The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Thinking Required – Not Just a Recipe to Follow

One of the most powerful aspects of Deming’s management ideas also frustrate some people. Dr. Deming didn’t believe in simple guides telling managers what to do – his ideas are not prescriptive. The challenges of management don’t lend themselves to simple instructions spelling out exactly what steps managers need to take. What managers need to do, depends on the organization and current state.

There are general principles such as respect for people and understanding variation. When managing organizations made up of people, that must be done with respect for those people. In order to optimize the performance of the organization we need to enable people to excel. And to do that we need to create systems that have an understanding of psychology and that respect people.

And to make intelligent decisions in an organization we need to understand variation. Without an understanding of variation people leap to faulty conclusion and fail to understand when “solutions” are not actually making things better. And understanding the organization as a system contributes to this process.

While these points are self evident to those that have been applying Deming’s management ideas in their work they don’t give a guide for what you actually have to do this afternoon.

What this means for managers is they have to learn about management (Deming’s ideas and others like Ackoff, Scholtes, Drucker and many others), learn about their organization (go to the gemba, look at data on results, talk to the employees), learn about the market and customers (talk to customers, look at data, go to the customer gemba) and then experiment and act (allocate resources to experimenting and coaching and changing the management system where need be).

Managers need to learn from doing so and continue on that path or learning, thinking, experimenting, thinking, improving, learning…

Books, videos, consultants, web sites, podcasts offer ideas to help managers with that task. And management tools and ideas help by providing standard processes and guides to aid managers on this path (control charts, pdsa, kanban, process flowcharts, visual management techniques, mistake proofing, etc.).

Managers, however, must decide how to apply what they have learned to their specific situation. This is more difficult than being able to read a management recipe and follow the instructions. But meeting that challenge is quite rewarding.

Related: Do We Need to Find Management Ideas from Our Industry? NoKeys to Using the PDSA Improvement Cycle Most Effectively


Effort Without the Right Knowledge and Strategy is Often Wasted

image of the book cover for Out of the Crisis

Best efforts are essential. Unfortunately, best efforts, people charging this way and that way without guidance of principles, can do a lot of damage.

W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, page 19

There are many great quotes from Dr. Deming and this is one of my favorite. To create effective organization we need management systems that support people in continually improving the performance of the organization.

To create such organizations we need people that come to work with a desire to make things better. I am on the side of viewing this issue as one of removing barriers that rob people of their intrinsic desire to take pride in their work.

But it goes beyond this. People must have an understanding of management principles or effort will be expended doing the wrong things. Without an understanding of variation people fail to address systemic issues and instead treat symptoms. Putting band aids on symptoms may help but it is a very inefficient way to improve.

And often treating symptoms results in the underlying causes going untreated. Often those underlying causes continue to do damage (which can remain hidden for a long time). And once that damage becomes visible, without the right understanding (often related to viewing the organization as a system or understanding variation but can be related to theory of knowledge or understanding psychology – the human side of an organization) that damage is often treated with a bigger band-aid and the cause is still left unaddressed.

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Deming Podcasts #3: David Langford on Improving Education

Deming Institute podcast icon

In this episode of The W. Edward Deming Institute Podcast Tripp Babbitt interviews David Langford. David serves on the advisory board of the Institute and is the CEO and founder of Langford International.

David discusses using Deming’s ideas to improve the education system in this edition of the Deming Institute podcast series (download).

You can view the content David mentions in the podcast from the Quality or Else documentary which closes with a discussion of the work at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka Alaska.

Subscribe to the Deming podcasts via rss or iTunes.

Related: Change has to Start from the Top, Webcast with David LangfordAttributing Fault to the Person Without Considering the SystemDr. Deming Video: A Theory of a System for Educators and ManagersThe Education System

We have a Twitter account specifically for the podcasts @DemingPodcast.


Guided by Theory Not Figures

Managers must make decisions when data is unavailable or even impossible to collect.

A simple example is training. The only immediate evidence is its cost, expense. The effect of training will not be realized for months or even years in the future. Moreover, the effect can not be measured.

Then why does a company spend money for training? Because the management believe that there will in the future be benefits that far outweigh the cost. In other words, the management are guided by theory, not by figures. They are wise.

W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education – page 63

As Dr. Deming stated

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.

page 10 of The New Economics.

Related: Can We Trust Our Memories?Unknown and Unknowable DataTheory of Knowledge


Deming Podcast #2: Kelly Allan Discussing the 2 1/2 Day Seminar

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In this episode of The W. Edward Deming Institute Podcast Tripp Babbitt interviews Kelly Allan. Kelly serves on the advisory board of the Institute and is the senior associate of Kelly Allan Associates.

