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Jan 29, 2021

In our 45th "Deming Lens" episode, host Tripp Babbitt shares his interpretation of wide-ranging aspects and implications of Dr. Deming's theory of management. This month he looks at some of the contributions of Ron Moen.

Show Notes

Deming Lens 45

Tribute to Ron Moen

Ron Moen on Meeting Dr. Deming


Ron Moen on Using PDSA

Dr. Deming and One of His Famous Quotes

The Lack of Use of Shewhart's Control Charts in Organizations




Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:14] In the forty-fifth episode of The Deming Lens, we'll take a look back at some of the contributions of Ron Moen.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:00:29] In this Deming lens, I wanted to pay tribute to the life of Ron Moen and go back in time a little bit to when I interviewed Ron Moen back in 2015 and 16 for the Deming Institute podcast. And I'll pull out a few recordings that I have of him and some of the answers. But you can I'll put a link in to the Web page where you can go and listen to them directly from the podcast Deming. But I will add one other thing that I did, too. As I went back some of the early interviews that I did, I did not do transcripts for them.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:01:20] So this one, I went back because I listen to these podcasts again, and especially Ron, the one I did with Ron Moen and Cliff Norman back in 2015 and 16.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:01:40] And like I said, I'm going to cut a few clips out that I thought that stood out to me anyway in my interviews with Ron and Cliff.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:01:51] But, you know, I may have met Ron Moen back in the late 80s when I was going to Dr. Deming seminars and early 90s.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:02] I know he was active during that time period, being one of the helpers at Dr. Deming's four-day seminars that I attended. But he had you know, he I hadn't heard of him long before most of the other people in the community, primarily from reading The Reckoning, which I talked about, I believe in previous podcast episodes, is kind of how I got to know who Dr. Deming was.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:35] A great book, by the way, if I get a chance, "The Reckoning," because Ron Moen's name is mentioned in there. So that was my first association between Dr. Deming and Ron Moen. But he's had he had quite a career.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:02:53] You know, he was a he had advanced degrees in mathematics and statistics and wrote a lot of technical papers. And you can just tell even from the interview, both Cliff and Ron are people that are constantly learning these. These people represent folks that that really put an emphasis on continuing their learning. You could tell from these interviews and they also brought up subjects. I mean, the 2015 interview talked about the evolution basically of going from Dr. Deming's 14 points to the system of profound knowledge. And it was a good interview from there. And so I suggest to people that they go back and look and or listen to those previous episodes, because these will just be a short clip, some of them less than 20 seconds, some maybe a couple of minutes that I've pulled for this episode.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:03:59] So anyway, let's get on with it. One of the first ones that I pulled was Ron Moen and his relationship with the Deming philosophy and with Dr. Deming himself.


Ron Moen: [00:04:14] For me, it was graduate school at the University of Missouri, I went to a American Statistical Association meeting in Montreal in 1971. Deming was there, and I was in the audience. There was probably a hundred statisticians, and he made every one of them mad because his topic was on analytic studies. And this is really a very important message that carries throughout his lifetime, this enumerative versus analytic. And statisticians never really got it. They thought that he was doing away with their profession. And their theory is correct for enumerative problems, but it's not correct for analytic. So, I just spent four years in graduate school learning the theory behind enumerative studies. My advisor was in Montreal and he said, "How do you like working in the real world?" I said, "Where is the population?" There's no population. The world's already dynamic. And enumerative problems are not appropriate. Statistics works for enumerative, but the problems that we work on are analytic. So, that was kind of the whole starting point. I also worked with him in ASTM E11 Committee, it was called, in Philadelphia. He was a member of that. I was a member of that in 1973. I took his classes at George Washington University in '79 and '80. And from 1980 forward, it was the NBC White Paper, the four-day seminars, and so on so forth. So, that was my start.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:05:45] Now, in that first interview that I did with Ron Moen and Cliff Norman, Ron talked about the evolution of the System of Profound Knowledge. And again, just a short clip here of what research that Ron and Cliff had done and some of the experiences that Ron had and how that evolved the movement from Deming's 14 points to the System of Profound Knowledge, how that evolved.


Ron Moen: [00:06:20] Cliff and I tackled this problem back in January of this year, and because we felt there was such a misunderstanding in that whatever Deming said was permanent, and in fact, this paper really shows the evolution of Deming's learning. It really, I think it does a good job of that. So, we've just submitted this paper to "Quality Progress" for American Society of Quality. And it'll be published next spring, we think. 


Ron Moen: [00:06:49] They don't have a date yet, so that's what we'd like to talk about. I think the overall message is that, yes, and he started with Shewhart's ideas. And what year was that when he first met Shewhart, Cliff? 1927. Fall of 1927. A fellow by the name of Kunsman introduced Deming to Shewhart.


