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Apr 9, 2024

What happens if you transform HOW you think? In this episode, Bill Bellows and host Andrew Stotz discuss the problem of thinking in one dimension at a time (as we were taught in school) and its impact on our ability to solve problems. BONUS: Book recommendations to broaden your understanding of Deming and more.


0:00:02.1 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, well, episode 19, Transforming How we Think. Bill, take it away.


0:00:29.9 Bill Bellows: And good evening, Andrew.


0:00:35.8 AS: Good evening.


0:00:36.2 BB: And, but just as a point of clarity, I view it as transforming how we think about our thinking. And that's what I've been focusing on for the, since the mid, the early '90s is not how we think, but what is our awareness of our thinking, and I think that ties in well with SoPK. So first in late breaking news, I am seeing with new eyes, Andrew. Literally, I've got new monofocal lenses in both eyes. The left eye three weeks ago, the right eye, a week ago. I was told about five years ago, eventually I'll have to have cataract surgery. And I spoke with a few friends who had it done, and they said, oh, it's easy. And what was so amazing was it was easier than they said. It was.


0:01:41.0 BB: But one neighbor who's had it done, and kind of a sad note is he claims, and I've not double checked this, he's a sharp guy. He claims 80% of the world's population would benefit from cataract surgery that they don't have access to and eventually go blind. And I don't know, I can believe, and he is in fact he's quoted me twice on that. But I am literally seeing with new eyes. The grays are now, shades of gray, are now shades of blue. When I look at the sky. My depth perception's a whole lot better. And so it ties in well with all this vision therapy stuff. So.


0:02:36.8 AS: Aren't you glad that those machines are high quality and the operations that they do are high quality?


0:02:41.6 BB: Oh, yeah.


0:02:42.4 AS: Just one little mistake on that one. And, that's...


0:02:46.2 BB: Well, and I'm signing the documents and there's a little bit of a flutter when I'm signing, in terms of the liability. And one friend's mom had a bad cataract procedure, so it doesn't always go. And I shared this with Kevin. Kevin's had the same, as likewise had the procedure done. And we shared the anxieties and then it worked out well. But yeah when I signed that form that there was in the event, and I thought, whoa, that'd be, anyway, it worked. All right, so where I want to pick up in episode 19 is where we left off with episode 18. And there near the end, I referenced from Dr. Deming. He says Dr. Deming says in chapter three of The New Economics, and he says, "we saw in the last chapter that we're living under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management. Most people imagine this style has always existed. It is a fixture. Actually," he said, "it's a modern invention, a trap that has led us into decline. Transformation..."


0:04:03.0 BB: You remember that word from last time? Okay. "Transformation is required. Education and government, along with industry are also in need of transformation. The System of Profound Knowledge will be introduced in the next chapter. To be introduced in the next chapter is a theory for transformation." So I've got some bullet points and I want to get into the additional chapters and references from The New Economics on Dr. Deming's use of the term transformation. 'Cause I think what he's talking about... SoPK is a theory for transformation. So I think it's just not enough to talk about SoPK without understanding how does that fit in with what Dr. Deming's talking about?


0:04:49.0 AS: And for the listeners who come out of the blue here, SoPK stands for the System of Profound Knowledge.


0:04:56.1 BB: Yes. And system then gets into elements and the four elements that Dr. Deming proposed in The New Economics, going back to the late '80s when he started to put these thoughts together. We need to think about the elements of Profound Knowledge are looking at things as a system and understanding of variation and appreciation of psychology. That's the people aspect. And then theory of knowledge, which gets into what he would explain as how do we know that what we know is so. So the one thing I wanted to bring up on the System of Profound Knowledge is conversations with Dick Steele. And a neat way of looking at the System of Profound Knowledge is to say, well, what if we were to look at some data points, one element, we look at variation, and we see some data the output of a process.


0:06:00.0 BB: We see it go up and down. Well, if that's the only element we have, then we can't ask what caused that, 'cause that's the upstream system. Well, that's the system piece. We cannot talk about what does this variation do downstream? That's the system piece. We cannot talk about how might we change that. That might get into the theory of knowledge or would get into the aspect of the theory of knowledge and some theories as to how we can go about changing the average, changing the amount of variation. And then what that leads us immediately to is, where do those ideas come from but people.


