A MAQIN Special Event Tedd Snyder, Albany Analytical On December 15 th , at the Great Dane Brewpub, a group of MAQIN members celebrated the life and work of Dr. W. Edwards Deming.
Maury Cotter, Director of Strategic Planning and Quality Improvement, University of Wisconsin-Madison, opened the session asking, “Why are we here?”, using the same phrase with which Dr. Deming began his seminars. The group heard some of the life lessons from Dr. Deming as Maury recounted from the October 1994 issue of the newsletter, SPC INK: If it weren’t for Dr. Deming… “I would still read the daily stock market reports and think they meant something. I would know my auto service/repair people as well as I used to. I would blame the store clerk for the long lines and the return policy. I would scrape the burnt toast and not fix the toaster. I would reduce my costs by buying the lowest priced thread. I would design a new product and then market it hard to try to convince customers they needed it. I would tell my kids to do their own work and that working on their homework with other kids was cheating. I would fire the lowest producing worker, but first I’d have him train his replacement.”
Six “Willing Workers;” reenacted the Red Bead Experiment. Dr. Deming called the Red Bead Experiment, “a stupidly simple experiment” that uses variation in worker performance to show that “performance does not come from the individual, it comes mostly from the system that he works in.” In other words, a bad process, created and controlled by management, can overcome a worker’s best efforts to succeed and result in defective products or ineffective services, whether in health care, government, education, services or manufacturing.
Former MAQIN board member, Brian Joiner, a long-time associate and friend of Dr. Deming offered a Toast to Dr. Deming. (Brian’s toast is below.)
Proctor & Gamble Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin- Madison, Don Ermer, closed the event with his reminiscences of helping Dr. Deming to imp lement Statistical Process Control at Ford in the early 1980s.
A Toast to Dr. W. Edwards Deming
December 15, 2004
Brian L. Joiner
It is a great pleasure to offer a toast to Dr. Deming. He was a friend and mentor for 30 years. I cried when he died and would cry again today if I were here with you. And I am not alone. Dr. Deming touched many people’s lives in a very deep way. Some people say Deming was a statistician – and that he was – a great one. But he was much more than a statistician, just as Mahatma Gandhi was much more than a lawyer. There are many parallels – both started out in rather technical fields – but their work took them into uncharted territory. Both had a deep caring for people and their belief in people allowed them to touch many people deeply. Both made Nobel Prize level contributions to peace and the betterment of human kind.
A toast to Dr. Deming would not be complete without recourse to a few of his famous sayings: “Best efforts are not enough, you have to know what to do.” Dr. Deming was a great learner – I saw him continue to learn almost daily, up until he died at 93 – and maybe beyond for all I know.
“Willing workers, just doing their best.” He would meet with the workers in factories, in routine clerical jobs, in any job – and he would ask them, “Can you take pride in your work?” Then they would tell him the problems they encountered in their everyday work – these willing workers, just doing their best. He may have been the only person who ever asked them that question. They trusted him – and he learned things their managers needed to know but few were ever curious enough to ask. Where managers did ask, there was a wonderful change.
In one moving instance, a gruff 50+ yr old employee said, “We used to have to check our brains at the door, but now people care what I think, now I look forward to coming to work!”
“There is no substitute for knowledge.”
A chemical company manager (Jerry Brock) decided to teach “the willing workers” about the chemistry that was behind the products they made - the result – greatly increased employee satisfaction and improved quality and productivity – they had some knowledge!
Dr. Deming used to say it is important to promote education. Pay for the tuition. It doesn’t matter what they study – Plato or basket weaving, It’ll make them better, more productive employees. “There is no substitute
“You can work with a man who knows his limitations.” (Dr. Deming never made the switch to more gender neutral language.) For years I found this statement strange – what’s he really trying to say here? I don’t know why it was so hard – but now it’s totally clear. Maybe I just had to work with a few more people who were totally over their heads and didn’t know it.