The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Two Tweets & A Blog


Guest blog by Bob Browne, author of Sys-Tao – Western Logic and Eastern Flow and former Chairman and CEO of the Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company

Tweet One

The question, “If Japan can, why can’t we?” conjures up the works of W. Edwards Deming. It also begs another question, “If the Japanese so easily understood what Deming was saying, why is it still so difficult for people in western societies to understand?”

Tweet Two

The answers to these questions may be that culturally the Japanese are better equipped to understand what Deming meant by his words, “Understanding Psychology.”

A Blog

In today’s world “Understanding Relationship’s” might be an easier way for us westerners to understand what Deming was trying to tell us. Deming was ahead of his time. The word “Relationships” better explains what the Japanese culture understood so naturally, and what our own modern physicists and neuroscientists are only beginning to understand today.

What follows is taken from a couple pages of my book, Sys-Tao – Western Logic and Eastern Flow.  It only begins to explain the importance of relationships. “Understanding Relationships” among people is every bit as important and as hard to master as is “Understanding Variations” among stuff…which is another one of Deming’s basic tenants.

Understanding Relationships

“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”  John C. Maxwell

Deming’s tenet of understanding psychology (or, in my words, understanding relationships) is a prerequisite to transforming traditional (western) leadership philosophies.

A more personal spin on Maxwell’s quote sounds something more like a clever quip that Yogi Berra might have made: If you don’t think about people, how are you going to get them to think about you?

This is not fluff. It is heavy stuff. It is what quantum physicists and neuroscientists are just beginning to sort out and understand. It is a very different paradigm. It’s about the relationships that make up our world more so than the stuff that is in our world.

Newton’s classical physics is all about stuff. Matter is what matters most. It deals with inanimate objects that can be easily measured with our five senses. It is a left-brained reductionist view of the world in which everything can be reduced to its most basic elements, analyzed and reassembled into a mechanistic model that theoretically can predict the outcome of any transaction. It permeates our western culture.

Quantum physics, on the other hand, is all about relationships. It deals less with causal relations, and much more with co-relations of things we cannot perceive with our five senses —things like force fields instead of stuff, waves instead of particles, and energy instead of matter.

They are both good theories, but to understand one you must in some way let go of the other. Unfortunately, in the case of quantum physics there is very little for us to grab on to.

Quantum physics has been around for over 100 years, but just like the teachings of Deming, it is difficult to comprehend because we have so few “just-like” references (metaphors) to visualize what it is telling us.  For the most of us, Newton makes perfect sense, and this quantum physics “stuff” sounds like gibberish.

In 1975, Fritjof Capra wrote a groundbreaking book, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism.   In another book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, Gary Zukav writes about the mystic’s interpretation of quantum physics.   Both books remain best sellers because they provide valuable just-like references necessary for us to comprehend these – you guessed it – right-brained ideas.

Likewise, modern neuroscience has now determined that even our brains are better explained using this quantum approach.

Let’s save the science for the next chapter.   First, let’s just focus on the main point:  Relationships are more important than stuff.

John Wooden, the famous basketball coach at UCLA. won ten national championships, yet his coaching advice more often emphasized relationships over winning.   For instance, he told his players to always thank the teammate who passed the ball after you made a basket.  One player asked him this was possible during a game.   Wooden responded, “Just give him a nod or throw him a finger.”   The player said, “What if he’s not looking?”   Wooden said, “He will be.”

Coach Wooden understood the importance of relationships and his leadership philosophies were a constant reminder.   To learn more about Wooden’s leadership philosophies, go to Sys-Tao/links.   You will see that he was always telling us: It is the way we play, and not the score, that matters.


Another Tweet

“If you don’t go to your friends’ funeral, they won’t come to yours.”   Yogi Berra



In this ambitious and wide-ranging book (Sys-Tao), Bob Browne tells the story of the Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company, and of his career-long journey to find a better way—more efficient, more caring, more capable—for the people and the processes under his leadership. Along the way, he explains the principles necessary in order to establish a more lifelike “Process Control Environment”—something very different from the more traditional “Command and Control” structures that are so familiar in western business—and he points to illuminating connections and convergences found everywhere in the world around us, from eastern spirituality, to biological evolution, to modern neuroscience.

On April Fools Day 1980, Bob Browne and his partners invested $7.5 million in a Leveraged Buy Out (LBO) to buy an Oklahoma based Coca-Cola bottling company. When they sold the company in 2011, they had recouped over $400 million in after-tax dollars!

Ask Bob if this was his crowning achievement, and he will quickly say, “No”.

On April Fools Day 2010, Bob stepped down as President of what had become his life’s work. Privately, he began plans to sell the business and write a book in order to answer this question.

The book, Sys-Tao – Western Logic & Eastern Flow, is about the journey…not the results. The answer to this question is about a transformation…a transformation that Bob believes would make W. Edwards Deming very proud.

Categorised as: Dr. Deming, management systems, psychology, respect for people, systems thinking

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