The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

The History and Evolution of the PDSA Cycle

Ron Moen and Clifford Norman wrote a very interesting article on the history of the PDSA cycle: Clearing up myths about the Deming cycle and seeing how it keeps evolving.

It is not enough to determine that a change resulted in improvement during a particular test, according to Moen, Nolan and Provost. As you build your knowledge, you will need to be able to predict whether a change will result in improvement under the different conditions you will face in the future.

The experiment in the PDSA cycle is learn about the system in question. I like to call it the Do-the-experiment step to emphasize that doing in the PDSA cycle refers to “doing the experiment”. Otherwise people often forget that what we are doing is running an experiment to learn from. We want to find improvements. But we want to find improvements that are predictable and sustainable.

image of the model for improvement

Image of the model for improvement with the PDSA cycle from their article.

The inclusion of the 3 questions should be familiar to everyone who uses The Improvement Guide. And if you are not using that book, you should be. As I have mentioned before it is the best handbook for applying the PDSA cycle to improve results.

Those 3 questions will greatly aid your attempts to use the PDSA cycle in your organization.

Related: Deming 101: Theory of Knowledge and the PDSA Improvement and Learning CycleTom Nolan at the Deming Institute Conference on PDSA (turn the cycle quickly)Ron Moen Webcast: Prediction is the ProblemKeys to the Effective Use of the PDSA Improvement Cycle


Find Quotes by W. Edwards Deming (Including the Source)

We have added a new web application for quotes by W. Edwards Deming. We hope this will be of use to people searching for quotes by Dr. Deming.

screen shot of W. Edwards Deming Quotes application

The quotes are viewable by category, such as: leadership, managing people, systems thinking and data.

We provide the source for the quotes, when we have sources. For some of the quotes, we also provide comments and links to further information on the topic of the quote.

You may search the W. Edwards Deming quotes database.

We also provide quotes Dr. Deming attributed to others, with proper credit and sources provided.

You may also view the all the quotes selected from Out of the Crisis, The New Economics and The Essential Deming.

We continue to add quotes to the database, add sources as we find them, add categories/topics, and add quotes to appropriate categories. Please send us your suggestions: quotes (with sources), suggested categories to add or categories to link specific quotes to.

The W. Edwards Deming Institute continues to add new services to achieve our aim: “to foster an understanding of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge® (SoPK) to advance commerce, prosperity and peace.” We hope this new quotes application will be useful. Other additions we have delivered in the last few years, include: this blog, The W. Edwards Deming Institute Podcast series, making W. Edwards Deming Videos Available On Demand via the internet and The W. Edwards Deming Twitter account.

Related: The W. Edward Deming Institute Launches a New Podcast SeriesOnline Resources for W. Edwards Deming’s Management IdeasFirst post on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog


The Importance of Working with Suppliers Over the Long Term

End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

Point 4 in W. Edwards Deming’s 14 points for management

Even today many organizations treat suppliers as adversaries to beat at the negotiating table. Dr. Deming explained that the organization was a system that included the suppliers and customers. You need to manage and continually improve that entire system.

And to do so most effectively you need to partner with your suppliers over the long term. You need to treat them as partners. Saying they are partners is nearly worthless. What matters is how you operate. Toyota, Honda and others have taken this message to heart. Many others still have not.

I wrote about this on my personal blog in 2005, Ford and Managing the Supplier Relationship

Nothing has changed from 1990 to today that explains why Ford saying they are going to deal with suppliers differently now should work any better then such statements 15 years ago. Until they acknowledge what problems in their management system have caused them to fail to use sensible management practices that have been well know for decades I see no reason to believe there claims that they will behave differently this time.

The difficulty is not in reducing the number of suppliers. The difficulty is that you must change the nature of your relationship with the suppliers. And that will require changing the nature of the management systems within Ford. The various factors involved are interdependent.

You cannot expect to achieve success by adopting an individual component of an interdependent system of management.

A recent study says that Toyota and Honda lead USA manufacturers in supplier relationship management. The same study claims Toyota and Honda are far ahead of the others and the benefits to Toyota and Honda are in the hundreds of millions (or billions) a year and the costs to the others are as large).

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Some Statistical Logic in the Management of Quality by W. Edward Deming

W. Edwards Deming wrote Some Statistical Logic in the Management of Quality to fill in some of the missing links in the use of statistical methods, with special reference to responsibilities at the management level for effective mobilization of statistical knowledge and skills.

In the paper, he describes statistical control of quality as a system, not a bag of techniques, focuses on statistical methods in improvement of operations. He provide 24 examples of uses of statistical methods in various stages and types of work, for example: feedback to the production worker, feedback to management, consumer research, tests of drugs and of treatments, and the design of meaningful information systems.

This 22 page paper was delivered by Dr. Deming at the All India Conference on Quality Control, New Delhi, 17 March 1971.

