The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

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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Photos of 2015 International Deming Research Seminar

In 2015 the annual International Deming Research Seminar moved to Georgetown University in Washington DC from the long time home at Fordham University in New York City. A previous post provides 10 lessons Mike Stoecklein learned at the seminar. This post provides a glimpse of the seminar through photos taken by Judy Cahill.

people engaged in discussions around the room

I like how many people in this photo are engaged in conversation at the Deming Research Seminar. It captures a sense of the interesting discussions that took place at the seminar.

Dileep Thatte and Amber Gocken

Dileep Thatte, NIST (USA) and Amber Gocken, Codebyts (Australia) enjoy a break at the seminar.

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Deming Institute 4 Day Seminar, 27 to 30 April 2015, Columbus, Ohio

Systems Thinking and Leadership for Owners, Executives, Leaders and Managers

27 to 30 April 2015
Columbus, Ohio

Aim: To create leadership excellence that results in significant performance improvement.

Register for the seminar

Dr. Deming’s philosophy removes barriers, increases efficiencies, reduces wasted time, boosts motivation and provides better insight into what is actually going on in the organization and the true capabilities of the organization. Thus, a meaningful focus can be brought to bear on innovation, planning and competitiveness. You may already know about Deming Quality – now take the opportunity to learn and apply Deming-based leadership. Certain parts are simple and easy – some things you can just stop doing, as a leader – and productivity will increase. You can enjoy even more benefits as you learn and apply the four key components of Deming-based leadership.

This seminar explores simple and powerful principles for anyone who manages people, or holds an executive responsibility in an organization.

This four-day seminar consists of four components:

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What I Learned at the 21st Annual International Deming Research Summit

Guest post by Mike Stoecklein

I just returned from the 21st Annual International Deming Research Summit. I blogged about that a week ago. Here are my “top 10″ learnings from that event:

slide from presentation

10. Executive Director of the Deming Institute, Kevin Cahill (Dr. Deming’s Grandson) shared several “ah-ha’s” including a lesson from his grandfather that we need to realize that people learn in different ways. This is management’s job. If management is too quick to assign blame to the individual (let them go from the company), then management is at fault. He also learned that Deming would not provide answers, but direction. Kevin was asking for advice and his grandfather simply said, “150”. Kevin learned that the direction he needed could be found on page 150 of Dr. Deming’s book. Which one? Kevin would have to figure that out.

9. Fred Warmbier, President of Finishing Technology, Inc., is an example of a leader. He leads with humility and learns continually. He has a series of blog posts in the NY Times titled “You’re The Boss“. I highly recommend them.

3 people on stage at the seminar

Loren Feldman, Fred Warmbier and Kelly Allan during a panel session at the seminar.

image of student holding up handwritten sign on screen during presentation

8. Terrific presentation by two middle school teachers who are making a real difference in their lives and the lives of their students. The presentation was “The Change In The Game – Two Beginner’s Approach To Transforming The Lives Of Middle School Students Through Deming’s Philosophy”. What was the number one thing that student’s wanted from their teachers? Tell us that you love us.

7. Example of application of Deming’s management philosophy in healthcare – treatment of diabetes mellitus in Tabasco, Mexico.

PDSA cycle image with text from Tobasco

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Transforming the Organization – Deming Podcast with David Langford

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This is the 3rd Deming Institute podcast with David Langford: CEO and Founder of Langford International and Deming Institute Advisory Board member. Download the podcast.

David begins by talking about why it is best to focus where you actually can have influence. It doesn’t do much good to worry about the national education system or state eduction system if you have no influence on those. Focus where you have influence. He discussed this idea in this clip from his presentation at the Deming Conference a few years ago: You are the top of your system. As he says in this podcast:

I learned to teach the students the largest circle over which you have influence may be you.

If so, take a look at your situation. Take a look at the data. Where you are satisfied, just continue doing what you are doing. For those things you want to improve, experiment to improve and monitor the results.

I liked David’s response on how, for example, a school principal should start improving. Should he start saying what we are going to be doing differently?

“No, start thinking. Start studying the current situation.”

I don’t know where we got the impression that thinking was just an excuse to do nothing. Probably because those doing nothing say we need to study things more or have a committee study things and such things as a way of doing nothing. I can understand frustration with those delays. But we need to spend a great deal more time thinking. We should “Manage” (and act) less and think more: then when we act, do so in the ways that will have the most positive impact.

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Quality Beginnings: Deming and Madison, Wisconsin

This post in an excerpt from The Quality Leadership Workbook for Police by Chief David Couper and Captain Sabine Lobitz.

While the intense focus on quality movement in the 1980s did not become the dominant way to run an organization like many of us thought it would, it still became one of society’s major influences. Culturally, we can see it in current television episodes of ‘Undercover Boss’ and ‘Bar Rescue.’

The idea that how we work (even how we live) should be a process of continuous and constant improvement is not new. Many of the values inherent in the quality movement are the values of America. For example, to manufacture a product that is of high quality, durable, and sold at a fair price is the basis of our economic system. It also applies to the delivery of services.

Service, like a product, can be delivered to a customer with the intent to not only meet but exceed a customer’s expectations. None of us like to receive shabby services that fall far below our expectations. The value that ‘the customer is always right’ continues to be important in our nation’s manufacturing and service sectors.

Moreover, the delivery of high quality police services needs also to be a working value in our nation. Of course, it is a lot easier to generate customer appreciation when police do something for a person versus something perceived to be against their interests like issuing a traffic ticket, telling someone they cannot do something, or arresting them.