0:06:44.7 BB: So it's kind of, I think it's interesting. So Dr. Deming says the elements, but it's as connected to each other. So what I explain to the students in my courses is, in the beginning, and I remember when I'm looking at this, I'm looking at the elements. I'm thinking, okay, that variation, that's the Control Chart stuff. Common causes, special causes, well, it also includes variation in people. Oh, now we're talking about the people stuff. And then, so I find it interesting is it is easy to look at them as separate, but then in time they meld together really well. So it's not to say that we shouldn't start out looking at things as the elements 'cause I think that's what our education system does. In fact, there's a great documentary I watched a few years ago with Gregory Bateson, who was born in 1900 or so, passed away in the 1980s.


0:07:52.6 BB: And when I ask people have you ever heard of Gregory Bateson? They say, no. I say, well, have you heard of Margaret Mead? Yeah. Well, they were married once upon a time. That was her, he was her first husband. And so Bateson gives a lecture in this documentary that his daughter produced. And he says, and he is at a podium. You don't see the audience. You just see he's at a lectern. And he says, you may think that there's such a thing as psychology, which is separate from anthropology, which is separate from English, which is separate from... And he goes on to imply that they really aren't separate. But then he says, "Well, think what you want."


0:08:38.1 AS: Think what you want.


0:08:39.7 AS: And I thought that's what the education system does. It has us believe that these things are all separate. And so that's what's kind of neat. Yeah. And, but again, I think when you go to school, you're learning about history, then you learn about math. But one thing I noticed later on, many years later was the history people never talked about, if they talked about the philosopher who was well known in mathematics, we didn't hear that mathematics piece, nor in the math class did we hear about this person as a historical figure. We just learned about... And so the education system kind of blocks all that out. And then years later when we're outta school, we can read and see how all this stuff comes together and it does come together. So the one big thing I wanna say is that, is I think it's neat to look at something with just one of those elements and then say, how far does it go before you need the others to really start to do something?


0:09:47.0 BB: And that gets into the interactions. And by interactions, I mean that when you're talking about variation and you're thinking about people are different, how they feel is different, how they respond is different. Now you're talking about the interaction between psychology, at least that's one explanation of the interaction between people amd psychology. I wanna share next an anecdote. I was at a UCLA presentation. A friend of mine turned me on to these maybe once a month kind of deal to be an invited speaker. 70 people in the room. And these were typically professors from other universities, authors, and there is one story I wanna share is a woman who had written a book on why really smart kids don't test well in secondary schools. And there were a good number of people there.


0:10:45.6 BB: And I'm listening to all this through my Deming lens, and she's talking about how kids do on the exams. That goes back to an earlier podcast. How did you do on the exam? And so I'm listening to all this and she's drawing conclusions that these students are really smart, but they freak out. And then how might they individually perform better? As if the greatest cause by them all by themselves. And so afterwards, I went up and stood in line and I had a question for her that I deliberately did not want to ask in front of the entire room. 'Cause I wanted her undivided attention, and I really wanted to see where she'd come with this. 'Cause perhaps it could lead to an ongoing discussion. So I went up and introduced myself and I think I said something like, are you familiar with W. Edwards Deming? And I believe she said she was. I think she was a psychologist by background. And then I moved into the... Essentially the essence of what if the grades are caused by the system and not the student taken separately, which she acknowledged. She's like, yeah, that makes sense. And I remember saying to her, "Well then how might that change your conclusions?"


0:12:11.2 BB: And so I throw that as an example of... Deming's saying you could be an expert in, you know, you just look at something. Actually, when that comes to mind is Deming is saying something like shouldn't a psychologist know something about variation? Well, shouldn't a psychologist know something about systems? And I didn't maintain a relationship with her, but it was just other things to do. Next I wanna share a story. And I wrote this up in an article. Then when this is posted...


0:12:49.0 BB: Typically these are posted on LinkedIn. Then I'll put a link into the article. And it's a classic story that Russ Ackoff was very fond of saying, and I heard the story told quite a few times before I started to think about it a little bit differently. So the story is he was working for General Electric back in the 1960s. He is in a very high level meeting. And in the room is this, the then CEO of GE, Reginald Jones and all of the senior VPs of General Electric are in the room. And Russ... I'm guessing he was doing, I know Russ did a lot of work with Anheuser-Busch, and he did a lot of work with GE. So Russ says he is in the room. There's maybe a dozen of these senior VPs of plastics of all the different GE divisions.


0:13:41.2 BB: And there's, Russ said there's one of them that was relatively new in a senior VP position, now over plastics or over lighting or whatever it was. And at one point he gets up. And one by one he raises a question with each of his peers. Something like, "Andrew, I noticed last year you installed a new software system." And you would say, "yeah, yep, yep." And I said, "I noticed you went with..." Let's say Apple, "you went with Apple Software", and you're like, "yeah," "that's what I thought. Yeah, you went with Apple." And then you might say something like, "why do you ask?" And he says, "well, the rest of us use Microsoft products. And it just seems kind of odd that you would go off and buy something different."


