way to handle this VUCAD (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous and Deceptive) world, is for the staff themselves, at the front line to do what is best needed for the situations. But they must be united with shared MVV and given the needed empowerment of authority and resources. http://www.holacracy.org/ is a possible way where Lao Zi's non-interference and self-management could be achieved.
Lim Liat (c) 18 Oct 2016