But we must understand this: police are more effective in their difficult work when citizens support them. And any measure of police effectiveness is always dependent upon whether citizens perceive their police to be fair, honest, and controlled in the use of force.


Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s ideas first took root in Japanese industry after World War II. Many years later there began a growing movement in our own country to use his methods not only in American industry and business, but government as well. The City of Madison and its police department were part of that national movement.

Deming’s teachings had a strong influence in Madison. Under Mayor Joseph Sensenbrenner (1983-1989), there was a near-total involvement by city employees in applying Deming’s work to city government. These were Madison’s golden years as government, business, and educational institutions worked together to make quality an organizational lifestyle in Madison. Deming helped us to see police work as a system capable of being improved.

We also learned the value of collaborating with and learning from others outside of law enforcement. We came to see that the systems for which we were responsible, were dependent on others around us (like when we realized the important systems-link between poverty, jobs, education, and crime). Most of all we saw the work we did as a system – and a system that could be improved.

Deming believed that a worker’s lack of information profoundly hampered the process of improving products and delivering services. Along with Dr. Walter Shewhart, he developed an improvement cycle that will be familiar to anyone who has studied problem-oriented policing: Plan, Do, Check, Act. They believed that if this cycle of improvement is maintained, and if leaders are willing to disregard unsupported ideas, the quality of work, products, and services will consistently improve, customers will be satisfied, and costs will be reduced.

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Doug Hall on Using Systems Thinking to Power Strategy, Innovation and Growth

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In this podcast (download), Doug Hall, CEO and founder of Innovation Engineering and Eureka! Ranch shares his approach for taking Dr. Deming’s ideas systems thinking and applying that to strategy, innovation and growth.

Doug shares the story of how his father introduced him to Dr. Deming and systems thinking in the late 1970’s. Doug’s father worked at Nashua Corporation, which was one of the early corporate adopters of Dr. Deming’s philosophies. Later Doug took that systems mindset to the Proctor and Gamble brand management department.

We found it to be extremely difficult to get teams to stay with it [PDSA]. They would do it once [one cycle through the PDSA cycle] and then just blow it off.

In the podcast Doug talks about their strategies for helping people use PDSA (instead of avoiding it). I strongly suggest anyone interesting in using the PDSA cycle well read and continually reference, The Improvement Guide.

As Doug says it is often a challenge to get organizations to systemically experiment to achieve improvement but when they do, using the PDSA cycle, results can be exceptional.

Related: Deming Podcast with Bob Mason and Clare Crawford-MasonOne-Piece-Flow Projects Create the Best Conditions for True Creativity

W. Edwards Deming Videos On Demand

The W. Edwards Deming Institute has made The Deming Library and other videos with Dr. W. Edwards Deming available on demand via the internet. We offer 7 programs to chose from.

cover image of 4 Day Deming seminar videos

Dr. Deming’s Four-Day Seminar (1992)
This option provides access to 12 hours of Dr. Deming’s lectures and demonstrations from Dr. Deming teaching his famous 4 day seminar. The video is from Dr. Deming’s presentation to an audience of more than 500 managers at General Motors in 1992.

The Four-Day Seminar thoroughly covers The Deming System of Profound Knowledge™; we offer a comprehensive study guide for individual and group learning.

Topics covered include: Optimization of a System, Leadership and Management of People, PDSA and Responsibility, Some Lessons in Variation and People Learn in Different Ways.

cover image of Deming Starter Library videos

The Deming Starter Library (2 hours 53 minutes) is comprised of several selections from The Complete Deming Library. We offer a study guide for the collection.

  1. The Prophet of Quality reviews the life of Dr. Deming, his education, professional career, and the origins of his overarching principle of continuous improvement.
  2. The 14 Points for Management covers the essential actions that Dr. Deming believed managers must take to transform and build a successful organization.
  3. Understanding Profound Knowledge reviews Dr. Deming’s system of thinking on which all practices must be based to achieve continual improvement of the organization, its people, and products or services.
  4. The Red Bead Experiment features the famous exercise designed by Dr. Deming that demonstrates how an individual’s performance at work is directly tied to and limited by the nature of the system they are working within.
  5. Lessons of the Red Bead Experiment – The lessons learned in the experiment include failing because management did not understand or improve the system, and realizing that exhortations will not improve productivity.

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Creativity Inc. – Using Deming’s Ideas at Pixar

cover of Creativity Inc.

Ed Catmull co-founded Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter. In Ed’s book, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, he discusses how important Deming’s ideas were to his efforts to help make Pixar what it is today.

As we struggled to get Pixar off the ground, Deming’s work was like a beacon that lit my way.

it wasn’t until the 1980s when a few companies in Silicon Valley, such as Hewlett Packard and Apple, began to incorporate them. But Deming’s work would make a huge impression on me and help frame my approach to managing Pixar going forward.

One of the challenges in learning how to be a manager is you see similar statements from managers that create systems that are very different in fundamental ways from what they say. So you see quotes like Ed’s in his books and figure that is similar to what most executives writing books says.

John and I had very conscientiously tried to make sure that everyone at Pixar had a voice, that every job and every employee was treated with respect.

Treating employees with respect and creating systems that allow people to be engaged and contribute is critically important. Pixar has done that. What is important is creating management systems that support the such statements. Making the statement matters very little; I see such statement much more often than I see evidence of management systems that are based on such beliefs.

How each company adopt the management concepts W. Edwards Deming proposed will be different. That helps make Deming’s management ideas powerful but it also disappoints some in that there is no simple management recipe to follow. We learn from reading what others have tried. And we learn from what worked. But we can’t just copy; we need to understand what the principles (the theory) behind what they did and understand how to apply those principles in our organization.

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