Psychological Safety #12: Deming

Training, Workshops, Exercises and Tools

Psychological Safety #12: Deming


Thanks for subscribing to the psychological safety newsletter! This week we have mentorship, restorative justice, Deming, “visual attention”, voice and silence, a new book release, and more!
 This week’s newsletter is sponsored by Red Hat Open Innovation Labs

A globally dispersed team. Eight weeks. One learning platform that can save lives. This is the story of how a team at the World Health Organisation worked with Red Hat Open Innovation Labs to build an idea into a working proof-of-concept. Watch this great video to find out more.

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Work and industry:

I often bang on about the crucial differences between management and leadership, and this idea is reflected really well in this article by Martin Wyler titled “Safety cultures need leaders, not managers“.

This is a super episode of Brene Brown’s podcast, with Patrice Gordon on reverse mentorship, and how to set up a program that provides psychological safety for individuals and for the organization.

Similarly, here’s an article about setting up mentoring programmes at work – Creating a culture of psychological safety via line managers and setting up mentoring programmes, by Mayur Gupta.

Psychological safety is even being mentioned in BBC articles: Why it’s so hard to work with a creative genius. Though I have to say, I’m not convinced that identifying the “creative stars” over other people in the team is good leadership practice.

While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, data indicates working mothers have been disproportionately affected, given the increase in family and childcare responsibilities, loss of economic security, high levels of physical burnout and mental fatigue. Here’s a great piece on supporting working moms through COVID-19.

Book Alert!:

Duena Blomstrom’s new book, People Before Tech – The Importance of Psychological Safety and Teamwork in the Digital Age is now available with a special discount for psych safety newsletter readers
For 25% off, use the discount code TECH25 at


Can Mandela’s model for restorative justice work in healthcare? Rather than being motivated by the desire for vengeance, Mandela was a driving force behind the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, a distinctive approach to addressing the aftermath of harm that emphasised healing over punishment. This has really interesting echoes to creating environments of psychological safety.


Great article about psychological safety in technology (and particularly testing) teams: “If you don’t have that safety, you’re going to stick to what you know. So you’re not going to try that new automation language, for instance, or, you’re not going to dive into that code.” Bring psychological safety into your test team.

Theory & practice:

As far back as the 1950’s, Deming taught us that a workplace culture where people feel safe to speak up about safety and quality issues is essential to “building in quality”. He espoused leadership behaviours that facilitated psychologically safe environments (though I don’t actually know if he ever used the term psychological safety).

Here’s a great Deming-inspired article by Nicole Radziwill on how to “Improve Quality by Increasing Psychological Safety“.

And if you’re into Deming (of course you are), check out “Profound” – a fantastic podcast by John Willis (of DevOps fame) and some great guests including Mar and Tom Poppendieck, all about Deming in relation to digital transformation:

This is a great paper – how do perceived impact and psychological safety relate to voice and silence in the workplaceDistinguishing Voice and Silence at Work: Unique Relationships with Perceived Impact, Psychological Safety, and Burnout. Elad N. Sherf, Michael R. Parke and Sofya Isaakyan

Nonviolent communication lets us reframe how we express ourselves and hear others,” she says. “It allows us to speak in terms of what we observe, how we’re feeling, what our needs are, and how we respond to others’ requests. The objective of nonviolent communication — sometimes called compassionate communication — is to empower functional giving and receiving. If implemented correctly, it can replace knee-jerk reactions and old, ineffective patterns. It can be built like any habit.

When leaders increase visual attention toward low-status members in the group (authors terminology, not mine) it results in improved group information elaboration and group performance in a collective decision-making: The Impact of Leader Eye Gaze on Disparity in Member Influence: Implications for Process and Performance in Diverse Groups.

This week’s poem:

I Chose To Look The Other Way – By Don Merrell:

I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.
It wasn’t that I didn’t care;
I had the time, and I was there.

But I didn’t want to seem a fool,
Or argue over a safety rule.
I knew he’d done the job before;
If I spoke up he might get sore.

The chances didn’t seem that bad;
I’d done the same, he knew I had.
So I shook my head and walked by;
He knew the risks as well as I.

He took the chance, I closed an eye;
And with that act, I let him die.
I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.

Now every time I see his wife,
I know I should have saved his life.
That guilt is something I must bear;
But isn’t’ something you need to share.

If you see a risk that others take
That puts their health or life at stake,
The question asked or thing you say;
Could help them live another day.

If you see a risk and walk away,
Then hope you never have to say,
“I could have saved a life that day,
But I chose to look the other way.”


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