Deming Today Archives

Deming Today explores how the theories and teachings of Dr. Deming are currently being put into practice by organizations in the US and around the world. What are their transformative experiences like? What challenges did they face along the way? What can a path of continual improvement lead to for a business, nonprofit, school, or government agency? Evolutionary or revolutionary, the stories, articles and blogs presented in Deming Today provide examples to inspire and encourage you and your organization to take the bold and often courageous steps in embracing and applying the Deming philosophy in your business or organization.



Ed Baker, former board member of The Deming Institute, on "What Business School Isn't Teaching You"

Aileron has posted a Q&A session with Ed Baker, author of "The Symphony of Profound Knowledge," titled, “What Business School Isn’t Teaching You”.


Deming Research Fellow, Ravi Roy, brings "The W. Edwards Deming Institute for Public Affairs" to Southern Utah University


Psychology in the System of Profound Knowledge


Many only recall Dr. Deming’s thoughts on using data to improve and think that his ideas were limited to this area. Dr. Deming however, understood that when managing organizations of people, that those people are fundamental to any attempt to improve. People are the source of value. People are what allow the organization to continually improve. The people in the organization are what will make it successful.

Acknowledging the human nature of the people in organizations is fundamental to Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge. I am not sure why this is so often ignored. Toyota understood: making respect for people one of the two pillars of the Toyota Production System (also known as lean manufacturing).

Continue reading our original blog post: Psychology – Managing Human Systems.


The Theory of Knowledge in Deming's Management System

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance – it is the illusion of knowledge.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

What do we know that isn’t so? How can we avoid the mistakes we are in danger of making in our thinking? How can we improve the learning process?
These are some of the questions that led Dr. Deming to include the “theory of knowledge” in the System Of Profound Knowledge.

While many of his ideas have found their way into other management theories (focus on the customer, variation, systems thinking, innovation, continual improvement, data based decision making, the importance of psychology…) you rarely hear about the importance of understanding how people think, and act, based on what they believe they know to be true. That is core to a theory of knowledge.

Continue reading our original blog post on Theory of Knowledge in the Deming context.


Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge

image of cover of Deming Starter Library videos

The System Of Profound Knowledge® (SoPK) is the culmination of W. Edwards Deming’s lifelong work. The SoPK ties together Dr. Deming’s seminal theories and teachings on quality, management and leadership into four interrelated areas: appreciation for a systemknowledge of variationtheory of knowledge and psychology.

Continue reading our blog post on Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.



Deming Chain Reaction

image of Deming's chain reaction - improve quality, decrease costs, gain sales, add jobs

The prevailing action during the crisis Dr. Deming alluded to in the title of his books was to cut costs to improve profits. Massive layoffs of employees would get executives big bonuses and send stock prices up. Sadly focusing on cost cutting and layoffs is too often still the way some executives think.

Continue reading our original blog post on the Deming Chain Reaction.


Dr. W. Edwards Deming - 7 Deadly Diseases of Western Management

Dr. Deming added 2 diseases to the lists after this video. He was always learning and updating his thoughts and recommendations. As we have stated earlier, this blog attempts to continue that practice by examining Dr. Deming’s ideas and also looking at how those ideas have evolved as they have been applied.

Continue reading the original post on our blog


Dr. Deming on Innovation

cover image for The New Economics

Dr. Deming understood the importance of innovation and creativity. His management system emphasized the importance of focusing on these areas. His thoughts on that importance was not hidden away, it was at the core of what he taught. For example, on page 10 of the New Economics:

The moral is that it is necessary to innovate, to predict needs of the customer, give him more. He that innovates and is lucky will take the market.

No defects, no jobs. Absence of defects does not necessarily build business… Something more is required.

Continue reading our second blog post: Dr. Deming on Innovation


The Learning Cycle: PDCA vs PDSA

Watch this short video from Jamie Flinchbaugh

Read more about the PDSA Learning cycle from Ian Bradbury and read about the history and evolution of the PDSA cycle.  As Jamie mentions the PDSA cycle has become the foundation of continual improvement for many different flavors of management improvement efforts.  

Taking the time to get the most out of using the PDSA cycle to learn and improve is important.  We often touch on aspects of how to use the PDSA cycle most effectively on our blog.

Find resources for using the PDSA cycle to improve results.


The First Post on The Deming Institute Blog

Excerpt from the first post on The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

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. 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.


