The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

My First Trip To Japan by Peter Scholtes

The Philadelphia Area Council for Excellence organized a tour to visit businesses Japan in 1985 and learn from them. 38 people participated in the trip including Peter Scholtes; William Hunter (my father); Brian and Laurel Joiner; Myron Tribus; and David and Carole Schwinn (David and Carole are presenting at our annual conference in September). Peter Scholtes wrote a report on the visit: My First Trip To Japan.

While in Japan the group also attended the JUSE Deming Award ceremony where W. Edwards Deming spoke.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming himself gave what was billed as a “special lecture” on the “Foundations for Success of Japanese Industry.” In fact, it was a scolding. He told the Japanese managers that they had an obligation to the world to uphold the finest of management techniques. He warned them that they were mistakenly allowing into Japanese companies the use of certain Western Management practices – such as management by objectives (MBO) and performance standards. These practices, Deming warned, are largely responsible for the failure of Western industry to remain competitive.

“Just as a healthy body can be brought down by an infection contracted from outside itself,” Deming admonished, “so too can Japanese management – the finest in the world – be infected by poor management practices imported from the West!” Using a blackboard, Deming then applied a statistically-based analysis to demonstrate how performance evaluation was fallacious. Deming’s performance was a tour-de-force; vintage Deming: wide-ranging inflections with his deep, booming voice, abrupt changes of pitch and pace, histrionic and profoundly true.

They visited numerous companies to learn from them.

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2016 W. Edwards Deming Institute Annual Conference, 16 to 18 September 2016

2016 Deming Institute Annual Conference
September 16 – 18, 2016
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan

Find more information and the registration form.

This webcast is a clip from Ian Bradbury’s presentation at a previous annual conference.


  • Eric Budd, Improvement Coordinator at Peaker Services
  • Dennis Sergent, President & Principal Consultant – Sergent Results Group
  • Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry, Founding Partners – Modus Cooperandi and Co-Authors of “Personal Kanban”


  • Ian Bradbury, President and CEO of Peaker Services, Inc.
  • Kevin Cahill, Executive Director of The W. Edwards Deming Institute®
  • Tim Higgins, NASA System & Mission Assurance Specialist
  • David P. Langford, President & CEO, Langford International
  • Jim Manley, Former GM & Supplier Manager, Chair of Michigan Lean Consortium
  • Wendi Middleton, Director, Program and Partnership Division, and the BOLD Council, Aging & Adult Services Agency of State of Michigan
  • Clifford L. Norman, Leadership and Improvement Consultant, Associates in Process Improvements, Co-author of two books, “The Improvement Guide – A Practical Approach to Enhancing Organizational Performance” and “Transforming Healthcare Leadership: A Systems Guide to Improve Patient Care, Decrease Costs and Improve Population Health”
  • David & Carole Schwinn, Co-Creators of the Transformation of American Industry & Total Quality Transformation Training Systems, Co- Authors of “The Transformative Workplace”
  • Kentaro Toyama, Associate Professor, University of Michigan – School of Information and Author of ”Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology”

Export anything to a friendly country except American management

One of the reasons quotes by W. Edwards Deming are so popular is that he had an incredible understanding of the practice of management. Another reason they are popular is he had a sense of humor that was captured well in several popular quotes.

Image with the quote: "Export anything to a friendly country except American management." W. Edwards Deming

This quote is included on the back of The Deming Management Method by Mary Walton. W. Edwards Deming understood humor was sometimes a good way to push for change. This quote is a good example of that.

Dr. Deming felt a great desire to improve people’s lives by improving the workplace. I discussed my belief on what might have created this strong desire in him in the first blog post on this blog.

In this quote he was criticizing management in the USA in order to try and spark a desire to improve the sorry state of management practice in the USA in the 1980s. I think things are better today, but not nearly good enough. And not nearly what he would have expected decades after he uttered that quote.

Part of the reason improvement has been so slow is that while many people seem to like sharing such quotes with their friends and colleagues very few people dig into the context of his quotes in order to learn how to actually improve. Humor is useful is piquing people’s interest. Sadly even if thousands of people appreciate and share such a quote, very few actually think about what they can do in their organization to improve the situation. Some people do, and that is wonderful.

