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Oct 10, 2023

When we answer a question with "it depends" we are asking for more information about the possible variables that will inform the answer. In this episode, Bill Bellows and host Andrew Stotz discuss how, in the Deming world, "it depends" can trigger improvements in processes or products and services.


0:00:02.6 Andrew Stotz: My name is Andrew Stotz and I'll be your host as we continue our journey into the teachings of Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Today I'm continuing my discussion with Bill Bellows, who has spent 30 years helping people apply Dr. Deming's ideas to become aware of how their thinking is holding them back from their biggest opportunities. The topic for today is, in this episode 10, It Depends, Rethinking Improvements. Bill, take it away.


0:00:34.6 Bill Bellows: Rethinking improvement, yes.


0:00:38.3 AS: You're always teasing us with your titles, Bill.


0:00:43.2 BB: I hate when that happens, I hate when that happens. No, I uh, what I would tell managers when I was doing these one-day seminars all over Boeing for year after year after year after year, and the managers would wanna know, so what should I expect from the people afterwards? And I said, or I would warn them, I said, here's what's gonna happen, just so you're ready. I'd say, you're gonna hear a lot more of people saying, "It depends." 'Cause to me, Andrew, "it depends" is the beginning of an appreciation of a system. So Andrew, you and I are going out to dinner and then you say, would you like to have some wine? And I say, sure. Then you say, red or white? And I say well, it depends Andrew, what are you having? Right, I mean, so to me, it depends is an understanding of what Ackoff would call interactions, that I cannot order the wine without knowing the meal. Planning a wedding, we can't order the food without knowing the guest list, can't order the music without going to the guest list. The colors of the flowers depend upon, the color of the tuxes depend upon it. And what is that? It is looking at things, not in isolation, but as a system. So when I tell my students, graduate and undergraduate is, you already manage systems, you already manage interactions.


0:02:09.0 BB: You don't use that word, but you couldn't plan a vacation without looking at things in context. You couldn't run errands on Saturday morning without knowing what time the store is open, what time... So, so I think we have a natural proclivity of looking at things as a system, quite often, quite often. It could be better. But I... So I just throw out, I just, I mean, if somebody asked me a question on a topic I've never heard about before, what I find is, one is I think, well, how would a red pen company, a me organization, a last straw organization look at that? And they'd look at things in isolation. Which reminds me of an Ackoff quote. He says, "getting less of what you don't want doesn't get you what you want." So we're gonna drive variation to zero, and when I was listening to the last podcast, it was talking about this driving variation to zero. You can't go to zero, 'cause Andrew, cloning does not produce identical, twins are not identical. So for those who think you could drive variation to zero, you can't. Get under a microscope and you're gonna see differences in snowflakes. The question behind reducing variation is, is it a worthwhile investment, which gets us into this continual improvement thing.


0:03:32.6 BB: But, so whether we're reducing variation to zero, reduce... Eliminating waste, eliminating non value-added efforts, what Ackoff asking is, he is challenging us saying, getting rid of what you don't want, what is it that we want? And here I had a great quote from a good friend, Dr. Deming, he says, "it would be better if everyone worked together as a system with the aim for everybody to win."


0:04:00.2 AS: He was saying, win-win before everybody was saying it.


0:04:06.3 BB: Well, what I like about that quote is, did the word quality appear in that quote? Did you hear the word quality anywhere in there, Andrew?


0:04:14.8 AS: No, I didn't hear it.


0:04:17.1 BB: Huh. And Dr. Deming was that quality guy, right?


0:04:20.9 AS: Mm.


0:04:22.4 BB: So he's got quotes that don't have to do with quality? [laughter]


0:04:25.0 AS: Yeah, and so that's one of the things that I think people come, when they first come to Deming, they're looking at, they're thinking of quality in terms of tools, you know...


0:04:35.6 BB: Tools, techniques, yeah...


0:04:36.8 AS: And then they find...