0:14:41.0 BB: And the point, and Russ didn't get into these details, the essence was every single one of them he'd figured out over the last year had made a decision, pretty high level decision that that senior VP felt was good for that division, but not good for General Electric. And Russ said what got his attention was, he wasn't sitting in that room hearing those conversations and he hears one decision then another, now he's got a whole list. So Russ says, he goes around the room and calls out every single one of his peers. So, and Russ shared this in one phone call, the Ongoing Discussions that I've mentioned. And people said, Russ, do you have that documented? And he is like, well, I don't think I have that any anymore. But somebody else asking.


0:15:35.3 BB: And then no sooner was the call over I had some friends call me up, said, "Bill, can you ask Russ if you have that, if he can get a copy of that? It's probably on his shelf. You're in his office". I said to one friend. I said, "so you'd be surprised that a member of Parliament does what's best for his district and not what's best for the United Kingdom. You think, you'd be surprised that a congressman from Los Angeles is gonna do what's best for Los Angeles, not what's best for the country.


0:16:07.2 BB: So you're telling me you're surprised by that?" Well, "no, no, no." I said, "well then why do you have to have the documentation?" So that's one aspect of it. So I heard that story again and again. And so finally it, I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. So I said, "Russ, on that story, you being in the room with GE?" He says, yeah. He says, I know you don't have the documentation, I said, "but what happened after this guy called them all out? How did that go down?" He says, "one of the peers looks at this guy and says, so what's your point?"


0:16:42.3 BB: And the meeting moved on. And I wrote that for an article for the Lean Management Journal called, "You Laugh, It Happens". And when I look at that through the lens of the System of Profound Knowledge, is that surprising that that goes on? No, not at all. I wanna reference a couple books that I don't think I've mentioned at all. And I share these because for the Deming enthusiasts, these books have some brilliant examples of in different arenas that I think you absolutely love and you can use in your classes, use in your education, whatever. All fairly recent. The first one is "The Tyranny of Metrics" written by a historian. He is an American University historian, Jerry Mueller, and he has, I mean, Dr. Deming would just love this. Oh, bingo! Bingo! Bingo! Thank you.


0:17:48.4 AS: Yep. There it is. "The Tyranny of Metrics".


0:17:50.1 BB: Right?


0:17:50.7 AS: Yep.


0:17:51.3 BB: Right. Is that a great one?


0:17:53.2 AS: That's a great book. And you can follow him on Twitter also. He does do a lot of posts there.


0:18:00.4 BB: Now I reached out to him 'cause I relished the book 'cause the stories were just, you just can't make up all those stories. I mean the story that I shared with Russ is nothing in comparison to what Muller has in the book. I just don't believe that Muller has a solution that can... I don't think, I think the only thing missing from the book is if he had an understanding of the System of Profound Knowledge, he'd have a far better proposal as to what to do.


0:18:31.8 AS: Yeah. I read that and I felt similar that there was something that was missing there. It was, it was great stories as you say, but how do we connect that? How do we apply that? And what's the root cause here? And how do we, this, there was just... That was missing from it. And maybe that should be his next book.


0:18:53.9 BB: Oh, enormously. But it's worth reading regardless.


0:18:57.3 AS: Yeah. Agreed.


0:19:00.1 BB: But I was, I was, I wasn't surprised. I'd say this. He honestly tried to offer a proposal, but I just looked at it and said, Professor Muller, you would just love it. In fact, I believe I reached out to him. I don't know that I heard from him. Alright, that's one book.


0:19:17.1 AS: That reminds me of what Dr. Deming said. "How would they know?"


0:19:21.3 BB: Exactly. Exactly.


0:19:22.4 AS: So if he hadn't been exposed to the System of Profound Knowledge...


0:19:25.3 BB: Oh, no. No, no, no.


0:19:25.7 AS: Then it would be hard to pull it all together. Yep. Okay.


0:19:28.8 BB: Yeah. So the next book, which is somewhere behind you in your bookshelf, is "The End of Average" by Todd...


0:19:36.8 AS: Actually, I don't think I have that one.


