It is very hard for us today to remember (or learn if we are too young) what the situation was like in 1980 (see the bottom of the post for some data on the economy at that time). Specifically two areas were very different back then: the USA economy and the media landscape.
On June 24th 1980, NBC broadcast a special program in prime time: “If Japan Can, Why Cant We?”. It is hard to image today that such a production could have even a ripple in the business community. But that was a very different time. And that program created much more than a ripple. Prime time TV was a much different place than it is today; back then such a broadcast had an amazingly large reach as network TV had little competition (even from cable TV, to say nothing of Netflix, the internet, computer gaming, etc.)
Today, NBC has allowed The W. Edwards Deming Institute to make this historic program available to stream over the internet. And this capability (to provide it on demand online) shows yet another way in which our current landscape is unimaginable different from 1980. Still the message in this broadcast on using management practices focused on delighting customers, respecting and involving employees while using data and statistical tools to continually improve is still very powerful today.
Insightful quote from “If Japan Can, Why Cant We?” by Herbert Striner, dean of the Kogod Business School at American University (7 minutes into the program).
When we’re discussing the new environmental control regulations concerning engines, the American manufacturers tend to be thinking immediately about how to put it off, how to stop it, which congressman to contact. While the people from Toyota, Honda, VW, are busy trying to figure out how soon to get back so they have their research people, their production people working on the problem of meeting these specifications.
Throughout “If Japan Can, Why Cant We?” executives and front line workers talk about how important it is to involve workers in improvement efforts. And repeatedly Lloyd Dobbins (the presenter) mentions how the companies making this work in Japan, and the USA, don’t reduce the workforce based on improvements. So even as the companies make dramatic improvements in productivity workers’ jobs are safe (they are moved to other positions with the company or allow the company to grow output with the same labor force).
The importance of treating employees as people and deeply involving them in improvement efforts was stressed throughout. This is, of course, at the core of Deming’s management philosophy.
Presentation by Ed Chaplin MD at our 2015 Deming Institute annual conference – It Takes An Enterprise: Current Neuroscience and Knowledge of Psychology
This is really a great talk that does a great job of illustrating the importance of understanding how our brains work (psychology) and how we think (and risks in what we think we know – theory of knowledge) and how it relates to managing our organizations. It is full of connections to many important ideas people need to understand to adopt better management practices in general and Deming based management practices in particular.
I think the root cause of many of the problems in our organizations are a contradiction between how we do what we do and our beliefs about how we do what we do.
We are still stuck in a 17th century rationalism; but yet all the neurophysiology tells us we’re irrational. We think emotively. Our morality, our ethics are all emotion driven. It occurs before we get to the point of rational [thought].
We learn to see the world through our narratives. Our narratives become our biology.
I attended a 4 day seminar by David Langford about 15 years ago. The seminar was on using Deming’s ideas to improve education. I wasn’t in the education field, but I believe what I wrote about earlier: we don’t need to restrict our management learning to our industry. And thankfully my boss shared that thinking and approved my attendance. I learned a great deal at that seminar.
I haven’t managed to get the capacity matrix idea adopted in organizations I worked in. But I do think it is a vastly superior way to manage career development, training, certification, coaching, education… in organizations. I used the idea some to help myself understand what was needed to guide decision making on those topics. I do believe directly using capacity matrices would have been useful but given my options I chose to put my efforts behind pursuing other improvement ideas.
Applying them would have been useful the organizations but I felt I would have to abandon other things in order to push for their use and I had less likelihood of success with getting capacity matrices used directly. My philosophy is very much based on the idea of building the capability of the organization for the long term; by growing the capability to adopt better management methods eventually adopting capacity matrices into the management system would be more likely to succeed.
And I used one for myself and found it worthwhile. I think it would be useful to anyone interested in seeking to improve themselves and their skills and abilities, even if you do it totally on your own.
Shewhart’s use of three-sigma limits, as opposed to any other multiple of sigma, did not stem from any specific mathematical computation. Rather, Shewhart found that the use of three-sigma limits “seems to be an acceptable economic value,” and that the choice of three sigma was justified by “empirical evidence that it works.” This pragmatic approach is markedly different from the strictly mathematical approach commonly taught by those who have not understood what Shewhart was doing.
This is an important point, drawing the upper and lower control limits 3-sigma from the mean is based on practical experience with managing processes. 3 is not a statistically derived measure it is a practical measure based on what works effectively. Using 3 results in the best choice of when to use special cause problem solving methods (what is special about this result) versus common cause problem solving (how can we improve the overall system to improve results.
