The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Public Administration: Past, Present, and Future

Professor Ravi Roy, Director of the W. Edwards Deming Incubator for Public Affairs at Southern Utah University spoke at the Deming Management in Public Administration Conference earlier this year on Public Administration: Past, Present, and Future.

Quoting Denzau and North (from Shared Mental Models: Ideologies and Institutions, I believe)

Systemic transformations are rooted in a profound shift in shared mental models.

Ravi Roy discusses the importance of trust in building an effective organization:

leadership creating relationships, building trust.

And Ravi discusses how important Deming’s integrated System of Profound Knowledge is to build trust and thus build organizations capable of transforming to adopt better management practices. As those familiar with Deming’s ideas know, psychology is one of the 4 elements making up the system of profound knowledge.

He closed with:

Don’t focus on the parts; focus on the system.

Related: Quality Comes to City Hall (Harvard Business Review article in 1991Doing More with Less in the Public SectorBetter Management in GovernmentGetting an Early Appreciation for Deming’s Ideas (as mentioned in his presentation)Deming Podcast with Ravi Roy on Teaching Deming’s Ideas at Southern Utah UniversityQuality Beginnings: Deming and Madison, Wisconsin


Creating a Deep Commitment to Delighting Customers

Those organizations that can delight customers today and take the steps today that position the organization to delight customers in the future will prosper and grow. But building and maintaining a management culture that reinforces delighting customers and long term thinking is quite difficult.

I have trouble finding businesses that are focused on delighting customers. It is easy to understand the results I see from the businesses I interact with coming from a company with a short term focus on spreadsheets, without respect for customers or employees and without an appreciation for the organization as a system.

There are many reasons I support and wish to see the wider adoption of Deming’s ideas. And one of those is purely the purely selfish desire of wishing to cast aside the businesses that I must deal with that don’t succeed (or even try) to delight customers.

If I can just do business with an alternate company that is fine with me. Unfortunately companies that reliably delight customers are so rare that often I can find no alternatives for a given need that I have.

My life would be better if I could replace companies that force me to put up with the results of their poor management system with companies practicing Deming’s ideas. For that reason, and others, I hope that those that have been following this blog over the years are successful in transforming their organizations to adopt the management practices Deming promoted.

quote image - text: New product and new types of service are generated, not by asking the consumer, but by knowledge, imagination, innovation, risk, trial and error on the part of the producer, backed by enough capital to develop the product or service and to stay in business during the lean months of introduction.

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Red Beads and Profound Knowledge: Deming and Quality of Education

Sharon Lohr presented the 2014 American Statistical Association (ASA) Deming Lecture – Red Beads and Profound Knowledge: Deming and Quality of Education (slides with notes and references). Dr. Lohr earned her doctorate in statistics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she learned about Deming’s philosophy and met Dr. Deming.

Quoting W. Edwards Deming in her presentation:

Numerical goals accomplish nothing. Ranking and reward of individual people, schools, districts, do not improve the system. Only the method is important. By what method?

Sharon Lohr:

We need good data to be able to improve the system. And we can’t get those good data if they are being distorted by false figures… the effects of these false figures cascade throughout the system.

She also referenced Dr. Deming: Fear invites wrong figures.

Sharon discusses the importance of understanding the limits of what conclusions that can be drawn from the data. It is important to understand what data is and is not telling you.

And Sharon states the data available can be used to understand the system but the data is very weak for evaluating individual teachers. However school systems throughout the country as using the data in order to evaluate individual teachers.

I really enjoyed this presentation and the questions and answers at the end. I imagine quite a few of our blog readers won’t be as interested in the first half of the presentation (it is a very focused on some statistical details). If that is the case for you, I suggest moving forward to middle and watching it from there.

Related: Applying Dr. Deming’s Ideas at the Lakeville Public School SystemQuality Comes to City Hall (Madison, Wisconsin)Quality Beginnings: Deming and MadisonAnalyzing Data Requires an Understanding of the System Generating the Data


The Transformation is Everybody’s Job

W. Edwards Deming’s 14th point is:

Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

One important point to note is that quotes lose a great deal when taken out of context. You can also find quotes by Dr. Deming, such as:

“As I use the term here, the job of a leader is to accomplish transformation of his organization.” (in Out of the Crisis)

Quality is made in the board room. A worker can deliver lower quality, but she cannot deliver quality better than the system allow.”

There are quotes you can pick to make it seem like executives are responsible for the system and individuals workers have little impact on overall results – “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” This shows the limitation of isolated quotes more than anything else.