0:04:37.1 BB: And so part of the reason that I wanted to throw that quote out is, to reinforce my point, that I look at what Dr. Deming is doing, is providing guidance for how to manage resources, time, energy, money, space, equipment, tools and techniques, ideas, as a system. And the ideas as a system, is the idea that things are interdependent; I depend on you, you depend on me. And I think the better we understand that, you realize is that improved quality, what he would call quality, would come from that, improved safety would come from that, improved profit would come from that. Again, Ackoff would say, you know, profit is the result of how well we work together, which is how well we manage resources and the idea of being deliberately proactive, deliberately reactive, we talked about last time. And I also made reference last time through the term purposeful resource management, purposeful... And then also reflexive resource management, which is the "me organization," the non-Deming organization being reactive, why?


0:05:58.3 BB: I'm not thinking about it. [laughter] I just, why would I be proactive? I'm gonna be reactive. I'm not gonna work on things that are good. I'm gonna focus on the problems. I'm gonna focus on the defects. Whereas in a Deming organization, a "we organization,: I think there'd be, we're gonna be reactive, where it makes sense, it depends. When does it make sense? We're gonna be proactive when it makes sense, it depends. And another term I'm gonna throw out to build upon this purposeful resource management, which I would... I look at management as an activity, we're managing resources, we're thinking locally...


0:06:33.3 BB: Thinking globally, acting locally. And I think everyone in a Deming organization has that responsibility. You don't ask for twice as much resources as you need. So you don't, so you make sure you get things done as you would at a non-Deming company where you ask for way more than you need on everything, because you don't wanna be the bad guy, so you protect yourself. I would believe in a Deming organization, you would ask for what you need. But again, when I'm working on a project in the backyard, it involves going to the hardware store, you know, I'm gonna go there a few times that day. And, but I anticipate that. And in fact, now I get smart and instead of on one visit, and then going back, I'll say, I'll buy, if it's three different things I might need, I'll buy all three.


0:07:19.8 BB: I say it to myself, what am I doing? Managing resources. But a new term, to build upon purposeful resource management, so purposeful resource management is, "I know when I go to the hardware store, I buy more than I need. I can always return it next week and when the project is done." And that's how I manage projects. But I didn't always do it that way. So what I wanted to say is that purposeful resource management is how I currently manage resources. And then when you and I come up with a whole 'nother way of managing resources, I refer to that as purposeful resource leadership. And leadership is about creating a path for others to follow. And you say, holy cow, I should do the same thing, you know, in my part of the organization, again, where it makes sense.


0:08:05.2 BB: So whether that's focusing on an ideal value when it comes to improving integration or managing and improving how we manage interactions, purposeful resource leadership to me is everyone...I mean, someone coming up with a, then again, better way of doing it, and then we spread it around the organization, then somebody else takes the lead on their thing. The other thing I wanted to share with you is, is a quote from, quotes from two friends who spent a good deal of time with Dr. Deming, conversations. I met him twice, never asked him a question. The first time I didn't have a question to ask. And the second time he was health-wise, not in good shape. I just wanted his autograph. And I just wanted to just be thankful for being in the room. But Gipsie Ranney, who was the first president of the Deming Institute, and before that she was a professor at the University of Tennessee and a senior consultant at GM, she told me, she was a mentor for many years, she said she asked Dr. Deming once, she said, "so, um what are people getting outta your seminars?" And he said, he says, "I know what I told them. I don't know what they heard."


0:09:21.1 BB: And I think... And the more I thought about it, it's just I think that's part of the problem. So a big part, of what I was trying to do at Rocketdyne was to make it easy to read The New Economics. 'Cause I think there's, I think yeah, you can read it on your own, but I think the meaning you'll get being guided by others first, and that could be listening to the pod... You know, listening to these podcasts, watching videos on DemingNEXT. I think It's important to realize that there's words he's using that have perhaps a different meaning than you're using where you are at work. I just throw that out. And the other quote I wanted to share was from Bill Cooper. And Bill Cooper is approaching 90, he lives in San Diego, and he's a great guy.


