The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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!

Fond Farewells: Remembering Bill Latzko, Tom Nolan, and Bill Ratcliff

Dear Deming Community,

Please join us in honoring the lives of these three men, who made countless contributions to the Deming community and society at large. We were enriched by their presence and are honored to have known them. May they rest in peace.


Kevin Edwards Cahill, Executive Director  

William J. Latzko, Ph.D. (19282018). A chemical engineer by training, Dr. Latzko spent most of his career in quality control as a manager, consultant, and educator. A Fellow of the American Society for Quality Control and certified quality engineer, he published multiple books and more than 20 papers on management quality. He was actively involved with the Metropolitan Section of the ASQC, where he served two terms as section chair. A recipient of the Ellis R. Ott award in 1984, Dr. Latzko was instrumental in the creation of the W. Edwards Deming Award for quality, which he received in 1996. A long-time associate of Dr. Deming, Dr. Latzko helped in Deming’s work with his clients and at many four-day Deming seminars; he then co-authored Four Days with Dr. Deming: A Strategy for Modern Methods of Management. One of the few people in the world recognized by Dr. Deming as a “master,” Dr. Latzko applied Deming’s theory of management to help both government and companies affect transformation.

Thomas W. Nolan, Jr., Ph.D. (1947 – 2019). Dr. Tom Nolan was a statistician and founding partner of Associates in Process Improvement, a consulting firm that specializes in applying the Deming philosophy to the improvement of quality and productivity. He met Dr. Deming in the 1970s and supported his work until Dr. Deming’s passing in 1993. At Dr. Deming’s request, Tom coauthored a book on methods for analytic studies (Quality Improvement through Planned Experimentation, 3rd edition, 2012).  Tom was also a Senior Fellow of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. For over 35 years, he assisted organizations in many different industries in the U.S., Canada, and Europe including chemical and automotive manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, and social services. Among his clients is a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. He coauthored three books on improving quality and productivity and was the year 2000 recipient of the Deming Medal awarded by the American Society for Quality.

William A. Ratcliff (19382019). Born in Devon, England, Bill enjoyed a long career at Plessey (now Siemens) as an electronics engineer. Later as a manager at Plessey, his thinking was strongly influenced by the principles of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, whose daughter Linda he met on one of her trips with her father to England. Bill moved to the U.S. in 1990 to marry Linda and to live for the remainder of his life. In the role of applying Deming’s quality and management principles, he worked as the Quality Advisor to the US Air Force at the Pentagon. After retirement, he and Linda volunteered to raise 10 puppies to be guide dogs for the blind; he also volunteered as representative for Maryland for MACCRA, a national organization dedicated to improving living situations for people in continuous care residences.

Deming on Management: PDSA Cycle

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

This is the first of a series of posts that will provide resources for those interested in particular topics (other topics will include: psychology, understanding variation, leadership and the red bead experiment).

PDSA Cycle

The PDSA (Plan – Do – Study – Act) cycle was also called the Shewhart cycle by Dr. Deming (and the Deming cycle by others).

The Improvement Guide is the book anyone interested in learning about the PDSA cycle should read (and re-read).

In depth articles exploring the history and thinking behind the PDSA cycle and what is critical to using it successfully.

image of the model for improvement

Image of the model for improvement with the PDSA cycle via Clearing Up Myths About the Deming Cycle.

Blog posts



Leading The Transformation Process

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

Leading The Transformation Process, Barbara Lawton’s presentation at the 1993 Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum conference:

Aim of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge in Barbara’s words (building on Deming’s quote “provide jobs and more jobs“).

Create value for customers, ourselves and the society that nurtures us all. Continuously improve our ability to do so.

Barbara does a good job of explaining how copying the most visible aspects of companies applying Deming’s management methods doesn’t allow you to transform another organization. The visible aspects are more often symptoms not causes (FYI, this is my terminology – John). Copying the visible aspects without transforming the management system (and how executives think) results in failed efforts to improve.

Another focus of her talk was the interaction of personal transformation and organizational transformation. Transformation starts with the individual but as they change they can run into organizational barriers and resistance to change. Similarly if the organization institutes changes without helping people change their own understanding and views those people resist the changes in the organization.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogs Exploring Deming’s Thoughts on Management

Guest post by John Hunter, founded (in 1996).

We are happy that there are several blogs exploring the application of Deming’s ideas to management of organizations. These blogs are likely to be of interest to our readers and we share links to several of them here.

The Deming SubReddit collects blog posts and other interesting resources on Deming’s management ideas. Blogs discussing Deming’s ideas that you may be interested in:

Our Online Deming Management Resources page and the Deming SubReddit include even more related blogs. I hope you find these blogs as useful as I do.