Integrating Strategy and Execution

Excerpt from Wanted: Ambidextrous Leaders by Art Kleiner

"It was tempting to think of Deming as just another execution guy. His background was in statistical process control, and he was very comfortable on the shop floor. But his subject was the nexus point between strategy and execution, and he believed that the caliber of a company’s operations should affect its leaders’ business decisions. Unless a company could combine strategy and execution in a meaningful way, it would be vulnerable to upstart competitors who did."


Clayton Christensen’s Theory of Jobs to be Done

See our blog post exploring Clayton Christensen’s Theory of Jobs to be Done

Competing Against Luck

In Clayton Christensen’s new book, Competing Against Luck, the authors delve into the importance of gaining a deep understanding of what your customers desire. The book lays out a Theory of Jobs to be Done in a very compelling way. To me this is a great example of extending Deming’s ideas with a great deal of useful content on how to effectively become more customer focused.


The understanding of the complex needs of customers and the importance of managing the organization as a system to consistently delight customers is integrated throughout the book (and Clayton Christensen’s other work).


Gipsie Ranney

Post on our Blog: Gipsie Ranney


Gipsie Ranney

Sadly, we have to announce the passing of our dear friend Gipsie Ranney on March 7th. Gipsie Ann Bush Ranney was born in Kingsport, Tennessee to Raymond and Lola Bush. 

Gipsie Ranney was the first president of The W. Edwards Deming Institute. A resident of Brentwood, Tennessee and an avid supporter of the Nashville Symphony, Gipsie was an international consultant to organizations on management, quality improvement and statistical methodology. She co-authored Beyond Total Quality Management: Toward the Emerging Paradigm, and also contributed to Competing Globally Through Customer Value.

In appreciation of her “outstanding contribution in advancing the theory and practice of statistical thinking to the management of enterprises worldwide,” the American Society for Quality awarded her the Deming Medal for 1996.

Read the full post on our blog.



More is Not Always Better

Doing a little more is not always doing your best by J. Gerald Suarez

Enough is really enough. Gas pumps have an automatic shut-off to prevent us from overflowing the tank. The “click” we hear is fair warning. The “click” in real life takes its form as stress and burnout, leading to health conditions, accelerated aging and damaged relationships. These are all signs that we have not stopped pumping. Even at this point, some of us continue to go back and pump some more.


Implementing Change Using Kanban

Dan BImplementing Change Using Kanban

Bottlenecks are exacerbated because we are working in large batches. Our partner appears to be working in batches of 25. So what happens is we get nothing then all of the sudden we get a whole lot.


Also, it will impact us further down stream because the large clog just goes downstream. We’ve been talking about batches lately and the trouble of working with large ones. I even showed my manager the concept of single-piece flow. At first he was skeptical, but I think he began to see its merits.

image of a kanban whiteboard with post it notes


W. Edwards Deming Discussing the Leadership We Need in Our Organizations

Post on our Blog: W. Edwards Deming Discussing the Leadership We Need in Our Organizations

In the video Bill Scherkenbach asks: Where could good management come from and Dr. Deming replies:

Adopt the attitude that they need to learn and that we can do it.

It must be developed. You certainly can’t import it.

So many think it is instant pudding. Just tell us what to do and we will do it.

Read our full post on our blog.


Why Your Employees Are Always Putting Out Fires

Why Your Employees Are Always Putting Out Fires by Elizabeth Doty


Elizabeth Doty “Create constancy of purpose.” Without a sense of the bigger picture — what you are trying to accomplish and why it matters — people naturally default to fixing problems. Unfortunately, this approach never creates the level of delight or innovation that wins you customers for life. Deming encouraged managers to focus explicitly on a mission and longer-term goals to counter-balance the pull of immediate issues. This means defining clearly what you are promising to your customers, so employees know what they should strive to deliver. Even in highly dynamic environments, such a meaningful mission can provide constancy while tactics and strategies shift.




How to Stay the Course Amid Constant Turbulence

How to stay the course amid constant turbulence by J. Gerald Suarez

Without a clear and explicit articulation of our desired destination, the turbulence of the moment could end up taking our “flight” somewhere else. The late W. Edwards Deming, world-renowned quality expert, admonished us to create “constancy of purpose” or “aim” as part of any individual or organizational pursuit of continual improvement.