0:10:07.7 BB: And I, I met him 20 some years ago and remained in touch. And he was a senior civilian officer, senior civilian at the US Navy's Overhaul facility in San Diego at a place called North Island, in the early '80s he came across Deming's work and became riveted, along with Phil Monroe, who was a senior military officer. And they went off to do Deming Consulting around the world. And, and Bill said he asked Deming once, Dr. Deming once, he said, "so what percent of people who attend your four-day seminars really walk out understanding what you said?" And his explanation, his answer to Bill was, "very few." And I think that's consistent with Gipsie, because I think you have to step back and realize that there's, there might be something more going on than what you're thinking. And I'm hoping these conversations help to spur that. Now, relative to teamwork, I had a colleague within Boeing, he was at Boeing Corporate, and somebody went by his office one day knowing that he was very fond of Deming's work and Taguchi's work. And the guy sticks his head out and he says to him, "you know the reason I don't like Deming, there's no equations, you know there's no equations.


0:11:30.0 BB: If you had equations, it means something." And so I told my friend, I said, next time the guy comes by and says that, say to him, "do you believe in teamwork? Is teamwork important?" 'cause at that time, within Boeing, Boeing's corporate slogan was "people working together as, as a one global aerospace companies"... But people working together. And I said, ask him, does he believe in working together? And he'll say yes. And then say, "so what's the equation? What's the equation?" And so I wanna share in advance of a, of another session where we get more into this, an example of teamwork. And I think, I think... I think if executives had an understanding of what teamwork is, that it improves profitability, no one would be against it. Now again, I've also come across people who think teamwork means everyone's involved in every decision, and they get turned off by that.


0:12:30.2 BB: And I'm not saying I agree with: everyone's involved in every decision. But what if, Andrew, in terms of a task, let's say you and I have to dig a trench that's 50 yards long. And I give you a shovel. That's a tool. I take a shovel. That's another tool. We start at opposite ends. And let's say we can each dig the trench at one foot an hour. So that means in one hour we're digging two feet, in two hours we're digging four feet. And so what is that? That's one plus one... One hour plus one hour equals two feet. That's addition, right, Andrew, addition. But if you're at one end of the trench and I'm on the other end of the trench, where's the teamwork? [laughter] There's no teamwork in that model. But Andrew, what if I came along with another tool called a pickaxe, and what if I get in there and start softening up the dirt? And then as it's softer, you can shovel faster. That's teamwork, Andrew. Teamwork is that you and I, again I'm changing tools, but what I'm showing is that you and I working together, my work depends upon yours, yours depends upon me. Two of us can be digging three feet an hour. So what's that Andrew? One plus one is three. My wife and I, a number of years ago, were scraping the spray off the ceiling in our hallway, and the work split was, I climbed the ladder and scraped off the acoustic spray. Right?


0:14:07.2 BB: And her job was to be ahead of me spraying it with water to soften it. And I use that example at class because we were doing far more together than the example I gave you. But if her ambition was to get to the end of the hallway before me, then the acoustic spray would be dry long before I got to it. That ain't helping. And so this is an example of would you like to be in an organization where two people are doing the work of two, or two people are doing the work of three, or two people doing the work of four or five or six. Or, or worse than that Andrew, would you like to have two people doing the work, falling behind [laughter] and get into the... 'Cause I also think people think, well, what's the worst case scenario? Two people equals zero? No, falling behind each day.


0:15:00.9 AS: Two people equal negative one.


0:15:02.7 BB: 'Cause they think well, how bad can it be? It can get better and better or worse and worse. And the other thing I'll add relative to the, "it depends" and the answer to every question. I think if you think of in a Deming organization, you're thinking about, "it depends." And so Andrew, if we're in a red... If we're in a non-Deming organization and I say to you, "Andrew, will that report be done by tomorrow?" How would you answer it in a non Deming organization, Andrew?


0:15:34.7 AS: In a non... Yes, sir.


0:15:36.1 BB: You're gonna salute and you're gonna say, "yes sir." All right. And I do this with my students and they'll be quick enough to figure out the answer is yes. Then I'll say, I'll call on a different person and I'll say, "Okay, let's say we're in a Deming organization, a 'we organization' will the report be done by tomorrow?"


0:15:55.5 AS: It depends.


