Keith Sparkjoy on Adopting the Deming Management System at Pluralsight

By John Hunter, founder of

Deming Institute podcast icon

Keith Sparkjoy, Cofounder and Culture Coach of Pluralsight discusses his “awakening” on their journey to keep Pluralsight’s healthy culture as they rapidly expanded (download the podcast).

Keith started by reading Out of the Crisis and thought it would be tough to use that book as a tool to convince his cofounder and CEO that using Deming’s ideas was important for Pluralsight. He heard about the Deming Library videos and decided to buy them and found them to be a great tool and something he could imagine his CEO learning from. And it turned out that the DVDs from the Deming Library worked well as a tool to engage the CEO in learning more about Deming’s ideas on management.

We very quickly started making changes. We started transformation and moved very fast. One of the very first things we did, we eliminated all incentive pay for all executives on the leadership team. We renegotiated their salary, bumped it up, so that they didn’t have to worry about hitting a target or anything. We wanted that team to work as a team. So that is one of the first things we did.

In 2014 the sales team also decommissioned the sales force.

They have seen great things going on. Watching sales people help each other now. They used to help each other before, but not like this.

We’re attracting the type of talent we want. Which is the type of talent that is going to come in and really try and do what is right for the customer and help move the company forward for long term success.

In 2015 they are replacing all bonuses in the company with a profit sharing plan.

They replaced the employee handbook with 2 rules:

  • Be respectful, considerate and kind even when you disagree.
  • Always act in Pluralsight’s best interest.

They also have a culture guide which isn’t about rules and enforcement but about providing some shared background and thoughts on the culture they are building together.

Related: Customer Focus from a Deming PerspectiveEliminate Sales Commissions: Reject Theory X Management and Embrace Systems ThinkingYour authority stems from: position, knowledge and personality

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