They also remind us that the process monitoring chart (control chart) does not require normally distributed data. And this is a good thing because real processes are not normally distributed – they have impacts to the process that create results that are not normally distributed. It is true many textbooks and other books will say the data needs to be normally distributed, this is due to less useful statistical methods (as they discuss in the paper) that in addition to being less useful are disconnected from how real processes behave.
The crucial difference between Shewhart’s work and the probability approach is that his work was developed in the context, and with the purpose, of process improvement as opposed to process monitoring.
This difference is far more important than you might at first appreciate. It gets right to the heart of the divide between the main approaches to the whole quality issue. On the one hand, we have approaches that regard quality merely in terms of conformance to requirements, meeting specifications, and zero defects. On the other hand, we have Deming’s demand for continual improvement—a never-ending fight to reduce variation. The probability approach can only cope with the former. Shewhart’s own work was inspired by the need for the latter.
Speaking of the long term relationship with McDonald’s (currently $250 million a year):
McDonald’s in the only one that today, still, does not put any stock in a contract. They put stock in relationships.
She talks about how her father grew their business alongside McDonald’s without contracts. That included investing in personnel and factories in new countries as McDonald’s expanded without contracts between them and McDonald’s. The business relationship was a true partnership based on trust.
I tell our people that our company would not be in existence if I hadn’t met him [Dr. Deming]. Because at a point in time, McDonald’s said, “enough.”
McDonald’s head of quality forced Paula to watch “If Japan Can Why Can’t We” and attend a 4 day Deming seminar with the expectation she would then lead improvements at The Bama Companies in order to meet McDonald’s expectations.
She talks about how Dr. Deming began what became a long term journey by explaining that he needed to learn from her how to reach more CEO’s. Deming understood that he wasn’t reaching enough CEO’s (she was the only CEO of 500 people at that seminar). And she saw the opportunity to change her thinking and the way her company was managed based on the ideas, that she found so powerful, that Deming’s was presenting.
Over the next few years I was able to transform my company because of my conversations and my work with Dr. Deming… I would take to Dr. Deming the most complicated problems I had… and he would always have simple questions back for me.
Dr. Lisa Snyder, Superintendent of the Lakeville Public Schools shares how the work of Dr. Deming is influencing her as a superintendent and the rewards and challenges of adopting his philosophies in the latest Deming podcast. Lisa will be speaking at the First Annual Deming in Education Conference (in less than 2 weeks).
Lisa’s Deming journey began 23 years ago, when in a new job with a school in Winona, Minnesota, she was sent to listen to Dr. Deming via satellite. The experience had a huge impact on Lisa as she connected Deming’s philosophy to her own beliefs, she thought:
This is the framework that public schools are so desperately lacking to be able to become more proactive and less reactive in the way we do our work.
One of the things that really resonated was the whole idea of systems thinking versus blaming people. Many organizations, including public schools, tend to evaluate and blame, at a very high level. So if something is not going right, it must be the student’s fault or the teacher’s fault, or maybe its the parent’s fault or the teacher-before-me’s fault. But there is always this blame game going on.
Lisa discusses how different implementation of plans are today, with a continual improvement and systems thinking understanding. One of the big differences is that plans are evaluated while they are being implemented. They don’t wait for the end of the year to evaluate how things are going. They evaluate all during the year and make adjustments as necessary.
She doesn’t mention it specifically in the podcast, but essentially they are using in-process measures and gathering feedback to learn quickly and adjust as needed.
The biggest challenge that really flies in the face of the Deming philosophy is the teacher evaluation system in Minnesota.
The school has applied for a state program that allows school districts to create innovation zones that can allow them to be exempted from certain state requirements. That may allow them to more easily adopt better management practices going forward. One of the things they are moving toward are more job focused learning for students and incorporating job based learning in addition to classroom based learning.
Hear the stories of leaders who are challenging the status quo to create exceptional learning environments that preserves our children’s natural curiosity and “yearning for learning”. Learn how the systems approach of Dr. W. Edwards Deming will liberate fear and ignite passion in students and educators alike. Come discover the true potential and future of education in our country.
This conference is for educators, administrators, business and organizational leaders interested in making a profound and sustained difference in education and quality learning.
A limited number of scholarships will be available for individuals requiring financial assistance to attend the conference. Scholarships will cover the full amount of the registration fee. To apply complete the scholarship application.