0:15:57.6 BB: And they're like, it depends. It depends on what Andrew? It depends on what time tomorrow. It depends on those other five things you've asked me to do. And you might say, is this a five minute task or a 20 minute task or a two hour task? And so if you're unwilling to answer "it depends," then what's the chance the effort you're gonna apply? And so that's what I find is, I think the beauty of it is not, "it depends" is a smart-alecky response, it's trying to get a better sense of the system. And they, but I also say that I confess of thinking about "it depends" all the time. If my wife, of 40 years, was to ask me, do I have plans for Saturday morning? You know what my answer is, Andrew?


0:16:50.5 AS: For whatever you want, dear, I am free.


0:16:54.2 BB: I do not say, "it depends." [laughter] So it depends is the answer other than when your significant other says, do you have plans for...? And you say, no, I don't.


0:17:07.5 AS: Yes.


0:17:07.8 BB: All right.


0:17:08.3 AS: All right. So I got so many different things that you triggered.


0:17:12.2 BB: Good.


0:17:13.4 AS: The first one I wanted to mention was I have a friend of mine, Bevin in Bangkok, and he helped me edit my book, Transform Your Business with Dr. Deming's 14 Points. And he didn't know anything about Deming, so it's kind of fun to write it and have him going through it. And he actually worked with me side by side in my office and he was reading it and going through and editing and going back and forth chapter by chapter. And then after he was pretty deep into it, he looked at me and he says, I think I just figured it out. Dr. Deming is like is a humanist that cares about people.


0:17:49.8 BB: Yeah.


0:17:51.2 AS: And that was such a... And I think for the listeners and the viewers out there, you're gonna get to a moment where you move beyond tools and techniques into the way you think about getting the most out of a system, getting the most out of people. And that's really where you really get into the meaning to me, the most powerful part of the meaning of Dr. Deming.


0:18:14.5 BB: Well, when you start to think about the potential for one plus one, and then you realize that in a non-Deming organization, you deliver the report by, you know, without understanding the context, you deliver the part without understanding the context. You have the ability to, as we've talked, spoken before, meet requirements minimally, leave the bowling ball in a doorway and... 'Cause I say, Andrew was the task completed? And you're like, yes sir, it was completed. But to do so with the absolute minimal effort and then to realize that that then is creating a ripple effect for the next person. And what we end up doing is a one plus one is a big negative number, or you go off and get the cleaning solution, which is really, really cheap, but it doesn't cut whatever the grease is on the table. And we're saving a lot of money, but we're putting all this manpower. When you start to realize how easy it is to end up in a situation where one plus one is a big negative number, why would you treat people other than with the greatest of respect? And I've had people say, "Well, oh, so it's a feel good thing." I said, are we... Is the result at the end of the day to make... I'm not saying we're in business to make a profit, but I said if we wanna be sustainable, then the better we work together, the more sustainable we are. So, do we wanna be sustainable? And you get what you get.


0:20:00.0 AS: I had some other things that came up. First one is, for the audience out there, you may not know what Bill's talking about when he kept saying Ackoff, Ackoff. But what he's talking about is Russell Ackoff.


0:20:12.5 BB: Russell Ackoff. Yes.


0:20:15.7 AS: And I just wanna go back to an article that he wrote in 1994, and it's titled Systems Thinking and Thinking Systems. But what's critical for our discussion is his description of a system, which is very brief. So let me go through it.


0:20:32.4 BB: Yeah, please do.


0:20:33.5 AS: "A system is a whole consisting of two or more parts, one, each of which can affect the performance or properties of the whole, none of which can have an independent effect on the whole, and no subgroup of which can have an independent effect on the whole. In brief then, a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts or subgroups of parts." Now, I just wanna talk briefly about my... One of my areas of expertise is in the financial markets. And I say something a lot like what you say, when I go into my class and I said it last night in my valuation masterclass boot camp, when you finish my class, you'll be less confident than when you started. If you are less confident when you finish this class, I have succeeded. Well, this is very painful and difficult for people to think about because we're going to school to become more confident. But the stock market is not like physics where we have immutable laws that we can...


