The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Dr. Deming’s Influence on One Elementary School Principal

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Presentation by Jake Rodgers and Phyllis Tubbs: Dr. Deming’s Influence on One Elementary School Principal at the 1st annual Deming in Education Conference:

Jake asks a good question (as he learned from David Langford who learned it from W. Edwards Deming).

What’s your theory?

Asking yourself this question lets you explore why you do what you do. When you ask why you do the things you do, you often you don’t know why. Then you can try to think if there are better alternatives you should consider. And when you do have a theory that can then be tested and you can learn. With a theory you have something to test and you document constraints to consider in improvement.

Often there isn’t a theory behind the practices in an organization. Often we do what we do because that is how things were done before. There is a bit of safety in doing this. We know what results that has led to in the past and while those results might not be perfect they are at least known. Continuing those practices will likely result in similar results now (though sometimes this isn’t true). However when we want to improve we need to know why we do what we do and what theories we need to test.

Jake obviously sees the value in using flowcharts. I think most organization would benefit from creating far more flowcharts and use them to focus improvement. Also it is important to keep the flowcharts updated; often they are used only for a short term need. For important processes they should be living documents.

Phyllis Tubbs is a first grade teacher at the school; she talked about the transition to applying Deming’s idea in her classroom. I liked how she used flowcharts to let the first graders figure out for themselves what to do next (the flowchart shows them what to do and provides guidelines on what needs to be accomplished to move onto the next step).

these tools… are really starting to allow for sharing leadership and for everyone have a voice.

She was talking about students in her classroom but those same words apply when discussing what happens when you use quality tools (flowcharts, affinity diagram, run charts, etc.) in a business if it is done within the framework of a Deming management system. Actually the second time I listened to the presentation I am not sure if she was referring to her students or her teaching peers (I now think really it was teaching peers) but it works in both ways based on what both speakers said in the presentation.


As I have mentioned before when you listen to presentations by people who have worked with David Langford you hear them discuss the use of tools to improve at a different level than anyone else I hear. I think, decades ago I heard similar things from those that worked directly with Brian Joiner, Peter Scholtes and my father. But there is huge difference between listening to those that have internalized how the tools should be used in a Deming context and nearly everyone else I hear where the use of tools is very limited and how it fits within the management system context is not understood with nearly the sophistication I hear from those that have worked with David. It really seems to me this difference is a special cause. A good special cause that others should learn from and see how to get that type of learning in their organizations.

I wish those that consult with business would learn from David how to integrate the use of quality tools and then apply that learning to their clients. That would significantly improve effectiveness of their consulting, in my opinion. I went to one of those 4 day courses in Montana with David Langford – that Jake Rodgers mentioned attending in his presentation (I went, probably 20 years ago). I am not in education. I learned plenty to apply in my workplace. My guess is anyone interested in applying Deming’s ideas (whatever field they are in or role they have in their organization) would learn a great deal in attending the seminar.

David is presenting one of those 4 day seminars with The W. Edwards Deming Institute the July 19-22, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The seminar is targeted at those working in education, but as my experience showed those that will benefit are not limited to educators.

Upcoming Deming Education Initiative events:

Related: Inquiring Minds: Improving Elementary Science by Linda LippeDo We Need to Find Management Ideas from Our Industry?Management is PredictionProcess Thinking at PatagoniaThe Problem is Likely Not the Person Pointing Out The Problem


Categorised as: education, process thinking


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