Kelly discusses the 2 1/2 day seminar and the current activities of the Institute in podcast episode number two (download).

Some of the highlights of the recent activity that Kelly mentions:

And of course this podcast series is another new initiative of The W. Edwards Deming Institute. Throughout the podcast Kelly also touches on various aspects of the Deming management method.

Subscribe to the Deming podcasts via rss or iTunes.

Related: Podcast with Kelly Allan on Dr. Deming and Peter ScholtesKelly’s book review of The Essential DemingDeming Seminar in Hong Kong, 12 to 14 June 2014

We have created a new Twitter account specifically for the podcasts @DemingPodcast.


The W. Edward Deming Institute Launches a New Podcast Series

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The W. Edward Deming Institute is pleased to announce the Deming Podcast. We created a new Twitter account specifically for the podcasts: @DemingPodcast (our main Twitter account is @DemingInstitute).

In Deming podcast episode number one (download) moderator Tripp Babbitt interviews Kevin Cahill, the President of The W. Edwards Deming Institute and the grandson or Dr. Deming. Kevin talks about growing up with Dr. Deming and Kevin’s current work with The W. Edwards Deming Institute.

Kevin talked about how the NBC report If Japan Can Why Can’t We which aired in 1980 showed him his grandfather in a new light. The show introduced Dr. Deming name and ideas to many leaders in business in the USA.

Kevin was living at Dr. Deming’s house at the time (while getting a college degree) and he was a first hand witness to the amazing impact that program. Kevin frequently overheard phone calls from CEO’s of major companies (Ford, GM, etc.) from around the USA talking with Dr. Deming. Dr. Deming’s office was in the basement of his house.

Subscribe to the Deming podcasts via rss or iTunes.

Related: Business 901 Podcast with Joyce Orsini and Kevin CahillFirst post on the W. Edwards Deming Institute BlogDeming Seminar in Hong Kong, 12 to 14 June 2014


Sourced Quotes by W. Edwards Deming

Dr. Deming was very quotable. There are a great number of wonderful quotes. They capture ideas well and are powerful.

Without context though quotes can be mis-interpreted. And without context they lose much of the power they have when understood within the management system Dr. Deming had in mind.

I have been working on compiling a sourced list of quotes. While this process is far from complete I think it has reached a point where there is value in making it available online. So you may now view our collection of quotes by W. Edwards Deming.

photo of Dr. W. Edwards Deming from the 1950s.

Photo of Dr. W. Edwards Deming from the 1950s.

The collection includes pages for quotes from The New Economics and Out of the Crisis and also includes a large collection of attributed quotes.

Many of these attributed quotes are from the 4 day seminars, other seminars, consulting visits with companies and videos. Members of The W. Edwards Deming institute board, and others who were consulted, worked with Dr. Deming at the seminars and consulting visits. There are also contemporaneous notes from seminars that were used to confirm quotes. I also include links to passages in books (or videos) where Dr. Deming covers the same ideas using slightly different words.

In my opinion those links provide evidence that the quote is reasonable to attribute to Dr. Deming and the links also provide context in which to understand what he meant.

There are also quotes often passed on as by Dr. Deming when really he quoted someone else in one of his books. When he did so, he made it clear who deserved credit for the quote but that is often lost in what people share. We are providing the proper attribution for quotes Dr. Deming attributed to others.

Related: Deming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 PointsProfit and growth come from customers that boast about your products and servicesArticles by W. Edwards DemingBlog post number one for The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog


The W. Edwards Deming Institute 2014 Fall Conference, Oct 16-19

The W. Edwards Deming Institute® 2014 Fall Conference will be held at Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys, California. The theme for this years conference is Innovation for Success: creating a foundation for leading in business and education.

Annual Fall Conference
October 17 – 19, 2014

Pre-Conference Session on Education and Quality Learning
October 16 – 17, 2014

The W. Edwards Deming Institute, in collaboration with California State University, Northridge presents a weekend conference on innovation, the foundation for the future. Speakers from business and education will share their journeys with Dr. Deming’s teachings and the powerful impact they had on their lives, businesses and communities.

Join us for an introduction to Dr. Deming’s transformational philosophies, compelling personal stories from industry leaders, and moderated speaker panel discussions. You will also have an opportunity to meet with conference presenters, family members of Dr. Deming, and other attendees who are successfully using Deming’s teachings in their organizations. You’ll leave with new knowledge and inspiration to create a more successful future by leading through innovation today.