0:21:52.2 BB: That's right.


0:21:52.7 AS: Grasp and understand and then watch the interplay of those laws. The world of finance is a messy ball of activity. And the fact is, is that the minute you touch that ball, you have now affected that ball. If you place a buy order, you have just affected that ball. If you maybe place a very big buy order, you've really affected it. Some people could even say that just by looking at that ball of activity, you could influence it. When you face a complex, constantly changing system, then you start to realize that we have so expect definitiveness, I'm just gonna do this.


0:22:49.0 AS: I'm just gonna take care of my department, if... And you're talking about a company, you are ignoring that the system, in this case I'm talking about the stock market, but now let's take it into a factory or into a business or into an office environment. All of these component parts. And if you write an email, a scathing email and you send it into that group of people that is working in a system, congratulations, you have made an effect or an impact on that system. For better or for worse, that system must react to every interaction. It cannot be divided into independent parts or subgroups. And therefore, the typical manager nowadays, that's all they wanna do. "I got my KPIs, that's my subgroup."


0:23:39.2 BB: Yes.


0:23:39.5 AS: We'll take care of that. And they're missing the word that I love in... When I work with management teams, the word I love is "coordination."


0:23:49.9 BB: Yeah. Synchronicity.


0:23:52.2 AS: Yep. So there's a lot there. But I just wanna highlight one other thing. You made me think of a book and earlier I was looking around for that book. So I'm gonna get out that book 'cause my books are right here and for everybody that's in business that's looking at competitive strategy of your business, Michael Porter is the guy...


0:24:14.3 BB: Yes.


0:24:14.8 AS: That's the best of all. But what I can say is that Michael Porter can be a bit dry. And the lady who worked with Michael Porter is a lady named Joan Magretta and she wrote a book called Understanding Michael Porter, a simple, small book to teach all the main things that Porter teaches. But what he teaches, the most important thing is that to develop a competitive advantage in a company, you wanna build that competitive advantage in the supply chain of that business, the flow of that business. And then he talks about the importance of fit, of how different components of that supply chain fit together.


0:24:57.3 AS: That that's the right person running the right part and that they're coordinating their efforts. And when you build that competitive advantage in your supply chain through the coordination of efforts, it's almost impossible for the competitor to copy. A great example is if General Motors, if the CEO of General Motors came in and he says, what I wanna do is start building cars like Toyota. Good luck. It's never going to happen because they've built their whole competitive advantage in their supply chain and it's not something that you can just go out and replicate.


0:25:36.0 BB: Well, to add to that, and I have a...students in one of my classes watch a one hour lecture by Porter. And then I explained to them Porter's five... I think it's a five forces model.


0:25:49.9 AS: Five forces. Yep.


0:25:52.1 BB: And all of that, I think it's absolutely important to know about. What I learned from Tom Johnson, is a retired professor from Portland State University and we'll talk more about Tom in a later session. What Tom pointed out to me that I would have paid no attention to in Porter's model is, in Porter's model it's about "power over." Power over your customers. Where else are you gonna go, Andrew, for Internet? Right? Power over your suppliers, power over your employees. I think and when we get into this "power over" model, so we're gonna go to our customers, start demanding things, put a gun to their head, drive change and they're gonna respond by leaving bowling balls in the doorway when it... So what's missing in that model is... I mean, if the model's based on all white beads are the same, everything which is good, everything is, there is no variation, then it might work. But if you now go back to the humanist, if you've got people in the loop who have vested interest in their survival as an employee, their survival as a supplier, and you go to them and start wrenching them and squeezing them and driving them to...


0:27:18.4 BB: And they respond with things that are thinner and break more often or still meet requirements, it doesn't work out as well. To your point on Toyota, my sense is Toyota has a sense of relationships with suppliers, which is not mutually self destructive. I think there's a better understanding, I think, again, not that I've spoken and gone to visit Toyota's suppliers. But I'm thinking, in order to deliver what they deliver, there's got to be some sense of, shall I say win-win, because if it's win-lose... Boeing, when Rocketdyne was owned by Boeing, you know, severe downturn in the market, there was a lot of pressure within Boeing to improve things and it was a pretty stressful situation. And Boeing was going to suppliers, not only asking them to take back inventory, all those parts you bought from the last six months and we're having trouble selling airplanes. But the reason we want you to take them back, Andrew, is it's not so much that we need the space. We want you to buy them back from us. [laughter] Yeah. Are you okay with that, Andrew?


