Asking Questions to Initiate New Thinking

By John Hunter, founder of

We are posting several short videos to provide everyone an opportunity to hear directly from Dr. Deming. It is remarkable how well the ideas he spoke of have aged even while the world has been changing rapidly.

YouTube video

This video offers several questions that challenge us to think more deeply about current practices and perhaps help guide us to look for new ideas. Dr. Deming often used questions to get people to think. Often those questions are directed at the specific current situation in an organization. These questions:

  • What business are we in?
  • What business ought we be in? – updating the language, this is very similar to the idea behind “pivoting” in the lean start vernacular
  • Does your reward system make it difficult for people to work together?

are guided at opening our eyes to what often we have accepted without questioning. It is very easy to accept what has been done when it would be better to think if we can do better if we question what we often accept without thinking. It is easy to get so focused on making an existing strategy work (especially one that made the organization very successful) when it would be better to adjust the strategy to the new conditions in the marketplace. Failing to do this often leads to organizations clinging to outdated business models.

A question like, “What business are we in?”, may seem silly. But too often companies fail to keep a focus on the value they provide to customers. A disconnection from customer focus can lead to serious problems. A business needs to adapt products and services as the needs customers have adapt and as competitors provide customers with alternatives.

The video above is an excerpt from, The Prophet Of Quality.

Related: Customer DelightW. Edwards Deming’s Ideas Applied in High School EducationWhat Job Does Your Product or Service Do?Best efforts are not enough, you have to know what to do.

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