Confusion between common causes and special causes is one of the most serious mistakes of administration in industry and in public administration as well. Unaided by statistical techniques, man’s natural reaction to trouble of any kind, such as an accident, high rejection-rate, stoppage of production, is to blame the operators. Anything bad that happens, it might seem, is somebody’s fault, and it wouldn’t have happened if he had done his job correctly. The worker knows what his job is, yet he turned out defectives. Sounds as if he doesn’t care.

This statement is very often absolutely true, but the truth of this observation will not solve the problem. It may be that workers are putting into the job all that they ever will, under the circumstances. The cause of the trouble may be common to all the machines – e.g., poor thread, the fault of management, whose policy may be to buy thread locally or from a subsidiary. Demoralization, frustration, and economic loss are inevitable results of attributing trouble to some specific operator, foreman, or machine, or other local condition, in a situation where the trouble is actually common (environmental), affecting all operators on all machines, and correctable only at a higher level of management.

The specific local operator is powerless to operate on a common cause.

Fortunately, confusion between the two sources of trouble can be eliminated with almost unerring accuracy. [with the use of a control chart]

A common mistake, even now [as Dr. Deming wrote this in 1971 he meant even in 1971, sadly it is still true even now in 2015 though thankfully more companies due better today than was the case 40 years ago], in quality control programs, and amongst nearly all writers of text-books on the subject, is to assume that they have solved all the problems of the production-line, once they have weeded out most of the special causes. The fact is, instead, they are at that point just ready to tackle what are usually the most important problems, namely, the common or environmental causes, faults of the system.

No fundamental improvement of the production-line will take place until management has a quality control system that works on common causes as well as special causes. [and does so by applying the strategies to address each type of problem properly]

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Deming Podcast with Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of the Leander Independent School District

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Dr. Bret Champion, Superintendent of the Leander Independent School District (ISD) in Texas joins us for the latest Deming Institute Podcast (download the podcast). Bret discusses Leander ISD’s efforts from the perspective of his 22 year journey as a teacher through his current role.

In describing the Leander Way he says

[We try to make sure] decisions are made at the most local level possible and work out from there.

When I became superintendent, one of my big things was we need to continue to tear down silos (the notion of barriers between departments).

We’re in each others business… because we are all in this for the same reasons… shared vision (every student exits our system with the same passion for learning they had when they entered our system, without economics determining success). If we are all centered on that, if that is who we are, then it doesn’t matter who is in charge of what, we just need to get the job done.

This vision of teamwork sounds so easy on paper. But it requires that there is a strongly shared management vision, with respect for people, and that is not easy for most organization to pull off. It usually takes quite a while to build such a system and such trust. That long term effort over 2 decades, of course, is one of the reasons Leander is in the position to be able to have this work so well today.

I really like Leander’s vision.

The aim of education should be to preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that a child is born with. Grades and gold stars destroy this yearning for learning.

W. Edwards Deming, in a letter to David Bayless, 6 February 1992.

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Discovering Deming: Cultural Evolution at Pluralsight

Keith Sparkjoy – Discovering Deming: Cultural Evolution at Pluralsight from The W. Edwards Deming Institute 2014 Annual Conference.

Enjoy Keith Sparkjoy’s presentation at the 2014 W. Edwards Deming Institute conference – Discovering Deming: Cultural Evolution at Pluralsight using the webcast above.

Once you understand common cause variation versus special cause variation you spend less time investigating noise. We also recognize signals [of a process that needs to be examined] more quickly. [reference suggestion – Understanding Variation by Donald Wheeler]

Understanding variation taught us the danger of tampering.

They replaced the employee handbook with 2 rules:

  • Be respectful, considerate and kind even when you disagree.
  • Always act in Pluralsight’s best interest.

Keith Sparkjoy (at time 48:07 in the webcast):

I’m excited about what we do as a company, our purpose, but even more than that I am super-excited about creating an environment where so many people can come to work everyday, and go home at the end of the day with joy in work.

Joy is not a zero sum game.

Related: Deming Podcast with Keith Sparkjoy on Adopting the Deming Management System at Pluralsightcommon cause variation and
special cause variation
Knowledge, Personality, and Persuasive Power (are the sources of power for a leader)Hallmark Building Supplies: Applying Deming as a Business Strategy


14th Annual In2:InThinking Network Forum June 10-14 in Los Angeles

The 14th Annual In2:InThinking Network Forum (Break the Mold: Aspire, Inspire, Achieve) will be held June 10-14, 2015 in Los Angeles, California, USA (to be hosted by Woodbury University in Burbank).

The conference itself begins on Friday, June 12th with Happy Hour at 5pm and dinner at 6pm, followed by a keynote presentation. The program continues with a full day on Saturday, June 13th, and ends at noon on Sunday, June 14th.

photo of attendees of 2014 forum

Photo of attendees at the 2014 forum.