0:28:44.9 AS: Absolutely not.


0:28:45.6 BB: And I'm thinking, what's gonna happen when you go to that supply chain and say, we're ramping up, we've got customers, and we... Andrew, we need your help, we need your help. Are you there for us? And you're like, remember five years ago? Remember? You get into this rainy day friends kind of thing. It's one thing if we're mutually suffering or mutually benefiting, but anything short of that is not win... I wouldn't define it as win-win. I also want to point out the production viewed as a system, the loop, the loop model that Deming showed the Japanese in 1950. And what I've done in the past is, is I've taken a class and I said, okay, you over there, you are the beginning, the raw material comes to you and then you do your thing, hand off to the next person, off to the next person, off to the next person. Then you over there, I go around the room, and I just show the flow of work from the first person to the last person, last person is a customer. And I say, so, where's the best place to be in this situation? And everybody wants to be way upstream. And you say, why? I say, well, when people start leaving the bowling balls in doorway...


0:30:07.2 AS: What does that mean, leaving bowling balls in doorways?


0:30:10.7 BB: If they start delivering minimally, minimally meeting requirements as they hand off as they hand off as they hand off as they hand off, and that system, the last... The worst place to be is at the end. And I say, but what if what comes around goes around? What if it's actually a loop? [laughter] Now, where would you rather be? Then you begin to realize that whatever goes into the air, I have to breathe, whatever goes into the water, I have to drink. So I think what, going back to the humanist side, I think the better you understand others, and they understand you, this is not done invisibly. So when I'm in a Deming environment, leaving the bowling ball in the doorway, meeting requirements minimally without asking for your permission, you know that, others know that, and then you might call me on it.


0:31:10.3 AS: Yeah.


0:31:11.9 BB: Because instead of black and white thinking - it met requirements, we've got shades of gray thinking - you call me over and you say, "I don't know, you're kinda new here, right Bill?" And I said, "yeah." And he says, let me take you aside. You might be able to tap into the humanist in me. So one is I'd say, I think the better our understanding of what comes around goes around, the better the understanding of what a good friend, Grace used to call boomerang karma. [laughter] But let me also say that Dr. Deming came up with that model...


0:31:49.2 AS: There's a bit of redundancy in that.


0:31:49.3 BB: Say again.


0:31:49.3 AS: There's a bit of redundancy in that. Those words kind of mean the same thing. But yes.


0:31:54.5 BB: Yes. [laughter] That's right. It's like connected as a system. That's what system means. But when Dr. Deming showed the Japanese in 1950 production to view it as a system, and there's an idea of what comes around goes around. And it took me a while to figure this out. If everyone's meeting requirements minimally in that system and you end up with something where there are problems, then if your model is meeting requirements is okay, then it wouldn't dawn on you that some of the problems could be coming from how we meet requirements. And there's a story we'll look at in a future session of a transmission designed by Ford, built by Ford, also built by Mazda in the early '80s. And Ford somehow found out that the Mazda transmission had an order of magnitude fewer complaints, with the shifting of the transmission than the Ford transmission. It was the same design, but one was built with an understanding of managing the variation between the parts and how they work together.


0:33:09.8 BB: Very much as you would do if you're working in the garage, you're gonna get the pieces to come together, not just meet requirements any way. But I thought if Ford operated with a Deming model in everything, and they end up finding out that these transmissions are performing differently, well, if you go back in and check with quality and all the parts meet requirements, you couldn't explain what's going on. And you're left thinking, well, our transmission must have some bad parts. So part of the reason I throw that out is, in the world of improvement, when you shift from this black and white parts are good, what Ackoff would call managing actions, looking things in isolation, you might find that the requirements are met to one extreme or the other. And maybe if we started to mix and match how they come together, there's an opportunity for incredible improvement when you shift your thinking from the black and white...