How to Use Data and Avoid Being Mislead by Data

image of book cover

Post on our blog: How to Use Data and Avoid Being Mislead by Data

One of the four areas of Deming’s management system is “understanding variation.” The core principle underlying that concept is using data to improve while understanding what data is and is not telling you.

The mistakes in interpreting data are very often related to mistaking natural variation in data as meaningful. Combining this with our brains ability to find patterns (even from random data) and confirmation bias this creates problems.


How Not to be Wrong is an excellent book by Jordan Eilenberg on how to use math to avoid making mistakes.


Agile Africa 2016 Talk: Why we owe so much to Dr Deming

Presentation by Simon Stewart, Code Skills, at Agile Africa 2016: Why we owe so much to Dr Deming



Bad Management Practice: Sales Quotas

Read the full Blog post: Using Outdated Management Practices Can Be Very Costly

Readers of this blog are aware of the problems created by using quotas: Achieved the goal by not the aim (2013) – The Futility of a Numerical Goal (2014)Distorting the System, Distorting the Data or Improving the System (2013)Dr. Deming on the problems with targets or goals.

Unfortunately, Wells Fargo recently has been dealing with the result of years of using such quotas as part of their management system...

"numerical goals set for other people, without a road map to reach the goal, have effects opposite to the effects sought." W. Edwards Deming



Using the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) with the Deming Philosophy

Using TRIZ with Deming Philosophy by Ellen Domb and Bill Bellows

"A Deming-based transformation is often a challenging road for organizations to travel, with ample opportunities for the organization to become detoured or even reverse course and chart a path back to the 'prevailing system of management.' Organizations that have embraced Dr. Deming’s transformation have become models for successful change in many areas. These are the most likely organizations to adopt TRIZ and maintain application momentum. This offers a vast investment opportunity for many TRIZ practitioners."

Read the full article using the link above.


An Interview with Donald J. Wheeler (2011)

See the full Interview with Donald J. Wheeler by Dirk Dusharme

"So, whether we call it the Shewhart cycle, the Deming cycle, [plan-do-check-act] PDCA, [plan-do-study-act] PDSA, or [define, measure, analyze, improve, control] DMAIC, Deming’s ideas are found at the heart of every effective improvement effort. Such ideas, like all profound truths, are eternally valid.

This also applies to the analysis of data. Since process behavior charts serve as an operational definition of how to get the most out of any process, they remain the foundation for successful process improvement. They work by highlighting those places and times when your process is changing, so that you can focus on these periods of change and discover the forces that affect your process."


Deming Institute Blog Post on The Capacity Matrix

A Powerful Tool: The Capacity Matrix

"One of the things that I learned about at that seminar was using a capacity matrix to improve student learning. It is one of those ideas that when you hear about it, immediately you realize this is a vastly superior method to those current used. I am cynical/experienced enough to know that just because much better methods are available, and explained to people, is no guaranty they will be used."

Read our full blog post.


Thinking Together About Thinking Tools & Processes (conference call 12 Nov 2015)

Tim Higgins will present on Thursday, November 12th, 2015, from 11:30-1pm Pacific Time on the topic of "Thinking Together About Thinking Tools & Processes."
Beginning in 1995, InThinking Roadmap efforts have combined thinking tools from Edward De Bono with the rational thinking processesof Kepner-Tregoe, coupled with robust design concepts from Genichi Taguchi, and systems awareness from Barry Oshry and Russ Ackoff, all built upon a foundation of Dr. Deming's System of Profound Knowledge. In so doing, the efforts acknowledge the advantage of the efficiency of tools and processes, guided by Profound Knowledge.
Following on his 2014 session, Tim will share his thoughts on the  contrast between the use of Russ Ackoff's model of Idealized Design(creating the future) and the use of cause networks (an analysis of the past).  Says Tim, "While studying the past can be informative and is likely a necessary condition for restoring the system to its normal condition, the objective is to return to the status quo.  Problem Analysis will not improve the current system.  Idealized Design aims at improving the status quo, with a focus on the future."

Rudy Hernandez _L_ and Tim Higgins _R_

Rudy Hernandez & Tim Higgins

As for his background, Tim has been working for the past six years as a System and Mission Assurance Specialist representing NASA's interests on the J-2X and RS-25 liquid fuel rocket engines designed and manufactured for NASA by AR in Canoga Park. His NASA management in Huntsville, Alabama, told him his job was to make Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR) better. He works in partnership with the AR's InThinking Network, offering courses that are along An InThinking Roadmap. In partnership with AR's integrated product teams and program management, he facilitates team member efforts aimed at better understanding cause-effect relationships, processes, improvement potentials, and risks. 

