What Ought To Be vs What Is

What Ought To Be vs What Is

Some people get confused about what ought to be and what is, especially in Lean Six Sigma. 21st Century Quality requires us to work on what is, not on what ought to be.


“I was reading Psychology Today and the editor’s introduction kind of caught my attention. She was talking about what they call “The Moralistic Fallacy.” This fallacy is committed when a truth that disturbs people is deemed false. I see quite a bit of this actually in Quality Improvement. It’s the difference between “What Ought To Be” versus “What Is.”

“When we talk about Quality, “Leadership should be on board with Quality…” Well, they are on board with Quality. They expect you to be producing quality… Duh! But the level of commitment that is required to really get engaged in Quality is quite different from what I think most people think their leadership team is doing.

“I see these articles all the time talking about Deming’s 14 points; I bet there aren’t three companies in America that are attending to all 14 of Deming’s points, so to pretend that that’s the way to go is idiotic because it’s not what IS. That’s not how leadership is going, that’s not the 21st century, that is not the speed at which everything is changing these days, so let’s not pretend “What Ought To Be” and [think] “Oh well, gee, if my leadership team would simply get on board with Quality, we’d be good.” No, YOU need to get on board with Quality; be the person you want them to be. When you embrace it and you run that way, guess what? People around you will start to say, “He’s out of his dang mind,” but they’ll notice your results and they will follow you, right?

“So let’s not pretend that “The Way It Used To Be” is “The Way It Ought To Be.” Let’s not pretend that two weeks and four weeks of belt trainings are the right way to go. It’s not “What Is.” That’s not “What’s Now,” that’s not the 21st century.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean you’ve got to do it that way to be successful. Not true; the world has changed and you need to change with it. Let’s create a hassle-free America. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”