Bob Browne Discusses His Experience Applying Deming’s Ideas as a CEO

By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

Bob Browne is the former CEO of the Great Plains Coca Cola Bottling Company and soon to be author of a new book, The Sys-Tao Way, that outlines his application of the Deming Philosophy.

image of book cover for Sys-Tao Way

In the most recent Deming Institute podcast, Bob discusses his experience applying the Deming philosophy at the Great Plains Coca Cola Bottling Company.

Bob mentions that psychology within the Deming context was:

Understanding relationships and how people work together… The interrelationships that go on inside an organization.

Which is the correct way to view “understanding psychology” in the Deming context; Deming wasn’t talking about Psychology 101 at a university he was talking about respect for people, the importance of understanding the human element in organizations and how to manage systems with people as active participants.

I had what I thought was a process oriented background… Deming was talking about the interrelationships that go on inside a system and how that system relates to other systems. So relationships were key… Understanding that we don’t live in a mechanistic, deterministic world. We live in one that is more interdependent and complex.

Bob also tells a story of when he hired a consultant to help the organization improve and specifically to focus on using data and understanding variation. Bob was anxious to begin teaching how to measure and the consultant explained the organization wasn’t ready. There was too much fear. The consultant explained:

If I teach these people how to measure these things, they will just use it to judge each other. Thats not what it is about. It is about measuring the process, not judging the people.

When you change your mind, change your concepts you still have to change your habits. Just changing your mind isn’t good enough, the whole culture has to change. If parts of the culture changes and the rest of it doesn’t then the environment kills it off, because the environment rejects it.

On the ideas of habits, I stated in a previous blog post: “When the ideas have reached the level of habits you have changed..”

Related: The Neuroscience of DemingUnderstanding Psychology, Managing Human SystemsTheory of Knowledge

The Sys-Tao movie embedded above provides an overview of the ideas explored in the book.

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