In addition, Tim is fascinated by the implications of quantum physics - inseparability of the observer from the thing observed, particle wave duality, entanglement - especially when extended beyond the realm of the very small. He has managed to play the beautiful game (futebol) for the last forty-six years and at the same time invest twenty-nine years as a Rocketdyne employee and eight years as a high school math and English teacher.


Micromanage Processes, Not People

Micromanage Processes, Not People by Rob Miller 


"we should be using our current assessments only as a means to identify flaws in our educational processes. If we used them effectively (to correct PROCESS defects), we would no longer have to rely on mass assessments of PEOPLE, because QUALITY would be infused in all organizational practices.


By focusing on fixing the teacher, we might cause them to improve, but we will be right back at square one when the next new teacher arrives.

By fixing the process, all new teachers coming to the school in the future will reap the benefits of a more supportive culture and experience a higher level of success and job satisfaction."

Rob Miller

Related posts on our blog: How Did We Do on the Test?Attributing Fault to the Person Without Considering the SystemI read them. Not to grade them. No, I read them to see how I am doing." W. Edwards Deming

Rob Miller

Rob Miller



Meeting Specifications Versus Seeking Continual Improvement

"On the one hand, we have approaches that regard quality merely in terms of conformance to requirements, meeting specifications, and zero defects. On the other hand, we have Deming’s demand for continual improvement—a never-ending fight to reduce variation. The probability approach can only cope with the former. Shewhart’s own work was inspired by the need for the latter."

Read the full article, Shewhart and the Probability Approach by Don Wheeler and Henry Neave


Applying Dr. Deming’s Ideas at the Lakeville Public School System


Lisa Snyder

Dr. Lisa Snyder, Superintendent of the Lakeville Public Schools shares how the work of Dr. Deming is influencing her as a superintendent and the rewards and challenges of adopting his philosophies in the latest Deming podcast.

Lisa will be speaking at the First Annual Deming in Education Conference next week.

Read our blog post on her podcast.

Follow @DemingPodcast on Twitter.





How Do You Know?

David Couper chief of police.  

"It is simply foolish to begin to spend time and money on a new police improvement measure without knowing where you stand in the first place; where your baseline is. Otherwise, you will never be able to honestly answer the critical question that will surely come from your community members, 'How do you know what you have just made a major expenditure of time and money is effective?' In short, 'How do you know?'"

David Couper wrote the above words in his blog post about using Deming's ideas to help improve policing: How Do You Know?

David wrote a guest post on The W. Edwards Deming Institute blog previously: Quality Beginnings: Deming and Madison, Wisconsin. Dr. Deming includes a few pages on the efforts within the city government  of Madison, Wiconsin to apply Deming's ideas in Out of the Crisis.





InThinking Network Conference Call:  A Tribute to Myron Tribus




Aerojet Rocketdyne's InThinking Network welcomes Friends and Family of Myron Tribus, from across the US and UK, to lead our tenth Ongoing Discussion conference call of 2015 on October 29th and 30th and also our 190th session since we began in January 2000.   As for a topic, we have selected "A Tribute to Myron Tribus" as the focus of our conversation with them.   


I almost met Myron when he visited Aerojet Rocketdyne (then a division of Rockwell International) in the Summer of 1995, when he was invited to speak at our National Management Association chapter dinner.   In a style of exploration I came to appreciate, Myron asked to be taken on a "walk" through our entire facility, starting with Receiving and ending with Shipping.   Later that night, as the after-dinner speaker, he gave his impressions, pulling no punches, which was also his style.   While I was on business travel during this visit, I have an audio tape of this session, which I will post when I find it in my archives.   Link here if you would like to be notified when it is available for use. 


Continue reading on the InThinking Network newsletter



Deming Blog: Why Copying Practices From Other Organizations Doesn't Work

New post on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog - People Copy Examples and Wonder Why They Don’t Succeed

People copy examples and then they wonder what is the trouble. They look at examples and without theory they learn nothing.

