Deming’s Stage 0: By What Method?

By John Hunter, founder of

Ron Moen’s presentation at The W. Edwards Deming Institute 2014 conference – Deming’s Stage 0: By What Method?

YouTube video

Ron talks about W. Edwards Deming teaching a 2 week course on consumer research in Japan in 1951: that course included a section titled “the art of questioning and interviewing.” Dr. Deming had participants go out into the street of Tokyo and interview potential customers. Those interested in Lean Startup will recognize this activity. In startup weekend this exact same strategy is done today to get people to get feedback from potential customers. They take time during the weekend to interview people and figure out what potential customers think of product and service ideas.

Dr. Deming added “Stage 0” to his organization as a system diagram in the 2nd Edition of The New Economics.

Ron Moen’s presentation explores what “stage 0” should look like (Deming provided little guidance). Ron decided it was important to start with the customer need. When gathering data, to learn if the idea has merit, the data collection should be made at the actual place of work by the people doing the work (gemba).

A related idea discussed in a previous post is using a minimal viable product to experiment and iterate quickly to learn. This process would be used after the 1 week process Ron described.

The process he designed as a method for doing stage 0 was:

  • Have a dedicated “stage 0” room
  • Select a team for “stage 0”
    • 8 diverse people including users of current products and services, your customers, internal staff from diverse backgrounds, and a senior level manager (a leader).
    • A facilitator
  • 5 days with 8 people (plus a facilitator) all full time

The video provides a detailed process with a timeline for a 1 week effort by the team. As part of that explanation he references IDEO’s process for innovative design.

YouTube video

Related: Ron Moen 2012 presentation: Prediction is the ProblemThe Improvement AppThe History and Evolution of the PDSA CycleCustomer Focus with a Deming Perspective

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