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Why Some Things in Education Work….and Others Don’t

Presentation by JW Wilson at our 2015 Deming in Education conference: Why Some Things in Education Work….and Others Don’t:

There is a mismatch between what science knows and what education does.

This is true in education and management. We are not very effective at adjusting existing practices based on new knowledge.

In his presentation JW Wilson talked a great deal on impact of stress and extrinsic motivation on the biology of the brain.

Upcoming Deming Education Initiative events:

Specification-based Management is Not Sufficient

Guest post by Bill Bellows (originally written as a comment about the question of how Dr. Deming viewed six sigma).

While Dr. Deming was known for his appreciation of continuous improvement, he was also know for encouraging us to think of variation and improvement from a systems perspective. As such, I do not believe he would be a Black Belt.

Note that Dr. Deming ended his last book, The New Economics, with this quotation (first stated by Don Wheeler);

Conformance to requirements, Zero Defects, and Six Sigma [Quality], and all other specification-based nostrums, all miss the point.”

As to what point, I suggest his focus was the degree to which a specification-based focus, which is integral to Six Sigma Quality, Zero Defect quality, and even most lean efforts, which each carry on the world-wide 200+ year-old tradition of “interchangeable parts.” That is, the belief that all parts that meet requirements are good and equally good. Such models ignore variation within meeting requirements and implement variation reduction efforts to achieve zero defects as the end goal. Yet, are all newly degreed medical doctors the same?

As pointed out by John Betti, a Ford VP of Operations in the early 1980s, this assumption (all parts which meet requirements are good and equally good) has not been “rigorously and not so rigorously challenged.” Betti’s realization of the limits of “specification-based” thinking is based upon Ford’s 1983 discovery of the dramatic difference in warranty claims between an automatic transmission designed by Ford and built by both Ford and Mazda.

Ford’s design was produced using a classic “conformance to requirements” strategy, very much the world standard. As documented by Ford (and Henry Neave, in his book, The Deming Dimension), Mazda’s design followed the thinking of Genichi Taguchi’s Quality Loss Function, wherein they focussed their attention on the “gap” between the bore (hole) diameter and the outer diameter of the valve, realizing that variation in the ideal gap between them was essential to maintain. In so doing, Mazda managed variation as a system, to improve the function of the transmission. Ford managed variation of the parts, under the model of “conformance to requirements.” According to Neave’s book, Ford collected over 1,000,000 data points on 10 transmissions from Ford and Mazda, all chosen randomly, to realize that Mazda’s “mind the gap” focus was remarkably different (and better for customers) than Ford’s “mind the part” focus.

The last chapter of The New Economics explains Dr. Taguchi’s Loss Function concept and how this strategy challenges “conformance to requirements.” Dr. Deming promoted the practice of managing variation as a system, which does not “miss the point” of “conformance to requirements” he was addressing.

This video from Ford includes many details of this account. Henery Neave’s book adds a great deal more.

If anyone is interested, I have written extensively on the difference between “conformance to requirements” and “minding the gaps“; see a collection of articles available online.

Related: Lean Management Journal Articles by Bill BellowsUsing Deming’s Management Methods to Enhance the Application of Taguchi’s Ideas

From Chaos to Process at Fitness Matters

photos of Travis Timmons and Kelly Allan

Travis Timmons and Kelly Allan

From Chaos to Process at Fitness Matters, a Deming Institute podcast (download podcast) with Travis Timmons, owner of Fitness Matters and Kelly Allan, Senior Associate of Kelly Allan Associates and Chair of the Deming Institute Advisory Board.


A few years ago I would ask is there was any issues or things that could be improved upon and it was kind of “radio silence” – knowing full well that we had things that were not working as we needed them too. Fast forward to where we are at today – we didn’t have time to get through, a lot of it was wins of things going well, but also we need to tweak this part of the system or tweak that part of the system. And when it turns to looking at everything as a system that servers everyone, and everyone is part of the system, then it really makes it comfortable to talk about it.

Travis understands that more problems being raised is a good sign. This is one of the aspects of understanding data that many people do not understand. You cannot simply look at data and draw conclusions. You must understand the system that is generating that data.

I still remember, decades later, Brian Joiner explaining that when you adopt Deming’s ideas properly customer complaints will increase. It is not a sign more problems exist. It is a sign you are now mining the potential information that previously you ignored (often with system designed in ways that encouraged ignoring bad indicators through things such as a fear based management system, seeking to find who should be blamed for bad results, etc.).

