Managing by Design

What do we mean by ‘Managing by Design’?
On one hand, it implies a sense of intention and predetermination, and on the other it reflects a spirit of creativity, free-thinking and innovation.
Both perspectives should be true of effective management, and you will find both heavily represented in the pages of this book. But more than this, ‘Managing by Design’ reflects the conscious application of a design perspective within the responsibilities of management.
QFD (Quality Function Deployment) originated in Japan, and is essentially a methodology for translating a set of ambitious goals into a confident and compelling strategy. By means of a simple matrix, QFD maps the responsibility for delivering the objectives onto the various processes by which they will be fulfilled. The matrix provides an opportunity to move beyond simple one-to-one relationships to explore all the potential synergies and creative possibilities that exist (or may be made to exist).
QFD is unique among quality tools, in that it focuses entirely on the processes of origination and creativity. It does its work well before the concepts are cast, before boundaries are set, and because of this it has the potential to transform rather than to simply correct.
Using parallel formats of textbook and novel, 'Managing by Design' tells the story of one organisation's transformation through QFD, and provides the guidance, tools and practical illustrations for you to repeat it for your own organisation.

Synopsis (Excerpt from the introduction of the book)

A new battleground…
They say that the world is getting smaller; that the Internet, and worldwide communication is turning us into the global village. But for me, and probably for you, the opposite is true. I live in a village in England, I regularly exchange information with a colleague in mainland Europe, I buy my books from an American bookshop (yes that one!), and I access information from all around the world. And every time I want to buy something, I am faced with literally thousands of options, from hundreds of different sources.
In a very practical sense, our world is not getting smaller; it is getting much bigger. Businesses now have competitors they have never even heard of, in places they'll probably never see. Some of these businesses are old and established, and have just had the barriers of distance and communication lowered enough to compete. Some of them are brand new or in fields up to now not considered as competition, but the barriers of habit and history have fallen away.
What is more, the overwhelming vista of options that are now available to potential customers has spawned a new web-based industry; of agencies that gain power and influence by guiding people through the many choices that they face. They collate the options, and provide objective comparisons to make the choice quicker and simpler. Increasingly, potential purchasers can see comprehensive information on a business's offering, performance and track record, and compare it instantly with its competitors'.

…with different rules…
Together, these two factors - increasing competition and ready comparison - are demanding a huge shift in the mindset of business. Historically, constraints on choice and information have provided a degree of stability in most markets. Competitiveness has been sustained by incremental improvements such as reducing waste and overhead costs, and steadily improving product and service quality. But now markets are more immediately susceptible to new solutions, to creative alliances, and to innovative ways of working; and failure to keep pace is being rapidly exposed, and exploited.
It is no longer enough for businesses simply to consider how to do the same thing a bit better or a bit quicker. The competition has become bigger and more aggressive. The future is not linear with the past. Businesses will only survive if they can grasp fully the emerging risks and opportunities of their new situations, and configure the best of their organisation and resources to meet them in new and creative ways.
Fortunately the problem is, at least in part, also the solution. The same forces that are pressing organisations to step-up their competitive game are also providing a far greater wealth of options and opportunities for doing so.
Unfortunately, traditional methods of business planning provide little facility for handling the resulting complexity; and managing complexity - configuring a wealth of creative options to deliver ground breaking performance - is what business in the new century is all about.
Sadly, the lack of good approaches for deploying ambitious goals, and the consequences of getting things wrong, have driven managers to maintain a conservative approach to business planning; the very antithesis of what is now needed. As a result, they have set mediocre goals; perpetuated inferior practices; failed to inspire the imagination of their people; and have seen survival as success. Most companies have consistently failed to harness the full creativity and enterprise of their organisation to achieve anything like their full potential, because of the weakness of traditional methods for business planning. In the future, this will prove fatal.

…needs new weapons!
It is therefore clear that, if organisations are to be empowered to thrive in the new business world, they will need far more effective business-planning tools than most that are currently in use. There is however, one approach, which is more than capable of meeting this need; a tried and tested process that has already had dramatic results for companies like Smith & Nephew, Emerson, Siemens and Microsoft. It is called Quality Function Deployment (QFD), and it provides a structured and participative approach for effectively harnessing the new levels of challenge and complexity inherent in business planning today.
QFD is probably the best kept management secret going! Originating in Japan, it is an extremely effective tool for working out what you are trying to do and how you are going to do it, and for exploring the opportunities in both. It is powerful enough to transform a global business, simple enough to be developed on a flipchart, and flexible enough to design anything from a complete organisation to an isolated activity or product.
And it is the combination of these qualities that make it so effective in business planning. One tool, linking top to bottom, strategy to decision, purpose to action, intent to desire and mission to culture. It links them simply, visibly and inexorably, across all levels of the organisation; guiding and harnessing every effort. Yet, at every level, it provides opportunities for new ideas and creativity, inspiration and commitment.
QFD enables any organisation, large or small, to map out its objectives; to explore how each of its functions, activities or business processes can leverage its attainment of them; and to translate this into clear strategies. It is an extremely powerful tool for this kind of work, and has enabled a major research organisation to achieve 40% performance improvement in one year, across all of its objectives, and a European-wide assembly facility to make a three-fold improvement in its delivery performance. It is the only tool that can reliably and objectively drive the focus and creativity that businesses will need to excel in the future.
The dramatic performance improvements quoted above, impressive though they may be, are only part of the story. The clear and methodical objectivity of the approach both enables companies to target and deliver huge step-changes in performance, and provides a sustainable basis for them to build on these for the future. QFD does this because it drives improvement through the management team, in a way that develops their identity, using a process that they can replicate. It equips them to:

