2013 Annual Deming Conference Recap: Homecoming At Purdue

Guest post by Mike Stoecklein [broken link removed]

I was at Purdue University this past weekend for what I would call a “homecoming”. I did not attend this university, but I still think of this as a homecoming.

The W. Edwards Deming Institute hosts an annual conference at universities around the United States. This year it is at Purdue.


We hold these meetings at universities in order to introduce Dr. Deming’s teachings to young people. We have to work way upstream. It’s too late to only introduce this in the work setting.

I have attended a number of these meetings over the years since Dr. Deming passed away in 1993. I plan to go every year from now on. It’s essential to stay connected to others who were influenced by Dr. Deming and to keep learning and sharing with others. Here’s Clare Crawford-Mason and John (Jack) Hillerich. I’d met Clare before, but not Jack. We are good friends now, part of a fraternity of sorts. Clare is working on a new book, “The New Wisdom: How to Survive And Prosper In A Rapidly Changing, Increasingly Complex World”. She is soliciting personal transformation stories to be included in the book. If you have a story to share about how Dr. Deming and his stories affected you and your personal transformation, send this information to Clare at cc-m@cc-m.com.


Here’s Kevin Cahill grandson of Dr. Deming officially welcoming the attendees to the event. The topic is sustainability and the knowledge we need to assure sustainability has been available for years. Dr. Deming’s system of profound knowledge can help to guide our efforts. We just need to understand and use that knowledge.


Ian Bradbury provides an overview of Dr. Deming’a ideas. Many in the audience are not that familiar with his work, or are only just now hearing about his contributions to the world.


The theme for this year’s conference is “Out Of The Crisis: New Thinking for A Sustainable World. Ian shows a plot of CO2 levels from ice core samples going back 800,000 years. What does the variation tell us? Special cause or common cause? Are we adversely (irreversibly) affecting the climate?


A data point in 2008 shows something different. Al Gore spoke about this in his documentary and work that won the Nobel prize. Special cause or common cause?


Dr. Deming always asked, “Why are we here? (@ this seminar & on earth); to learn, to have fun, and to make a difference.


We have already exceeded the capability of the earth. Can it be fixed?


The earth will be fine . Our society will not . Unless we change … Now


The $22 trillion carbon bubble . We are way past where we can survive.


Where do we start? Could we get these all in 1 room and convince them of new actions? 1000 companies, 20 countries, 40 cities, 10 billionaires.


Mark Mykleby, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-author of A National Strategic Narrative, spoke on the sustainability as a national imperative.

We need to talk about growth in qualitative (not quantitative) terms. We don’t have the right to prevent 3 billion people from entering global middle class. There’s not enough stuff to support everyone if we keep the current methods while billions more people enter the middle class.

The emphasis needs to be more about effectiveness not efficiency. Different thinking and systems are needed for our grand strategy.

The way we grow our food now is killing us. The farm economy centered on monolithic products like corn, grown inch-to-inch in and acre, squanders our precious water resources and creates a need to find ways to use corn. Therefore we get the proliferation of high-fructose corn syrup in lots of food. Also, we grow corn, feed cows and then eat cows. Not efficient and not good for us.

People say we can’t change the way we grow our food (or manage our resources). “That’s bullshit!”

Mark’s economic strategy working group is not about writing speeches and writing papers. Sustainability is our national strategy. Our constitution had action words. It’s we the people, not wait for Washington. The real sticking point is not global warming but about 401k’s. There is no fossil energy independence, it’s just kicking the can down the road. We have viewed the earth as part of the global economy, wrong! The global economy exists as part of the earth.


Randy Harward describes weekly finance meetings with all staff ‪at Western Mountaineering Company to turn the company around. It worked. He subsequently met and learned from Dr. Deming, then worked at Patagonia.


Sustainability = lower cost & higher profit. Patagonia provides used & repaired clothing. Patagonia sells a lot of clothing and that’s a problem, if you are going to contribute to global sustainability.


Reinforcement is a powerful force, consequences drive behavior. Rewards and punishment reinforce the consequences.


These are some of the consequences of rewards and punishment.


Tom Easterday from Subaru Indiana (SIA), the first manufacturing plant to go “zero landfill”.


Mr. Toyota attributed Toyota’s success to W.E. Deming, beginning in the early 1950s. It’s easy to go after the low-hanging fruit, but if you don’t have a system in place to continue to harvest the tree, the fruit will grow back.


Advice from Dr. Deming, “Let us ask our suppliers to come and help solve our problems.”


The proper order for sustainability is “reduce, then reuse, then recycle”. Recycling alone is an inefficient use of energy and resources.

In the evening we were treated to a presentation by Dr. Nida Backaitis who reflected on her internship with Dr. Deming.


I see myself in the lower right-hand portion of Nida’s slide presentation (more hair, no gray). For a close-up of the original photo, see my post on my blog: Reflections on My (Brief) Time with Dr. Deming [broken link removed].


Dr. Deming’s philosophy is even more relevant today. We are dealing with more complexity. Nida suggests that perhaps Dr. Deming over-estimated the readiness of our culture to understand and apply his knowledge.

Dr. Deming and Nida in the board room of Ford Motor Company. Dr. Deming asked them, “What do you do here?” Nida passed him a note, “they make cars Dr. Deming”. A smile from Dr. Deming. What business are you in? What business ought you be in? ”What do you do here?” What do you do to contribute to the aim?” Transformation begins with the individual. That’s how it will work in this country, or it won’t work at all.