Plenary Sessions and Keynote Presenters:

  • Introduction to Deming’s Theories – for 2015 & Beyond: Discover how Amazing things happen, Kelly Allan, Senior Associate, Kelly Allan Associates, Ltd.
  • Kevin Edwards Cahill, President & Executive Director, The W. Edwards Deming Institute
  • It Takes an Enterprise: current neuroscience and knowledge of psychology, Edward Chaplin, Medical Director of Co-Management and Quality for Care Lines, Scripps Health
  • Harold Hellenbrand, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs, California State University, Northridge
  • Ron Moen, Co-Founder & Partner, Associates in Process Improvement
  • A Transformed Leader, Phil Monroe, US Navy Captain (Retired)

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Deming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 Points

The clip above begins with Dr. Deming discussing a facet of the Deming chain reaction:

With better quality and lower costs you can capture the market with better quality and lower price. It will help you to stay in business, provide jobs, and more jobs.

These clips are taken from the Deming Starter Library on the 14 points for management. Llyod Dobbins is the narrator and the animated character is by Pulitzer-prize-winning cartoonist Pat Oliphant. As is mentioned in the video Dr. Deming approved the wording, so when Lloyd Dobbins is speaking the wording represents Dr. Deming’s view.

Llyod Dobbins:

The 14 points will lower costs, but that isn’t the point. They will create better products for the consumer, quality will go up and so will our skills.

Dr. Deming:

Finding what is wrong is not improvement of the process. If there were a fire here in this building and somehow we put it out that is not improvement, that is putting out fires.

that is a path toward destruction because they are not studying the system, they are managing outcomes, managing defects instead of looking at the system that produced the defects.

In my opinion the video above is packed with great material. It continues with Llyod Dobbins saying:

Each of Deming’s 14 points is implicit in all of the others. The way not to depend on mass inspection (point 3) is to continually improve the process (point 5). To do that you will need quality supplies (point 4). If finding a quality supplier takes time, well remember point 1, constancy of purpose. And also remember to adopt the new philosophy, which just happens to be point 2. No one of Dr. Deming’s points stands alone, nor did he intend that one should. The 14 points are one philosophy, an original way of looking at business and industry or anything else.

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The Principles and Methods for Improvement are the Same in Manufacturing and Service Companies

All that we learned about the 14 points and the diseases of management applies to service organizations, as well as manufacturing. In this chapter we focus on service organizations.

A system of quality improvement is helpful to anyone that turns out a product or is engaged in service, or in research, and wishes to improve the quality of his work, and at the same time to increase his output, all with less labor and at reduced cost. Service needs improvement along with manufacturing.

The principles and methods for improvement are the same for service as for manufacturing. The actual application differs, of course, from one product to another, and from one type of service to another

W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, page 183

For some reason some people think Dr. Deming only talked about quality improvement on the factory floor. That isn’t at all accurate. Even in talking to manufacturing companies most of his effort was focused on changing the behavior, thinking and processes in the executive suite not the factory floor. He did also focus on improvements on the factory floor but it was always in the context of the entire company including many areas for improvement that were like other service or knowledge work (sales, purchasing, customer research, accounting, education, managing people, research and development, training, customer service, etc.).

While great strides were made at companies like Toyota and Ford (both on the factory floor, in the executive suite and in many non-factory floor areas of the companies) there was also great work at many organizations that were not manufacturers. Chapter 7 of Out of the Crisis specifically discusses examples from service companies: banking, insurance, government, electric utility, railway, telephone company, municipal transit system, hotel, postal service, airlines, restaurant, etc..

I do find that some of the service examples show the age of the book. It is amazing the thrust of the book is just as relevant today as when Deming wrote it. The management ideas have aged very well.

Sadly the problems with existing management mentioned throughout his books are also stubbornly prevalent today. It seems to me a great deal of good thinking on process improvement has been adopted by a fair number of companies. And there is a much greater use of quality tools and thinking today. There is a much better, though still very inadequate, appreciation for systems thinking and understanding the need to fix the management system in order to fix persistent problems.

The successful improvement on the factory floor seems to show the greatest improvement over the last 50 years, in my opinion. In the last 10-15 years there has been a great deal of good work in health care and software development. And there have been great efforts in hundreds of organizations across most any industry I can think of.

There is still plenty of room for improvement on the factory floor, in health care, software and everywhere else. Unfortunately, the room for improvement in the executive suite is nearly as great as it was when Dr. Deming first focused on addressing the need for transforming the management of our organizations.

Related: Dr. Deming’s Ideas Applied in High School EducationFree, Perfect, and Now by Robert RodinFewer Patients-In-Process and Less Safety Scheduling; Incoming Supplies are SecondaryDeming and Software Development