Brian Joiner Discussing His Career

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By John Hunter, founder of

In a previous post, Approaching Sustainability Using Deming’s Thinking, where you see Brian Joiner in the video (he and Andrew KcKeon were on the same panel). In this video Brian discusses his career including how he meet Dr. Deming and some personal anecdotes.

YouTube video

I like, and share his sentiment in the following quote, at the time Brian went to Rutgers to learn about quality:

Most of the other ones [statistics departments] were ivory tower type institutions unrelated to anything anybody might ever want to use.

That might be seen as harsh by some but it speaks to a real focus at the time of statistics departments on math rather than applied statistics. I met Brian when I was growing up; my father worked with Brian and George Box at the University of Wisconsin-Madison statistics department which, in my slightly biased option, became the premier applied statistics department in the world. I am firmly on the side that values applied statistics.

photo of histogram of people by height
Brian mentions “people pictures” in his talk, this is an example. They are living histograms with Penn State students arranged by height.

He mentions Edward Tufte uses the living histogram illustration in one of his books. I’ll take the opportunity to recommend Tufte’s books, they are excellent and a valuable resource to all working with data and having to communicate with others (which should be all managers).

Another story he tells is how they looked for a publisher for the Team Handbook and couldn’t find one. So they published it themselves. It remains a very useful book and one I recommend. I don’t hear people talk about it much anymore. I imagine because people think they are suppose to use new books, not old books. This is a pattern that leads to missing the best management books (most of which are over 20 years old – though there are occasionally new books that are worthwhile).

Related: Statistics for Discovery by George Box (on applied statistics versus mathematical statistics)many more great papers by George BoxBrian Joiner Podcast on Management, Sustainability and the Health Care SystemDistorting the System, Distorting the Data or Improving the System

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