The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Deming’s Ideas in Action: Trader Joe’s Culture

Guest post by John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

An understanding of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge provides new lenses* to view the world. Those lenses allow you to see clearly what before you may not have noticed. And that clear vision can help managers lead their organizations more effectively.

We plan to use this blog to explore examples of management action today (using the lens of Deming’s ideas to view those actions) in order to help illustrate how Deming’s ideas can be put into practice. We can learn both from organizations intentionally applying Deming’s ideas and those that are not necessarily doing so.

Trader Joe’s has a strong culture of respect for employees and customer focus. Those principles are fundamental to Dr. Deming’s management system. Let’s examine some of the text from the careers page on their website.

painting of text at original Trader Joes

Image from the original Trader Joe’s location by Thaddeus Zajdowicz

I would like to emphasize that words on a website don’t mean much. What matters is how the culture of the organization puts those words into practice. In my experience Trader Joe’s does a very good job of operating based on the words they claim to be guided by.

We are looking for hard-working, fun people—people with a passion for food, learning, and creating delight for others.

Sure that sounds similar to what most organizations would say (though maybe not “fun people”). But as a long time customer of Trader Joe’s they have created a culture where their interest in creating delight is noticeably different from any other company I deal with. Their staff demonstrate an interest in delighting their customer and their co-workers.

Dr. Deming understood the importance of truly respecting employees. Without a culture that demonstrates that respect to employees every day, it is very difficult to have the organization treat customers with respect. When you create a culture that demonstrates to employees their value, their right to joy in work and makes clear the purpose of their work every day, that creates the conditions necessary for delighting customers.

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Deming on Management: The Red Bead Experiment

Guest post by John Hunter, founder of (in 1996).

Dr. Deming used the Red Bead Experiment to clearly and dramatically illustrate several points about poor management practices.

The Red Bead Experiment shows that even though a “willing worker” wants to do a good job, their success is directly tied to and limited by the nature of the system they are working within. Real and sustainable improvement on the part of the willing worker is achieved only when management is able to improve the system.

As with any model this illustration oversimplifies reality but the experiment makes very powerfully points. It is hard to appreciate this without experiencing this directly yourself, but the these links may help you appreciate what can be understood.

Blog posts



Those looking for their own kit, may purchase a Red Bead Experiment kit from the Deming Collaborative.

This is the third of a series of posts that will provide resources for those interested in particular topics related to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on management. Previous posts: PDSA cycle and psychology.

What is Deming Online?

Since we shared the “Why Deming, Why Now” video with you last month, many of you have been asking questions about Deming Online. We are so excited to tell you more about this new online learning center that The Deming Institute is creating. Not only will it preserve the integrity of Dr. Deming’s teachings in a modern format, but it will blend videos, eLearning courses, and virtual coaching, and tie into our workshops, seminars, and future webinars. People will be able to access Deming Online 24/7, on any device, from anywhere in the world.


To help millions more people discover and deepen their understanding of Deming to profoundly improve their lives, their communities, and the organizations they lead, manage, and work with.


To Address Today’s Problems. Deming is needed now more than ever. We live in a competitive world that is facing increasingly complex management and leadership decisions, that would greatly benefit from a different way of thinking that challenges current beliefs. The Deming Philosophy is such a timeless, collaborative, and proven solution – if only more people knew about it, could access the teachings, and apply them to their lives!

To Expand Reach. We are at risk of losing the power of Deming’s teachings simply because we cannot reach enough people. The Institute’s current in-person programs only reach about 500 people a year. We believe it is critical to expand far beyond that number.

To Improve Quality. The format of many of our educational resources is outdated. So much has changed in how people learn and access information! Deming Online will draw on contemporary didactic tools and methods to enhance learning. Its interactive, self-paced format will connect users to a wide range of Deming experts as well as peer-to-peer learning communities.

To Preserve Legacy. We believe it is critical to preserve the learning and understanding of the Deming Philosophy from the many individuals who directly collaborated with Dr. Deming, as they are an important link to the Deming teachings. We are interviewing and working with many of them in order to weave their irreplaceable knowledge and wisdom into Deming Online.


