Deming’s Ideas Applied in High School Education

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

Mt. Edgecumbe High School, in Sitka, Alaska was featured in the last 10 minutes of the three part series, Quality Or Else, aired on PBS (created by the same team that created the NBC White paper If Japan Can… Why Can’t We – Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason). Mt. Edgecumbe High School gained international recognition as the first school to embrace quality learning concepts based on the work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.

YouTube video

David Langford, from the video:

When I first started into this process I thought statistical analysis was 99% of the process and human relations was 1%. Since we have been in it for two years I am realizing its just the opposite. We can teach anyone in half an hour how to do simple statistical analysis processes such as pareto charts and control charts and those types of things. We can’t, in half an hour persuade people to use them.

Also human relations involves a whole new focus on working together in teams.

A continuing challenge for those seeking to apply Deming’s ideas for improving management is the challenge of how to actually make changes in complex human systems (those organization were work in). The unfortunate truth is that there is no cookbook that provides a quick and easy recipe that results in improved management practices. If it was as simple as applying a few statistical and management tools the process would be much easier than it is.

Improving the practice of management in our organizations requires learning and then applying what we have learned and learning from those attempts to apply (using the PDSA cycle to do so most effectively). What we can do depends on where we are and where the organization is.

All of us can do something. One of the first things I took from David Langford (a long time ago) was to start where you have control. David was a teacher. He didn’t have the authority of the principle to make changes for the whole school, or the school board to make changes to the education system in the whole city. So he looked at what he could change and started down the path to improvement. He controlled his classroom, so he started there. That is what results in improvement, actually doing something.

A long list of what others need to do to fix things usually will not spark improvement efforts. But starting where you can and making a difference will eventually (it often takes much longer than you hope) attract interest from others who want to see how you are achieving success.

David offers seminars, handbooks and more on applying Deming’s ideas (in education, business and elsewhere) through Langford for Learning. David is also working with The W. Edwards Deming Institute to help spread the adoption of Dr. Deming’s ideas.

Related: Dr. Deming Video: A Theory of a System for Educators and ManagersChoose tactics that will be successful given the current state and build on initial successes

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