Always the student and the teacher, Dr. Backaitis shares some helpful knowledge about stages of human development that shed some light on where Dr. Deming was in his thinking and where many of us are.


Some streams of work that might inform Deming’s work today:

Adult development theory:
– Susanne Cook-Greuter – “9 Levels of Increasing Embrace
– Bill Torbert – Action Inquiry – the Secret of Timely and Transformative Leadership
– Bill Joiner & Stephen Joseph – Leadership Agility
– Robert Kegan – In Over Our Heads

Neuroscience and Neuroleadership research:
– Dan Siegel – Mindsight
– David Rock – Quiet Leadership

Leadership’s role in creating clarity, constancy of purpose
– Patrick Lencioni – The Advantage

On the final day of the conference, we start the morning hearing from David Langford. This is always a treat. He describes a transformation effort at Leander (TX) school district that has been alive and well for the last 20 years.


The Leander Way started with 10 ethical principles derived from Dr. Deming’s 14 points made by cross cultural team of students, teachers and staff. This was real collaboration between students teachers within and between districts at Leander, with students creating a learning model. At the center of the model, the focus is student learning surrounded by key processes that support this. Students, teachers and staff used to feel like waiting for permission to improve, now they see that the improvement comes from within. The process was not without resistance. People had to work through the change.

David shared a mind-mapping tool with the audience, “what do you want to learn about?” There is no difference in culture in the things that count. People want to take joy in learning. That is universal. If you want long-term ‪sustainability and improvement in education, you need patience . If you want to improve learning stop teaching. Who are we supposed to trust? Many schools bring in the latest training or guru. It becomes the “flavor of the month”. The answer is, “trust yourself”.


There needs to be a continuous training and re-training process in improvement to assure constancy of purpose, If you don’t, it will die. Everyone has answers about how to fix education – standards, ranking teachers, no child left behind. Best efforts and common sense. Dr. Deming would say, “the destruction has to start somewhere”. Massive dollars wasted on destruction of intrinsic joy in learning., People (teachers) are not withholding “the good stuff”. They are not waiting for better incentive pay. They came Into their profession with intrinsic motivation. The system has beaten it out of them. In the 20th century, the smart people could memorize things. Now we need people who can transform information into something. Memorization of facts and information will not suffice. Knowing how to google something will not suffice. If you change the system and you are going to get a different result. We need to change the system, rather than recycling ignorance as we have tried.

A school using a chance to win a car to bribe students come to school. Will it work? “Doubtful,” said a student.


You start with the largest system over which you have influence. Too often we blame the containing systems (the administration, the district, the state, the rules, the government, the regulations). When David began, he posed this question to students: “I want to get a significantly different result, will you help me?” In the 20th century, learning was flexible, but time was rigid. Everyone had only short amount of time to try to learn, to try to earn the “A”. In the 21st century, time needs to be seen as flexible. Everyone can learn if the system will allow time to be variable. When we take fear out of the system, learning results.

Tad Radzinski from Sustainable Solutions describes systems approach to sustainability.


When we view the earth as a system, we see the “overview effect”, see earth as a planet as a spaceship. A few have seen spaceship earth, from a cosmic view. From here you can see the problem, man’s destructive impact on the spaceship.


Here’s a definition of sustainability. Optimizing the economic, social, and environment.


Everything you see in this photo is made from plastic (fossil-based). By 2030, 3 billion people are going to want this too. There’s not enough to go around.


We hear from Brian Joiner, who shared his journey started 1963 . He shared an office with Lola Deming (Dr. Deming’a wife). Brian described hiring Peter Scholtes, his work with Joiner Associates, meetings of the “Deming Consultants” (also called the Cosmos Club). Some are still meeting 25 years later, continuing to share ideas from each other.


Dr. Joiner started Sustain Dane, he shared this image with the Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin to illustrate the importance of the “externalities” and the relationship between improving quality and sustainability.


Attendees are advised to review a paper “Climate Change & Management” – a paper co-written by Andrew McKeon and Gipsy Ranney.

What’s next? The 20th Annual International Research Seminar in New York City, March 3-4, 2014. The deadline for abstracts is November 23, 2013.

The 2014 Fall Conference will be October 17-19, 2014 at California State University, Northridge. I hope to see you there.

Mike Stoecklein is responsible for overseeing the Healthcare Value Network, a peer-to-peer learning group which helps member organizations across North America learn, share and connect regarding the application of lean healthcare principles.

Prior to joining the Center, Mike served as an internal consultant in process improvement as a vice president with the Wheaton Franciscan System, Wheaton Illinois. Mike then became the health care market development manager at the American Society for Quality, facilitating ASQ’s involvement in health care improvement. Most recently, Mike was a vice president of Operations Improvement at Catholic Health Initiatives, providing performance improvement support, service, and assistance throughout a number of CHI facilities. Mike also served as an Examiner for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award from 1999 – 2004.

Mike has been learning, applying and teaching performance excellence principles since he first met Dr. W. Edwards Deming in 1985. Over a nine-year period, he worked briefly with Dr. Deming, supporting him in four of his 4-day seminars. Mike began his health care career as a medical technologist in the U.S. Navy, and then moved to management as a vice president in hospitals after receiving his master’s degree in Health Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1988.

Related: The Development of Deming’s Management System (2012 conference)The Neuroscience of Deming (2012 conference)Peter Scholtes on Managing People and Motivation (2008 conference)We Need to Understand Variation to Manage EffectivelyChange has to Start from the Top – Webcast with David Langford (2012 conference)

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