A few years into their journey of adopting Deming’s ideas to manage their organization Travis says they find:

When you walk into work, you enjoy walking into work and knowing you are going to make a difference in people’s lives. At the end of the day what more could you ask for.

Related: Deming 101: Kelly Allan’s Presentation at Our 2014 Annual ConferenceDeming Podcast with Dick Steele, Chairman of Peaker ServicesJim Benson on Applying Deming’s Ideas to Knowledge Work

Minimize Total Cost

End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.

Point 4 in Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s 14 Points for Management

This point is one of the less controversial points (at least the first 2 sentences of it). Looking at total costs instead of just the price is hard to argue with. So if a product would last twice as long it is obviously silly to buy the alternative just because you save 5% on the initial price. This isn’t a controversial idea.

Though it is something that is often done when organizations fail to take a long term view, fail to see the organization as a system, fail to see the dangers of simplistic targets (purchasing will reduce costs by 5% this year…), etc.

There are many other examples: buying cheaper software that wastes much more staff time than the savings by buying cheap software in the first place, cutting call center costs that result in frustrated customers going to competitors, etc..

Another common way of explaining this point is to discuss the problems created when organizations have created management systems that encourage decisions based on what is best for parts of the organizations. So when each department is appraised on whether they cut their costs each will seek to do so, no matter how much that increases the costs for other departments. The problems of this are fairly obvious and it isn’t that those choosing to create systems that focus on improving the parts want to accept these consequences.

Often some attempt to mitigate against the problems of parts of the system seeking to optimize their own portion of the system at the expense of other parts is made. But this is rarely done effectively. If people are appraised and given bonuses based on meeting their numbers, for their part of the system, it is very likely those choices will subordinate overall total costs to the costs they will be judged on.

While the foolishness of only paying attention to short term cost is fairly obvious the systemic drivers that lead to doing so are often not nearly so obvious. And even when those risks are seen it is often easier to hope we can avoid the risks by being careful than to change the system to address those risks.

And Dr. Deming also brings in the idea of working with suppliers as partners over the long term as one of the aspects of this point. This may seem a bit confusing to people. And for good reason, I think. The 14 points were his attempt to create a fairly easy to explain and digest view on his management ideas. But it was not a complete encapsulation of his management system.

As Dr. Deming realized the issues using the 14 points as a tool to introduce his management ideas he evolved the System of Profound Knowledge as a better way to view his management system. I don’t think he every really meant the 14 points to be seen as that overall view, but to some extent it did gain such as status (though with numerous other additions: organization as a system diagram, 7 deadly diseases, statistical tools…). And when he saw the problems created when people viewed the 14 points as something other than what he intended them to be he adjusted how he presented his ideas.

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Leadership Principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Presentation by Joyce Orsini

In this presentation at the Reliability Conference Joyce Orsini discusses the Leadership Principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Joyce in an emeritus Board Member of The W. Edwards Deming Institute, editor of The Essential Deming, and Director of the former Deming Scholars MBA Program at Fordham University Graduate School of Business.

She discusses various topics including looking at the problems with the typical budget process still used in many organizations. She also discussed why Dr. Deming used the term continual improvement instead of continuous improvement (you can see we have a continual improvement category for this blog not a continuous improvement category). “Continuous improvement” ignores discontinuous improvement such as innovation which are an important part of the Deming management system while continual improvement includes continuous and discontinuous improvement.

Joyce Orsini (from the presentation):

Whose job is it to work on continual improvement? Whose job is it to work on quality? It is not a quality department… It has to be everyone’s responsibility to improve quality. And everyone has to know what it is that they can do, what methods they can use to improve.

As the links in the above quote discuss it is important to not just give people responsibility but to provide them the training and proper management system that will allow them to succeed.

Joyce also demonstrates the Red Bead Experiment. Joyce’s presentation is closer to Dr. Deming’s than many demonstrations you see today (often you will find presenters are hesitant to make people uncomfortable). I happen to think this style is more compelling at driving home the lessons of the demonstration, though it is uncomfortable to behave as a demanding manager in front of a room full of people.