Topics and speakers at the conference include:

They are also offering a webcast of the conference ($150).

Pre-conference sessions are also offered June 10th, 11th and 12th.

A sampling of the pre-conference sessions:

Related: What I Learned at the 21st Annual International Deming Research SummitThe W. Edward Deming Institute 2013 Annual Conference2013 Annual Deming Conference Recap: Homecoming At Purdue


To Achieve Success Focus on Improving the System Not On Individual Performance

A company could put a top man at every position and be swallowed by a competitor with people only half as good, but who are working together.

W. Edwards Deming in his last interview: ‘Management Today Does Not Know What Its Job Is.

This quote is a wonderful view of Deming’s focus on the organization as a system versus the focus on individuals that is so common today. The annual performance appraisal process and individual bonuses (including massive amounts of money given to senior executives) are tangible examples of the individual focus in so many organizations today.

Creating a management system that focuses on long term continual improvement is much more difficult than repeating nice quotes though – unfortunately.

The related links below provide some ideas. Basically though all of Deming’s work is focused on how you create an organization that is successful and is helping provide people opportunities to create as much value as possible.

From our previous post: Managing the Organization as a System

It is fairly easy to appreciate that optimizing components within a system can easily create problems for the overall system. But it is hard to accept that we have to manage the entire organization in a coordinated way instead of just assigning responsibility for certain areas to executives and holding them accountable for optimizing their areas.

Related: A Bad System Will Beat a Good Person Every TimeA Good Management System is Robust and Continually ImprovingHow to Improve Your Management SystemThe Idea of Performance Rating to Capture Merit is AlluringQuality is Made in the Board Room


Deming Podcast with Gordon McGilton

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Gordon McGilton, director of a private equity fund with investment in multiple industries, discusses applying Deming’s management ideas at the companies they invest in. (download the podcast). Gordon will be presenting the 4 Day Deming seminar with Heero Hacquebord 27 to 30 April in Columbus, Ohio.

Gordon McGilton went to a 4 day seminar but didn’t find anything worthwhile. He told his company that opinion and they told him they were committed to Deming’s ideas and sent him back to learn again. This type Gordon understood the exception so said he found it educational even though he didn’t find it worth paying attention to while he sat there.

However, when they sought to understand the insights Gordon had made he was unable to provide adequate replies. So they sent him back again. This time Gordon understood he needed to have answers to their questions so he listened to get those answers but was still convinced the actual content was useless. So he talked to his colleagues at work (by phone during the evenings while he was at the seminar) he asked what they told the company (since they all had attended once and then stayed at work).

However, even that didn’t work, as when he was asked to elaborate on the answers he had prepared he wasn’t able to. At this point Gordon even told them if they were just looking to get rid of him, they could just do it, they didn’t need to keep this up. But they didn’t want to get rid of him, they just wanted him to understand the management philosophy the company would be using.

So he went back for his 4th seminar. And at that 4th seminar it fell into place for him. It made sense to him. He understood how different it was from what he had believed. He acknowledged he wasn’t an expert but he understood the profound differences from his old way of thinking and this new view.

Gordon shares some of what he learned in his transformation and his 30 year journey applying Deming’s management ideas:

First and foremost is the fact that you can’t increase someone’s capability by offering them money or by threatening them. That, for me, was an enormous breakthrough because I had been raised on an intimidation model. You either bribe or threaten people, and thats how you got things done…

Once I saw that providing instructions to people and providing them the tools, the information and support they needed was what really produces performance – that was a breakthrough.

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Improving Student Achievement at the Urbandale Community School District

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Dr. Doug Stilwell, Superintendent of the Urbandale Community School District discusses applying Deming management methods in education (download the podcast).

As Dr. Deming said “The people are not the problem, it’s the system.

Doug talks about how many initiatives (from the state legislature and the department of education) he has seen in his 35 year career.

One would think with all those initiatives you would have seen some change in achievement and we saw none. That told me, the big aha was, none of those attempts, while well intended, had any impact. That caused me to think back to Deming; is that unless we take a system approach we’re doomed to fail.

So thats what led me to look at where I have the leverage, which is in Urbandale, to begin to make those improvements. To look at our system, begin to make improvements in those systems, and as we are seeing now, we are seeing improvements in student achievement.

Doug also provides advice that is valuable for all leaders

After 3 years of laying that foundations we at that point said “we have communicated where we are going, now we are going there.” And so we laid some expectations – “we want to see it implemented to this level.” And of course we have received some push back.

And so we have to stop and think “what do we do about that pushback?” I can wield the superintendent’s authority and force people and I know exactly what will happen. They’ll resist; as I would. So it is this continuing, ongoing process of trying to educate people, give them opportunities to practice, supporting them, pointing out when folks have been successful what the results have been, to try and help people come to the same conclusion I have that whether you are looking at the district as a whole, or a building or a classroom its a system.

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