Complex systems have many leverage points and can be influenced in many ways. It is unreasonable to have a broken management system and blame those working within it for the naturally poor results than such a system creates. And executives have more authority and thus more responsibility for creating a good management system that is continually improving. But such a management system requires that everyone in the organization is contributing.

Transforming from old style management systems to those Deming proposed many years ago requires that everyone be engaged in that transformation. While Dr. Deming understood that people were subject to the constraints the management system placed on them, he also understood that it was everyone’s job to transform – not just something for executives or board members or managers.

Those with authority must modify the management system to allow everyone to contribute. But that doesn’t mean everyone else just sits by waiting for those with more authority to transform the organization. Transformation doesn’t work that way. It is a dynamic, interconnected process. It isn’t as simple as turning on a light (or declaring this is our new transformed management system).

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Deming Podcast with Doug Hall

Deming Institute podcast icon

Doug Hall,CEO and founder of Innovation Engineering, participated in a previous podcast on Using Systems Thinking to Power Strategy, Innovation and Growth.

He returns to the Deming Institute podcast again (download) and he shares his approach for using innovation or leadership to improve management practices.

Doug talks about command and control management being too slow for businesses given the competitive markets today. Which is exactly what people have been saying since, at least the 1980s.

The challenge is how to get organizations to adopt better management practices. Doug proposes getting “wins” and building momentum for change. Doug states that finding “new markets” for products and services are probably the biggest example of “wins” his company helps their clients with.

Doug finds the attitude of executives that prevents adopting a better management system is that of focusing on cost cutting. He finds that mindset common and almost impossible to turn around.

Some of the methods that have worked for Doug in convincing those who are looking to improvement management:

  • Reframing what managers should focus on from controlling to enabling.
  • Running experiments.
  • Asking “what is the thing you are most worried about?” Lets try to work on that.

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Related: How to Start Applying Deming’s Ideas on ManagementUsing Deming’s Ideas When Your Organization Doesn’tHow To Create a Continual Improvement CultureJobs to be Done (customer focus)Change Management: Create a Culture Seeking Continual Improvement or Use Band-Aids?


What Business are We In?

image text: A good question for anybody in business to ask is What business are we in? To do well what we are doing - i.e., to turn out a good product, or good service, whatever it be? Yes, of course, but this is not enough. We must keep asking - What product or service would help our customers more? We must think about the future. What will we be making 5 years from now? 10 years from now?

That quote is from The New Economics, published in 1993. Still today many companies would benefit greatly from adopting this thinking. So often companies fail to focus on the needs of customers. So often companies focus on the short term to the detriment of long term success.

We would all be better off if more companies would focus on the needs of their customers and how to continual improve their products and services to meet those needs.

This requires planning ahead. A company must have the foresight to know when incremental improvement will not meet their customers needs in the future. And then the company must use their knowledge of customer needs and the possibilities to innovate.

One of the challenges is that the implications of his quote naturally fit into an organization with a management system built with an appreciation of Deming’s ideas but often run into challenges in other organizations. If short term budgets dominate it is difficult to invest in the long term. If performance appraisals punish and reward people for results on short term targets it isn’t sensible to expect people to focus on the long term needs of the customers or the organization.

It is a challenge to anticipate the future needs of customers and plan for meeting them even with a Deming based management system. It is much more difficult with a management system that is not focused on continual improvement, viewing the organization as a system, delighting customers, long term thinking and respect for people.

W. Edwards Deming knew that product and service innovation is driven by customer focused organizations.

Related: Customer Focus with a Deming PerspectivePractical Ways to Respect PeopleThe Importance of Working with Suppliers Over the Long TermGaining a deep understanding of customers


Exploring Measurement, Presentation by Ian Bradbury

Ian Bradbury presented on Exploring Measurement at our 2016 annual conference. As usual his presentation is packed with great information. I strongly recommend watching (also see links to more presentations by him below).

At the very beginning of his talk, Ian says

Stuff happens a lot and nothing results from that. But sometimes stuff happens and there is a perceptive observer, combined with the stuff that happens, and out of that comes inventions, discoveries and so one.

The idea of the importance of a perceptive observer intentionally paying attention to the process and results of the process is captured extremely well in a presentation by George Box: Quality and the Art of Discovery.

This idea ties directly to the importance of creating an organizational culture that values everyone’s brain and creates systems to allow everyone to act based on what they learn and discover. That includes training and educating people to gain the understanding and ability to do this successfully.