  • identify and prioritise goals that strategically focus the organisation on its opportunities
  • align all their potential - people, resources and facilities - behind achieving those goals
  • minimise inefficiency and distraction by objectively challenging activities that no longer fit their strategy
  • provide a framework to harness the creative energies of their people in driving performance improvement
  • effectively monitor and manage their progress, at all levels, to ensure success.

Quality Function Deployment

Surprisingly, QFD is not a new tool; it was developed at the end of the 1960s in Japan. So the question needs to be asked: If it is so successful, why aren't more people using it? The answer lies in the cultural divide between technical and business issues. For a large proportion of the intervening years the tool has been the domain of highly technical product design teams. It has transformed their performance, but in doing so it has developed along ever more detailed and complex lines, away from the simple pragmatic style that appeals to management teams.
Clearly, if more managers are to benefit from this approach, the literature should be made more accessible to them. They need a more robust and less onerous version of the approach, they need to be inspired with examples they can relate to, and they need to be supported with tools they can readily apply. In short, they need a pragmatic guide to implementing QFD in their business.
That is the purpose of the book 'Managing by Design'.


The book has been consciously designed to provide you with everything you need to effectively implement and employ 'Managing by Design' within your own organisation. It contains clear guidance, techniques and insight, ensuring that the ideas of design are effectively and practically harnessed; they will deliver the business performance transformation that you will need to compete effectively in the new e-global economy.

By the end of the book, you will know how to:

  • establish the need for transformation in your organisation, and commit to QFD as the means of bringing that about
  • build a team around you, that is determined to use QFD to deliver clear worthwhile goals and to create a more effective organisation
  • co-ordinate and lead the effective implementation of QFD, and ensure that your resources are efficiently focused on delivering the results
  • work through the personal challenges and opportunities that QFD provides and to develop a greater personal effectiveness
  • adapt and adjust your management forums and routines to support and make full use of the effective application of QFD
  • ensure that QFD remains in tune with the changing needs of your business environment, and continues to provide an effective basis for harnessing the creativity and industry of your people in transforming your performance.

In order to maximise its effectiveness in preparing you to implement QFD, this book is written in three complementary styles.

  • On the left-hand pages, the book is written as a text, providing guidance, insight, challenge and practical tips for putting QFD into practice in your organisation.
  • On the right-hand pages, the book is a novel, providing a continuous illustration of what it may feel like to implement QFD, and how you might address the issues that it raises.
  • Through the Internet, this web-site provides a portal to professionally developed practical tools, materials and handouts, which you can adapt and apply to get a flying start in implementing QFD.

In endeavouring to equip the reader with all that they need to implement QFD in their own organisation, we have adopted a number of principles.

  • We promote the reading of the book as discovery. 'Unlearning' poor practice is as important to effective management as learning good practice. The journey provides us with a device in which the reader can challenge conventional wisdom, and adopt new ideas in the context of a deeper understanding of what they are trying to do. For this reason, the main subject of this book is not fully explained until Chapter 6, after the early chapters of the book have taken a quite confrontational look at traditional management.
  • We equip the reader with everything needed to successfully adopt a design approach to management. We do not restrict ourselves to the basic mechanics of implementing design thinking. Instead, we explain the personal and organisational implications of a successful implementation and so establish a firm and sustainable foundation for the approach.
  • We use a wide, interesting (and perhaps unexpected) variety of means to engage and support the reader in their exploration of design thinking. Effective learning requires a balance of approaches, and we each have different preferences within that. We use story, explanation, exercises, illustration, diagram, and unashamedly copious quantities of other people's wisdom (quotes) to make and reinforce the key learning points.
  • We create a 'journey' for the reader: a clear flow in the information presented. By employing a novel as the backbone of the book, we suggest a logical, chronological sequence that will make sense to most managers. Readers who are already expert users of the tools we present, may be dismayed at how different aspects of the tools have been split up into different sections of the book. It is important to realise however, that the order in which we present the ideas is driven by a management agenda, not a purist/technical one.
  • We have created a path that can be followed practically. Our goal has been to promote and extend a design perspective on management, irrespective of the specific tools used. To make this perspective useful and practical we focus on one specific design tool: quality function deployment (QFD). The reason for this is that it is the best design tool currently available for exploring and defining complex systems simply. QFD has already proven its practicality and benefits in management.
  • We have tried to minimise the barriers to applying the learning from the book efficiently. The ideas presented can be applied as a complete system or as isolated practices - this journey really can begin with a single step. Also, we provide a range of supporting materials that can be downloaded without charge from the Internet and adapted to your own particular needs.

To read other sections of the book, click here
To buy the the book, click here


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Fast Perspectives:
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