The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

The W. Edwards Deming Institute is proud to announce our first blog. The aim of The W. Edwards Deming Institute® is to foster understanding of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge™ to advance commerce, prosperity and peace. With the blog we aim to further the aim of the institute.

Dr. Deming’s personal aim was to advance commerce, prosperity and peace. This is a lofty goal and provides insight into his motives.

I, John Hunter, will be writing and editing this blog. In doing so, I will be trying to explore Deming’s ideas through his work and through the application of his ideas in organizations. In doing so, my opinions will influence what I write. My goal is to stay true to his ideas and thoughts while also seeing how those ideas have been applied, interpreted and extended by others.

Dr. Deming kept learning and modifying his management philosophy throughout his life. He continued to learn and travel to present seminars until weeks before he died at the age of 93. In my view the drive that kept him going was his commitment to his aim.

To many of us today that aim may seem lofty and disconnected from our day to day lives. Dr. Deming was born in 1900 in Sioux City, Iowa. He lived through World War I. He lived through the depression. He lived through World War II. He was asked to go to Japan to aid in the recovery efforts. In my, opinion, if you live through those conditions and are a systems thinker it is very easy to understand the enormous hardship people face when commerce fails to provide prosperity and the devastating tragedy of war is made so real. It may be hard for people with indoor plumbing, heating, air conditioning, safety, security and a fairly strong economy to appreciate how difficult life can be without prosperity. But I think it is much easier for someone who has lived through 2 world wars, a depression and then spends a great deal of time in post war Japan to understand this importance.

I didn’t live through those events, but I also can see that importance. I lived in Singapore and Nigeria as a child. And I traveled quite a bit and was able to see that there were billions of people on the earth that more than anything struggle to get food, clean water and electricity. To me the importance of advancing commerce, prosperity and peace was easy to see and when I first saw his aim it struck me. It took a few more years to appreciate how the aim is made real and moved forward by his ideas.

Most of the posts will be on much more focused management ideas. But I think this is an appropriate beginning to the exploration of these ideas. He had many specific thoughts on topics managers face everyday. Those ideas were part of a system. And that system had, at the core, making the world a better place for us to live in.

It may be hard to appreciate why this matters. And you can make progress without appreciating this idea at first. But you can learn how to adopt Deming’s ideas for management much more quickly and effectively when you understand that the ideas exist within a context that puts respect for people at the core. If respect for people is missing, that means something is missing in the understanding or application of the ideas.

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16 Responses

  1. Kevin Edwards Cahill says:


    On behalf of The Deming Institute we look forward to the blog and fostering a community of readers who both enjoy and provide comments and engage in dialogue.

  2. Dan Robertson says:

    I believe this will be another great way that the Deming community can interact and share insights about Dr. Deming’s work. Thank you, John, for putting this important tool together!

  3. Lynda Finn says:

    Thanks for your work on this John. It will be nice to have this online searchable location for Deming Practitioners to share ideas and comments.

  4. Dick Steele says:

    Could you say a little more on ‘respect at the core’? I’m trying to think through my understanding of respect in terms of variation and what we can learn from that variation. I know that I respect some persons more than others and some I have very little respect at all.

  5. John Hunter says:

    What I mean is that respect for people is a necessary condition. Without it, you don’t have a Deming based management system.

    In a similar way, I don’t believe you can have a Deming based management system unless it integrates an understanding of variation. Exactly what form the understanding of variation takes in the specific management system I think is not fixed. Theoretically some tool could be created that replaces the control chart.

    The management system will have to have respect for people and an understanding of variation (they are core) but how those concepts manifest in the management system, I believe is theoretically subject to change.

    How respect for people is practiced may well be very different for different organizations.

    Some organization don’t have any problem with confrontation and argument and in fact find it insulting when open debate is suppressed (for example, computer programers often are this way). In other organizations confrontation is seen as disrespectful and so issues that need to be addressed need to addressed with a different tact. It is more complicated than this but as a very simplified example, I think this makes the point that the principle of respect for people will not be implemented in the same way in every organization.

    I think the principle of respect for people is about creating systems that treat people with respect. And treating people with respect yourself.

    I think an opinion on the capabilities or even ethics or an individual is a different matter. It gets a bit confusing because in our language words get reapplied to similar situations all the time. So we also talk of our opinions on the capabilities of someone as how much we respect them. But this isn’t the same thing as the idea in the preceding paragraph.

    The first is about treating people with respect the second is about opinions on the capability of people.

    • Dick Steele says:

      My question has more to do the variation of respect as in ‘respect – yes or no’ or respect as a variable, from low to hi. Then you mentioned a ‘Deming based management system … understanding variation.’ Deming said that you need not be eminent in any part of Profound Knowledge to start to use it. If you know very little about variation, at what point in your understanding do you become a ‘Deming based management system’? The question for me in these examples is, What can I learn from the variation that exists in order to manage it?

  6. Mike Stoecklein says:

    Helpful ideas John, thanks. What do you think about the term “respect every individual” versus “respect people”? As I see it, the former is more challenging and has implications for every interaction we have (and how we interact with others through our systems, such as “the environment”). The later may be seen as general and easier to gloss over at a high level without a full appreciation of what it means.

  7. John Hunter says:

    I like “respect for people” but “respect every individual” is good, I still like “respect for people” more. I do agree in viewing “respect for people” as including customers, suppliers, society… Dr. Deming and Toyota viewed society as a stakeholder to be considered.

    My most recent post on my Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog is “respect for everyone” which is focused on respect for all employees. I discussed respect for people extending beyond those in your company in I also have a previous post on practical ways to show respect for people It is mainly focused on your employees but does mention other stakeholders (and that risking the future of your company with for example, high leverage, is disrespectful to other stakeholders, as well as employees).

    I also think the larger issues with stakeholders and society come into play in the context of systems thinking.

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