0:34:10.1 BB: My parts are good, to how they work together. And also, how can you have continual improvement if your mental model, your mindset is things are good and bad, but if we look at things in a relative sense, then we could say our... If we look at understanding as relative, improvement as relative, then there's room for improvement. But if quality is defined as good and bad, there's no room for improvement. And relative to the title, what I want to bring out is, there's a sense among people in the Deming community, people like a few years into Deming, we can go off and improve everything.


0:34:51.4 BB: Now, what we have to be careful about is what does improvement mean? Does improvement mean having less variation? Does improvement mean having lower cost? The important thing is to look at things, right, Andrew, as a system, and then start to ask where can we spend some, where can... I look at it as a resource management model. Where might we spend an hour to save five hours, spend a dollar to save five? And that's what I refer to not as continual improvement, but rather continual investment. And so I look at in terms of managing resources is within an organization, we've got red beads, we've got things that are defective, things that are behind that are not quite good, and we can use a control chart or run chart to manage those, see those ahead of time. And so we have a fire, Dr. Deming, he said, of course we're gonna have fires.


0:35:41.9 BB: Let's put the fire out. We end up back to where we were before, which means the process is...we wanna get it from out of control to in control. But I think the better we are in responding to that, we don't end up shut down for long periods of time. That then gives us the opportunity as you would be as a homeowner... Again, as a homeowner it's the same thing. You end up with a leak, you gotta go fix it, whether it's the faucet, the toilet, but then every now and then you're thinking about, maybe I can improve how the watering system is done. Maybe I can improve how the air conditioner works. Maybe by cleaning the filter more often. And what is that to me, Andrew, paying more attention to the filter, because if I wait six months to change the filter in the air conditioner, now all of that dust is way up inside the coils and I'm gonna spend forever.


0:36:32.0 BB: But if I'm changing that filter on a more regular basis, what am I doing? I am overall reducing the amount of effort spent on this maintenance. And I just wanted to say, I don't look at that as improvement thinking. I look at that as investment thinking, and I just wanna go from, okay yes, we can go past "all the beads are white" and we know that we don't stop at a hundred percent white beads. So that means improvement is possible, it doesn't mean, I'm not suggesting let's go improve everything. What I'm next looking at in terms of, you know, how I interpret Dr. Deming's The New Economics is asking where's the stitch in time saving nine, where's an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? And that I refer to as not improvement thinking, but investment thinking.


0:37:22.3 AS: Yep.


0:37:23.4 BB: And that's what I was trying to say last time. I think reading to your kids is investment thinking, listening to these podcasts is investment thinking, going to a concert, I think everything we do is based somehow on, "I think that's a worthwhile use of my time."


0:37:39.0 AS: Yep. Okay. Let's wrap up. I just want to go back to the title, which was, It Depends, Rethinking Improvements, and what you said is that, if you're working in a Deming organization, it's not gonna be as definitive. When we ask questions, we're gonna get answers like, well, it depends. Everything's a trade off. We need to know...


0:38:03.7 BB: That's right.


0:38:03.8 AS: How many things... We need to know many things, as you said, before deciding what to do because we want to think about the impact of the system... On the system. And also I would argue, and I think you make this point, that this is hard and I think there's a rush to simplification in KPIs and things like that to try to corner people into little areas and little boxes. And that's destroying the system and... Or the potential of the system.


0:38:37.5 AS: And then I mentioned the word coordination, the idea. We talked about Porter and his idea of building competitive advantage happens through the supply chain. His example, one of them that he uses is IKEA that makes flat, it ships everything in flat boxes.


0:38:52.5 BB: Yes.


0:38:53.2 AS: And that has built something in the supply chain that's not easy to replicate. And so, but that also requires fits that you're designing your supply chain around a new way of thinking. And then you've talked about Russell Ackoff and also I discussed his definition of a system that's saying that nothing can be independently... Can act independently. Everything has an impact. I talked about the stock market and how that is an interacting system. And then I just wanna finish up my kind of review of what we've talked about by a discussion, Bill, that I had with my father before he passed away.