As Joyce says, we need to

get rid of all these things [performance appraisal, “merit system”, bonuses…] that were used as motivational tools because they rob people of the ability to take pride in their work

Related: Podcast with Joyce Orsini and Kevin CahillUsing Data to Seek Continual Improvement, Not Just to Monitor ProcessesCustomer Focus by Everyone

A New Synthesis from a Transcending Perspective to Personal Improvement

Clare Crawford Mason spoke at the The W. Edwards Deming Institute conference in l997 in Alexandria, Virginia. Here is an excerpt from that talk: Profound Knowledge: A New Synthesis from a Transcending Perspective to Personal Improvement

We are all familiar with the systems diagram Dr. Deming put on the blackboard in l950 to show the Japanese industrial leaders that manufacturing was a system and should include the customer and supplier and be continually improved.

I think of this drawing as a revolutionary artifact like Newton’s falling apple and James Watt’s mother’s tea kettle. All involve ideas that changed the world. Today I want to bring you up to date on a sequel to that original story about Dr. Deming and his philosophy.

This new logic requires that we modify our thinking and expand our language. You will remember that Dr. Deming said it took at least three exposures for anyone to begin to understand his ideas. Some student’s left the four-day seminars transformed and some left angry.

Physicist David Bohm describes this new world in his book “Wholeness and The Implicate Order.” The Implicate Order (from the Latin “to be enfolded”) is “a level of reality beyond our normal everyday thoughts and perceptions, as well as beyond any picture of reality offered by a given scientific theory.”

Practically, what we are talking about is a directed approach to radically increasing the problem-solving and teamwork skills of people working in Deming organizations. Or using this problem solving and teamwork building to introduce Deming to organizations. These are skills that have surfaced in the past, but randomly. We are working on devising a directed approach.

Read the entire talk and relive an interesting discussion of the possibilities to expand Deming’s ideas in combination with the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, Georg Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.

Related: Made in Japan Is No Joke Now, Thanks to Edwards Deming (article by Clare Crawford Mason): – Deming Podcast with Bob Mason and Clare Crawford-MasonDeming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 PointsIf Japan Can… Why Cant We? – 1980 NBC Special Report

Silos to Systems: Presentation by Lisa Snyder

Silos to Systems: Our Journey to World Class – presentation by Lisa Snyder at the First Annual Deming in Education conference.

In one of the videos included in the presentation we hear this quote

In this model you really are a team of teachers. And that is a shift in mindset a shift in thinking but it is also a very exciting proposition for educators to have a much more meaningful experience for themselves as well.

This expresses one of the universal themes in applying Deming’s ideas. The words don’t sound that impressive. The value of working together as teams cooperating with a shared purpose instead of as isolated individuals is not a new idea. And so there is lots of talk about teamwork, working together, etc.. The problem is most often there is very little behind the words.

So when someone hears things like “you really are a team of teachers” they think ok, I have heard that 5 times in various “new” improvement efforts in the last 15 years of my career and it means nothing. We work just as we have when no one talked about teams we just use that word a bunch because someone decided we should.

What matters is not using words like team, viewing the organization as a system, etc. but dramatically changing behavior so that those words are describing something radically different from the old ways of thinking and acting.

When you really do work in an organization where you really are a team of teachers it is a profound difference. But when you work in a place that starts using the word team a lot it rarely is a sign of difference. It is important to remember that just because many organizations talk about teamwork and behave in the old ways and so make it seem that this talk of teamwork is useless babbling that this misses the point.

Yes using the work teamwork while doing things the old ways (individual performance appraisals, jobs descriptions that people must fit themselves into instead of a system that adjusts to the strengths and availability of people, etc.) isn’t of value. But don’t think that means there isn’t profound change when the organization truly is a team working together. That change is profound.

Watch the video to get a small appreciation for how this has worked in Lakeville Public Schools. And for those in education in addition to gaining an appreciation for real teamwork you can gain an appreciation for open classrooms, flexible student schedules (including work with students of different ages) and other education specific information.

For those of you not in education think of the ways your organization is locked into tasks given to individuals to deal with (similar to 1 teacher for 1 classroom). There are likely innovative ways you can change your management systems to create real teamwork. I’ll say in my opinion creating real teamwork is much harder than people think but the rewards are even greater than most imagine they can be.

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