George Box also created a helicopter experiment: Teaching Engineers Experimental Design with a Paper Helicopter. The exercise Ian used in the session is not the same as the one George created. But Ian references Box’s experiment later (on his slide) and Box’s paper provides detail on the topic at the end of Ian’s talk: design of experiments and interactions.

Ian also echoed the importance of simply plotting data over time as Lynda Finn discussed in a previous Deming Institute Podcast with Lynda Finn: The Value of the Simple Run Chart.

In the presentation, Ian provides a good overview of understanding how to manage using control charts to understand processes. The value of control charts to organization is not about the math or even the chart but in how the organization uses the knowledge they can gain from using control charts to understand and to manage the process.

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Our Aim, Vision and Values

Our Aim

The aim of The W. Edwards Deming Institute® is to foster an understanding of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge® to advance commerce, prosperity and peace.

Our Vision

At the Deming Institute, we honor the legacy of Dr. Deming by bringing his teachings to life today and for the future. We’re introducing his teachings to a younger generation, developing new Deming leaders and ensuring the transition of knowledge from Dr. Deming’s trusted colleagues.

Through new programs, learning events and digital resources we will increase the adoption of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge® in our schools and in small to midsized businesses and organizations. We will strengthen nonprofits that are as committed as we are to making people’s lives better. Our vision is for the System of Profound Knowledge to be the standard lens people use to understand and improve the world.

Indeed, joy flourishes when leaders drive out fear and the forces of destruction from an organization. When cooperation supplants competition, and people know what their jobs are and how they contribute to the system. When it’s understood that people learn in different ways–reading, listening, and watching—and that learning is a lifelong endeavor. When these and other teachings and practices of The Deming System Of Profound Knowledge® (SoPK) are embraced and applied, not only do organizations improve and thrive, but people experience a greater sense of purpose, fulfillment and joy.

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Test your Knowledge of Out of the Crisis

Test your knowledge of Out of the Crisis and The New Economics with crossword puzzles created by Joyce Orsini. Here is the puzzle for chapter 2 of The Out of the Crisis:

crossword  puzzle for chapter 2 of Out of the Crisis

Example questions:

  • The ________ is the most important part of the production line.
  • Experience alone, without ______ teaches nothing.

I previously added a post about these crossword puzzles.

See puzzles for every chapter of both books (and also chapter 1 of Sample Design in Business Research) on the Deming Cooperative website.

Joyce was the long time president of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, director of the Deming Scholars program at Fordham University and editor of The Essential Deming.

Related: Leadership Principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Presentation by Joyce Orsini The consumer is the most important point on the production-lineRiding a Bike and the Theory of KnowledgeExperience Teaches Nothing Without Theory


Deming Institute Seminars in London and Edinburgh During May 2017

We are offering 2 new seminars in the UK this May: The W. Edwards Deming Institute® Organisations as Unusual Workshop (Shift from Big Problems to Great Opportunities) and The W. Edwards Deming Institute® Sustainability Strategy Program.

The first is a workshop over two half days. The second includes both those half days and fills out each full day with additional material focused on sustainability.

photo of participants working on an exercise at their tables

The objective of the Organisations as Unusual Workshop (presented in two 4-hour parts, over the course of two days) is to demonstrate and explore the unlimited potential of “Organizations as Unusual,” with a very practical focus on how we think, learn, and work together, built upon a foundation of Dr. Deming’s Management Method.

The Sustainability Strategy Program includes the Organisations as Unusual Workshop and with two extra 4 hour sessions focused on sustainability. The morning of the first day begins with the Sustainability Strategy Program then continues in the afternoon with the Organisations as Unusual Workshop. The morning of the second day starts with the Organisations as Unusual Workshop and concludes with the Sustainability Strategy Program.

The Organisations as Unusual Workshops will be facilitated by Bill Bellows, Ph.D., Deputy Director, The W. Edwards Deming Institute®. And Lowellyne James, Ph.D., Sustainability & CSR Insights© facilitates the Sustainability Strategy Program.

Learn more and register by following the links to each workshop.

8-9 May 2017 in London, UK

16-17 May 2017 in Edinburgh, UK

We also have several other events schedule during 2017 (and more will be added, our upcoming events page always provides our most current list).

Related: Building a Sustainable Organization Using Deming’s Ideas on ManagementSustainability as National Imperative, 2013 Deming Institute Fall Conference presentationApproaching Sustainability Using Deming’s ThinkingDeming Seminar in Hong Kong, 12 to 14 June 2014