Ron Moen: [00:07:12] So, then what we did in this paper was we sort of took it into three parts, before 1980, 1980-1988, and then 1989-1993, and again, Deming's learning was tremendous through that span of time, but it was Shewhart's idea that applied to a Stanford University eight-day course on SQC or Statistical Quality Control for World War II. Stanford University put together this course. Deming taught it 22 times. So, Deming started by teaching SQC, which basically is the understanding variation part and the understanding of separation of common and special causes that he learned from Shewhart. So, that was the course in 1942. And then we move forward to 1950, after World War II, where he took that same course and taught it to the Japanese. He was invited to teach the Japanese. It was another eight-day course. What was different, and we bring out in the paper, was, there were managers there. It wasn't just all quality control people. It was managers, so his message sorta changed to how do managers deal with the understanding variation? And so, there was an emphasis on management. And several of the courses, there were a lot of managers in the sessions in 1950. So, that kind of was the beginning of a message for management. 


Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:42] Now, the next interview I did with Ron Moen and Clifford Norman was in May of 2016, and the subject really has taken off.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:08:56] And I find myself referencing this particular interview. A matter of fact, it's the most listened to interview that I have done for the Deming Institute has a lot of lessons over the years. But it's this conversation because we know, especially in the lean community, a lot of people use Plan, Do, CHECK, Act. And what Dr. Deming really was referencing was Plan, Do, STUDY, Act.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:32] So now I start to see people use PDCA and people in that community come back and say, no, it's PDSA.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:39] And this is this conversation, I think kind of initiated some of that conversation, as well as the paper that Ron Moen and Cliff Norman and some others did during that time period.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:55] So let me play this clip. It's a little bit longer.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:09:59] Well, maybe not, but I added in here, but it became a touchstone moment basically for this PDCA versus PDSA conversation.


Ron Moen: [00:10:14] And Deming's comment in a letter to me on November 17, 1990, "Be sure and call it the PDSA. Not the corruption, PDCA." The corruption PDCA. I was shocked. He was so angry about how he was seeing the PDCA being used and connecting it to his name. And then finally, my third research was at the Library of Congress in the Archives. It was a response... Somebody sent a letter to him. And it was actually a paper and he asked Deming to comment on it. And it had the PDCA cycle in there. And here was Deming's response in this, he said, "What you proposed is not the Deming cycle. I do not know the source of the cycle that you propose. How the PDCA ever came into existence, I know not.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:11:11] Another moment that I thought was important to share was also how Ron Moen evolved using PDSA and just, you know, evolved in general. And I thought that that was something very interesting at the time.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:11:33] And so from that May 2016, here's how Associates in Process Improvement that Ron Moen and Cliff Norman were a part are a part of and how they were you using PDSA?


Ron Moen: [00:11:54] Cliff, myself and our other colleagues, we published our version of it in 1991. Actually, Deming reviewed this and liked it but he didn't put it in his '93 book. And so, the planning is really, we ask people to state the objective. What are your questions that you want to answer and what are your predictions to those questions? And then, you have a Plan to carry out that cycle. Carrying it out then when you go to the Study part, you compare your results, you complete your data analysis, compare your data to your prediction, summarize what was learned. So, we made this deductive-inductive, which I think is more closely tied to the scientific method that Deming did. So, I think that's a change that we made, and we've been using that since 1991. So, it's really the planning is, you might think of PDSA as P means prediction and then, the Study part is: Compare your prediction to what happened and then, what did we learn from that? So, it's a little bit different. Deming liked it, but he didn't put it in his book. And a lot of times with Deming, he would assume that most things are known. You don't need to be that specific, whereas I think both Cliff and my experience is that you need to be much more prescriptive. He kept it very high level, Plan-Do-Study-Act. So, we added that to it and I think we've been using that since 1991. So, it has a lot of leverage.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:13:35] In another kind of salient moment. But humorous. Ron talked about one of my favorite Deming quotes that I use quite often. I know others have and maybe picked it up from this particular podcast interview.


Ron Moen: [00:13:56] And the overall method is Deming's methods change yearly, monthly. And, you know, some people come up to seminar and say, well, you said this last month.


Ron Moen: [00:14:07] I have I have it on tape. And his answer was, "I make no apologies for learning." Now you have this on tape.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:18] And I think this particular question and this clip is one that I started first with Ron Moen and Cliff Norman, so here you go.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:14:33] Let me let me ask you guys a question that you just brought up. Are you shocked by the number of organizations that you walk into that do not use statistical process control in any form?


Ron Moen: [00:14:47] Well, to win this Deming Prize, which I think there have been 18 companies in India that won the Deming Prize. Part of the Deming Prize is the use of control charts.


Ron Moen: [00:14:59] So, if you win the Deming Prize, you have to practice it. Where do I see it outside of that? Not as common, not as common. I think a lot of people are getting away from that, the use of Shewhart charts. And again, this importance of separating the common cause and special cause, I think that's... I don't know... I think it is going away.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:15:24] And so Ron Moen made a number of contributions to not only Dr. Deming's work, but to society as a whole. And, you know, it's kind of funny. You remember that the last two words or the last words of that you spoke to certain people. And when you get a chance to reflect on their lives and their contributions to it and I remember what the last two words or the last few words that Dr. Deming spoke to me when I was talking to him on the telephone was, "You better hurry." Meaning, you know, run out of time to convince people to operate in a different way. But here are the last few words that Ron Moen spoke to me.


Ron Moen: [00:16:18] Thanks, Tripp.


Tripp Babbitt: [00:16:19] Well, no, thank you, Ron Moen.