0:39:35.4 AS: And my father had a PhD in organic chemistry and he created a career all of his life at DuPont in selling, he was a salesman and a technical salesman. And he raised three kids; my mom was a housewife. And I asked my dad, what was your proudest accomplishment? And he said, I built a trusting family.


0:40:01.4 BB: Cool.


0:40:03.1 AS: And I didn't really... It hit me then, but it just hits me more and more whenever I think about that. My mom and dad never betrayed my trust. I never was in a situation where I could see that they were acting for their benefit and...


0:40:14.3 BB: Yeah.


0:40:16.8 AS: Not considering mine. So now I wanna go back to Toyota. One of the things that makes Toyota successful is that it's the quintessential family business. It is a family business that built certain values in the family business that are ongoing. Because what we're trying to do, and when we talked about Dr. Deming being a humanist, we're trying to build trust.


0:40:42.5 AS: He's telling us to build trust in the system. In other words, don't beat up your suppliers, work with them. Don't beat up your employees and make them fearful. Don't rank and rate your employees. Build a system of trust. And what I realized, I want to just go back to the story of my father, if my father had done something that was selfish only for him and neglected the impact on me and my mom or the family, he would have broken our trust. And it just takes one time to cause a system, like a family system, to be permanently broken, unless there's effort made to try to resolve that. And it's no different in a business. What would you like to add to end up this episode?


0:41:33.3 BB: No. I think that's a good point. A number of things is, and I really like the way you described that, because I thought about that recently as well as, it's one thing to have trust in others, but I think what you're saying is that a Deming organization we have trust in the system. And when you, when you lack that trust, what do you do, Andrew? You look out for yourself.


0:41:57.7 AS: Yep.


0:42:00.4 BB: Because you've learned. You've learned the hard way. You fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. But I think if you have trust in the system, then there may be a new direction. But you say, "I don't know where we're going, I just got the announcement, but I have trust in the system. I'm not gonna get tossed overboard." And I think you're right. When you have trust in the system of the company or of the family, then you know that you're being looked out for. And lacking that, when people say something to you, you're like, "what's their ulterior motive?" And when you start thinking about ulterior motives behind coworkers or friends, then they're really not friends for long when you start wondering about ulterior motives.


0:42:51.6 AS: And that stifles innovation.


0:42:53.3 BB: Oh, yeah. You say to me, Andrew, or you say to me, Bill, hey, what do you say we go do this? The first thing comes to mind is, what's Andrew up to now? But that's the humanist.


0:43:04.4 AS: Yeah.


0:43:04.8 BB: And what I love about what Deming is saying, and when you put psychology in the System of Profound Knowledge, is that it's an understanding that that psychology gets me to think about me and not the system. That psychology, then we're looking at also an understanding that each of us is different, that's the variation piece. Right, the theory of knowledge piece or am I willing to share my theories or hide my theories? But if you're not tapping into the... That people... I mean, the most flexible part of the system, once you pour the concrete, so yeah, the chairs are on rollers and you put casters on some machines.


0:43:40.6 BB: But at the end of the day, the potential most flexible part of the system is the people. And when you turn people into concrete, now you've got trouble. So I just wanna... And I know you've got a favorite Deming quote, so let me share with you my favorite Russell Ackoff quote, and then you could sign us off. And so to borrow from Russell Ackoff, "a system is never the sum of its parts. It's the product of the interactions of its parts. The art of managing interactions is very different indeed than the management of actions. And history requires this transition for effective management, not efficient management, effective management." And that's my closing quote, Andrew.


0:44:25.2 AS: Bill, once again, on behalf of everyone at The Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for our discussion. For listeners, remember to go to to continue your journey. And if you want to keep in touch with Bill, just find him on LinkedIn. Oh, wow, we have a lot of good discussions there and all of this stuff is posted there. Share your ideas and opinions. This is your host, Andrew Stotz. And I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Deming: "People are entitled to joy in work."