We are working with Leslie Peters of Desert Bay Productions. She is a Deming enthusiast and an award-winning writer, producer/director, and training designer for corporate, broadcast, nonprofit, and educational clients. Leslie is also an expert in adult learning, applying brain-based techniques to the capabilities of technology in order to provide a robust online learning environment.


With Deming Online, we will attract new audiences and increase our learning participants – from several hundred per year, to many thousands per year. Deming Online will provide a learning pathway, so people can progress and access what is most relevant to them.


It’s in production now, and the initial courses are being tested. We look forward to launching the first course in 2019.


The Deming Institute is a nonprofit, so we’ve launched the “Deming OnWard” campaign to raise the $1.5 million needed to develop Deming Online. The Institute Board and members of the Deming family are all contributing significant amounts, and we are beginning to reach out and ask supporters who understand the power of Deming’s teachings to join us and make Deming Online a reality.



Alan Winlow, MBE, Honored with 2019 Deming Medal

Alan Winlow, MBE (right) is presented with the Deming Medal
by Bill Bellows, Advisory Council Member, The W. Edwards Deming Institute

20+ members of the UK Deming Community met recently in Burnsall in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales to honor Alan Winlow, MBE, as the 2019 recipient of the Deming Medal from the American Society for Quality.

Alan is the former Managing Director of Yorkshire Brick Company and Continuous Improvement Director at Marshalls, PLC. Learn more about his remarkable Deming journey in this recent interview with Alan on The Deming Institute Podcast.

Congratulations, Alan!

The Deming Philosophy: New Ways To Think About The World

Guest post by John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

Mike Tveite shared his presentation “The Deming Philosophy: New Ways To Think About The World” at the 1993 Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum conference.

I would emphasis, as I have done in a few previous posts, that these presentations that we share are incredibly valuable. I realize finding an hour to watch these presentations may not be easy. But they are packed with content and if you are serious about applying Deming’s ideas they are incredibly powerful resources.

It also seems to me that the benefit from watching them grows exponentially rather than being simply additive. After you watch and try to implement the ideas in 12 of these presentations you get much more value than the benefit of the first one you watched times 12. Don’t miss the “and try to implement” phrase. You can learn by watching them but you will learn much more if you try to implement the ideas and learn from that experience. You will have new questions that arise when doing so and then can watching more of these videos seeking more insight.

I think Mike’s presentation echoes this idea (though not exactly about watching these presentations online) of the value of the effort to learn about Deming’s ideas and how that is not a linear process.

Mike Tveite:

We don’t understand processes just by looking at defects, we need to be studying whole processes unless there are signals there are special causes.

Improving Problem Solving by Ian Bradbury and Gipsie Ranney explores the example of this idea that Mike used in his presentation (NASA’s Challenger shuttle).

There is no rule in nature that says we’ve got a one to one relationship between cause and effects.

We have to take a systems view of results. Many causes interact to create results. Trying to solve problems by seeking out one cause that we attempt to fix often creates problems. We need to understand the system and appreciate the interactions between the elements of the system. One of the questions mentioned a favorite tools/concepts of mine, design of experiments, that is very useful in learning about interactions. Using factorial design of experiments allows one to understand important interactions leading to the results we see. The learning through planned experiments allows us to find better solutions, based on an understanding of the interactions between inputs and elements in the system.

Related: Mike Tveite on The Role of Learning in Improving Organizations – Deming 101 with Mike Tveite– Experience Teaches Nothing Without Theory

The Deming Institute is Developing an Online Learning Platform

Ever wish you could access the Deming teachings any time, anywhere? That time is drawing near! The Deming Institute recently announced the development of Deming Online – a community learning center that blends videos, e-learning courses, and virtual coaching. If you haven’t yet seen this short, moving video about why we are doing this, please take a look.

The world needs the Deming Philosophy more than ever. With today’s technology and new learning methodologies, The Deming Institute is poised to expand access to our offerings. We will reach millions more through the creation of Deming Online.

LEARN MORE about Deming OnWard, the campaign for Deming Online.

Thank you to our development partner, Desert Bay Productions!

Deming on Management: Psychology

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

This is the second of a series of posts that will provide resources for those interested in particular topics related to W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on management. The first post explored the PDSA cycle.


Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) consists of 4 components: appreciation for a system, knowledge of variation, theory of knowledge and psychology. Often those new to Deming’s ideas find psychology as the area they feel most comfortable with.

The idea that the human nature of the people working in the organization is an important consideration in managing those organization seems obvious. And the term psychology is one they are familiar with and feel comfortable with. It is important to understand what that term means within Deming’s management system, it isn’t the same thing as what is covered in a psychology 101 course.

Within Deming’s SoPK the psychology component includes an appreciation of:

  • how will people are influenced by management policies (for example, targets or a culture of blaming individuals)
  • the innate desire people have to take pride in their work
  • how people resist change (and how to reduce that resistance)
  • confirmation bias (one way our brains can lead us astray)
  • what drives people to behave as they do
  • and much more

Quote image text: The greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people.

Within the Deming context taking psychology into account requires focusing on the people doing the work and appreciating how those people will flourish or be held back by the systems put in place by the organization. Lean thinking has a similar idea which is labeled, respect for people, which I think is an excellent phrase to capture the psychology component of the System for Profound Knowledge.

Gaining an appreciation for what falls within the psychology component of a Deming’s SoPK is not easy. The following blog posts and other resources can help provide insight for an attempt to gain that understanding.

Blog Posts

Welcome Colin Cahill, Our New Intern!

Please help us welcome Colin Cahill, Dr. Deming’s great-grandson, to the Institute. He will be joining us this summer as an intern, where he aims to apply his marketing and analytical skills to support the impending launch of Deming Online.
Colin is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Intelligence Analysis at James Madison University, where he is also minoring in economics. He has a great interest in better understanding systems thinking to enable the more efficient and effective running of an organization in the 21st century.
Learn more about Colin!

Human Resources in the Post Deming Era

Guest post by John Hunter, founder of (in 1996).

At the 1994 Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum conference, Peter Scholtes and Mary Jenkins shared their presentation, Human Resources in the Post Deming Era:

Mary Jenkins:

The vast majority of our time is spent discussing business strategies, product strategies and very little time, proportionately, is spent understanding the human systems and what kind of systems need to be in place to support or enable the business strategies to take place.

25 years after this presentation, this is still true in my opinion. There are many ways in which the management of our organizations needs to improve (understanding how to use data effectively, systems thinking…) and one of those important areas is in managing people. Managers spend far too little time learning about the existing conditions the people in the organization face, coaching those employees and working on improving the management system to help employees do great work.

Peter Scholtes:

The worst way to promote into an entry level management position is through interviews or through performance appraisal or through any of those things that are not very bright ways to approach the filling of a position. The best way to fill a position is with data; observational data from ad hoc experiences, temporary assignments and so forth in which people have had a chance to exercise (with a great deal of organizational support, so they can be successful) some of the activities that would be characteristic of the yet to open up managerial positions.

So when you have a vacancy in a managerial position, the ideal is to have a lot of people with experience in that kind of work; and you still end up having a judgement to make but at least it’s a judgment based on experiential data, not on guess work and how well someone performs on an interview.

This is excellent advice. When I had a leadership position with a team I had us have the whole team sit in the interviews with potential candidates (the team members were all early in their careers and in this and other ways I tried to help them learn and develop their skills). Two people who had worked with the team as temporary employees for 6 months were included in those we interviewed. Both were excellent employees during that time. One did well in their interview so hiring her was obvious to everyone.

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Dr. Bill Bellows Moves to Advisory Council

Dr. Bill Bellows


We want to extend our sincere gratitude to Dr. Bill Bellows, as he leaves the staff of The Deming Institute to pursue exciting new opportunities. Bill has been our Deputy Director since October 2016, and prior to that served for 12 years on The Deming Institute Board of Trustees. Through the years Bill has made tremendous contributions to the Institute’s aim through his leadership, expertise, teaching, facilitation, mentorship, and advocacy of the Deming message. Bill’s passionate commitment to the Deming Philosophy and The Deming Institute will continue as a member of our Advisory Council and through future collaborations on our learning events and programs.

Thank you, Bill – and best wishes on all your new endeavors!