W. Edwards Deming, in The Deming of America


Experience Often Teaches You The Wrong Lessons


Kelly Allan

New Blog post from Kelly Allan: How One Leader Learned That Experience Often Teaches You The Wrong Lessons

I introduced you to Bob Geis in an earlier post.  He is the guy who has figured out how to run a government office efficiently and entrepreneurially. Before becoming an entrepreneur in a bureaucracy, Geis worked in the private sector –and he did not like much of what he experienced there, either...



Breaking the Mold on Leadership - My Journey of Discovery with Kevin Cahill

Aerojet Rocketdyne's InThinking Network welcomes Kevin Cahill, from Sun Valley, Idaho, to lead our eighth Ongoing Discussion conference call of 2015 on August 20th and 21st and also our 188th session since we began in January 2000.   As for a topic, Kevin has selected Breaking the Mold on Leadership - My Journey of Discovery in his first time with us as a Thought Leader.   
   Kevin Cahill 
I met Kevin in the late 1990s through my participation in conferences hosted by the Deming Institute, the organization formed in 1993 by his grandfather, W. Edwards Deming with the aim of fostering "an understanding of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge® (SoPK) to advance commerce, prosperity and peace."   Since joining 
the board of directors of the Deming Institute in 2003, I connect with Kevin on a regular basis to both explore and implement proposals and strategies for advancing our aim.  These efforts include Kevin's participation as a speaker at the In2:InThinking Network's 2015 Forum, with a focus on "Breaking the Mold: Aspire, Inspire, Achieve."  
In reviewing options for his focus as an Ongoing Discussion Thought Leader, we chose to highlight Kevin's Forum presentation, titled "Breaking the Mold on Leadership - My Journey of Discovery," and use the video recording of his presentation as his Thought Piece.

Here's the abstract for Kevin's presentation:

Dr. Deming believed that 94% of the problems and possibilities for improvement in an organization belong to the system and thus are the responsibility of our leaders and management. With everyone doing their best, why do most of our leaders and managers embrace the prevailing style of management and follow their "common sense"? We will explore the universal responsibility of leaders and managers, including what is critical for their organizations to survive and thrive. How does a leader bring about improvement and innovation and creation of trust? What are those sources of power and what knowledge is needed to shape our future and bring about a better life for everyone?
Link here to find the video of Kevin's presentation.
Link here to register to attend.    

The New Economics book discussion group September to October 2015

image of New Economics book cover

Beginning Monday, 14SEP2015, and continuing from 3 – 5 pm PACIFIC time on the dates listed below, via phone we will be discussing Deming's last book, The New Economics.  The Aerojet-Rocketdyne course visits another area along “An InThinking Roadmap” and is open to anyone, Aerojet-Rocketdyne employee or not.  The purpose of this note is to let you know of the opportunity.  You may "register" either by sending me a note at [email protected] or using the following link Register to attend the TNE Study Session.  Please use either method before 8SEP2015 to let me know of your intention to participate in a portion of the seven sessions or in the entire series.  Repeat participants and first timers are equally welcome.

The book is The New Economics for Government, Industry, Education  2nd Edition by W. Edwards Deming (ISBN-10: 0-262-54116-5       ISBN-13: 978-0-262-54116-9).  [Available in Kindle format also.] Please plan to obtain your copy of the book in time to prepare for the first session by reading the introductory text and the first two chapters.

From the back cover of the Fourth printing of the 2nd Edition of The New Economics

This book is for people in industry, government and education who are living under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management.

Learn about Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge – the knowledge needed for transformation to a new style of management.  Understand how to create product and service to achieve sustainability, innovation and continually improving results.  Explore the reasons to abolish performance reviews on the job and grades in schools.  Discover why cooperation, not competition, is the engine of success.  Find out how to develop pride in work and joy in learning.

About the series

We will read two chapters (or so) before each of six sessions then connect to share ideas about what we have read.  We will conduct a seventh session relating what we may have learned to current events at work, at home, or in the news.  


Dr. Deming, Pensione Ricciolli in Florence, Italy, 1948

Dr. Deming standing in front of the Pensione Ricciolli in Florence, Italy while on a business trip in 1948.













Dr. Deming standing in front of the Pensione Ricciolli in Florence, Italy while on a business trip in 1948.

See more photos from the W. Edwards Deming Institute Facebook photo album.


4 Key Innovation Thoughts from Dr. Deming

Blog post by Corie Roudebush Spialek on the Innovation Engineering blog