The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

A Blog Following the Management of Finishing Technology Using Deming’s Ideas

Fred Warmbier, owner of Finishing Technology (based outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA), and Kelly Allan are writing a blog on the New York Times exploring how Deming’s management ideas are put into practice at Finishing Technology.

A comment Fred posted to the blog (The New York Times choses to have urls not show the comment for that url, so I can’t provide a url that works):

From our initial thoughts of doing the blog, Kelly and I have had the aim to share my discoveries about managing with others. The teachings of Deming and others are a foundation for those discoveries. And, I, for one, want to get better at running a business. It’s good for me, the business, employees, and our customers.

I think many people will find it interesting to follow the journey and watch the challenges and successes one company experiences in applying Deming’s management ideas.

Link to the first post: Introducing Managing: Something Had to Change. Quoting the second post, We’re About to Miss a Deadline. Who’s Responsible for This Mess?

I was responsible.

What? No. Really? Come on! Why me?

Because, I heard a voice in my head saying, one role of a leader is to see to it that the processes and systems are functioning well and continually improving.

It made sense, but I didn’t like the sound of it. Silence in my head. I thought for a moment, looking for a way to get myself off the hook. “Wait,” I thought, “I delegated that task!”

Yet, as I thought further, I had to confess: I really didn’t delegate it. I just delegated parts of it — and to someone trained mostly in inspection, not in setting up a line or improving it.

The responsibility of leadership to manage the system is so simple to say but so challenging to actually create. It is so easy for management to hold people accountable for meeting arbitrary targets and blame failures on others. But in reality it is the poor management system, reliant on targets, that leads to to behavior that then “leaders” bemoan.

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Submit Abstracts for the 21st Annual International Deming Research Seminar

The 21st Annual International Deming Research Seminar will be held in Washington DC, 23 and 24 March 2015. The first 20 seminars were held at Fordham University in New York City, before the move to Georgetown University for 2015.

The W. Edwards Deming Institute is seeking research papers from diverse perspectives, businesses, organizations and industries that provide examples of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s theories applied in the present day, or papers linking Dr. Deming’s work to that of other great thinkers.

Research papers must be original works. Please submit your abstract of 200 words or less electronically to The Deming Institute at by 3 November, 2014. Selected speakers will be notified by November 17th and invited to present their papers in a session at the Seminar in March 2015. Research papers will be due on 12 January 2015.

The Research Seminar brings together people from around the world, and from a variety of businesses and industries, to extend and illustrate Dr. Deming’s theories.

Join us to hear innovative new approaches and directions being tested by others to enhance operations, build trust, foster leadership, promote commerce, create ethical business cultures, and sustain success. Enjoy dialogue stirred by new thinking, and informal networking with Deming practitioners and leaders in the Deming community.

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Deming Podcasts #4: Dan Robertson Discusses His Deming Journey

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In this episode of The W. Edward Deming Institute Podcast (download) Tripp Babbitt interviews Dan Robertson. Dan serves on the advisory board of The W. Edwards Deming Institute and is the co-chair of the 2014 Deming Institute Fall Conference. Dan co-authored Deming’s Profound Changes with Kenneth Delavigne.

In discussing his experience at HP applying Deming’s management ideas his talked about the value of expanding the scope of those tasked with exploring customer issues, Dan noted:

Designers interacting with customers would give them new insights for products in the future

We really don’t take advantage of the energy, innovation and creativity available in the workforce… there are indications that that thinking is changing but Deming brought that thinking to us a long time ago and it has taken a long time to get the little bit farther we are [in using the full capabilities of all employees].

I agree with comments by Dan that the advice in Deming’s Profound Changes is just as valuable today as when it was published in 1993. The practice of management has improved some, but not a huge amount. The ideas in the book have not been overturned by changes since it was published. Manager’s need to learn and apply those ideas today, just as they did in 1993.

Dan also discussed the 2014 Deming Institute Fall Conference to be held October 16-19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Subscribe to the Deming podcasts via rss or iTunes.

Related: Podcast with Kelly Allan on Dr. Deming and Peter ScholtesRespect for Employees, Don’t Waste the Ability of PeopleInterview with Masaaki Imai

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

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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