0:19:39.4 BB: By Todd Rose, who's a research fellow at Harvard. It's a riveting book. Oh, Andrew, you would absolutely love it. Just, he goes back ages. I mean, hundreds of hundreds of years and looks at how lost we became... How lost civilizations were dealing with trying to make, deal with averages. And the book opens with the most riveting story. And I started reading this and immediately I started thinking, "Okay, okay, okay, okay." And I figured it out. So in the opening paragraph, he says, In one day in 1949, there were 17 military planes crashed. In one day. 17 military planes crashed in one day. And this was... It would have been after the Air Force separated from the Army Air Corps. And so I started thinking, okay, late '40s, planes are going faster. The US industry has German technology, and... Because the Germans had jet engines in the late '40s. So I'm thinking it's about speed. It's about something about speed, something about speed. And there's more and more planes flying.


0:21:06.6 BB: So they grounded the fleet. They had a major investigation, brought in this young guy as a data researcher. And he passed away a few years ago, I did some research with him recently. And what he found was the cockpits were designed, you're writing, Andrew, for the average size pilots. Everything in the cockpit was fixed for the average arm length, the average hand length, the average finger length, the average height, the... Everything about... All these measurements on the torso, the cockpit had, everything was fixed. And that's exactly what I thought was going on. As the planes are going faster and faster, reaction times need to be faster and faster. And they're not. So his research was, they went off and measured thousands of pilots and found out that there was no pilot met the average.


0:22:11.2 AS: Oh, God.


0:22:11.3 BB: And the conclusion was... And again, until the plane started flying faster, that was not an issue. And that's what I was thinking with all my training in problem solving, decision making, what is going on there? What is going on there? And that's what changes the... I mean, the speed was accelerating, but compounded by the fixed geometry. So the solution by the government Pentagon, to the contractors was, add flexibility to the cockpit, allow the seat to move up and down, and then the auto industry picked up on that evidently. And so this is one example of how a fixation on average and a number of other stories outside of engineering it's just fascinating.


0:23:01.4 AS: Let me just summarize. The End of Average by Todd Rose. And it was published in about 2016. It's got a 4.5 out of 5 review on Amazon with 1,000 ratings and has a very high for Goodreads review of about 4.1. So I'm definitely getting that one. I don't have it and I'm buying it.


0:23:22.1 BB: Yeah. And it's again, he, I believe in there he offers what we should do instead, which again, I think would be, benefit from an understanding of SoPK. And so, again, for the Deming enthusiast, there is stuff in those two books, which you'll just love. And the third book came out at, I think, 2020 during the pandemic, The Tyranny of Merit, that tyranny word again, by Michael Sandel from Harvard. And I believe we've spoken about him before. And it's the tyranny of meritocracy, which is the belief that I achieved my success all by myself. I earned the grade all by myself. Everything I've done, I've done all by myself. There is no greater system. And I've written... In fact I sent an email to Michael Sandel complimenting him for the book and trying to point out that everything he's talking about fits in very well with Deming's work and that the issues are bigger than that.


0:24:34.4 BB: And I have not yet heard back, but he's a busy guy. But those three books are I would say, must reads. Then I go on to say that, because I used earlier that Dr. Deming talked about we are living under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management. So then I looked. I wanted to, so what exactly is this tyranny stuff? I mean, I'm so used to the word, so I wanted to go back and get a definition. "Tyranny is often synonymous with cruelty and oppression." And I said, that's... Yeah. Yeah. Oh, absolutely. All right.


0:25:26.4 BB: So, next, I wanna talk about... In previous podcasts I talked about work at Rocketdyne, what we called an... In the beginning it was called A Thinking Roadmap. And then as we got turned on to thinking about thinking, we changed that to An InThinking Roadmap. And that constituted roughly 220 hours of training over a dozen or so courses. So we had a one day class in Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats, a one day class in his, in other, actually two days in some of his other. So anyways, we had a number of courses on de Bono's work. I had a 40-hour intro course to Taguchi methods and a 40-hour advanced class in Dr. Taguchi's work. We had a 9-hour session called Understanding Variation. We had a things we were trained in that were developed by others, and then things we designed ourselves.


0:26:36.6 BB: And in the courses are tools and techniques. So tools are a cell phone, a slide rule, a computer. And the technique is how do we use it? And they provide what Ackoff would call efficiency, but also a number of these courses were inspired by Dr. Deming and Russ Ackoff were about improving effectiveness. And I got into concepts and strategies. And then what I wanted to mention that I don't think I've mentioned before is the whole concept of an InThinking Roadmap, and in this thinking about our thinking, which is a big part of the theme for tonight is, as that was inspired by, in the early '90s, Rockwell, Rocketdyne was then part of Rockwell, every division of Rockwell had a technology roadmap. And that had to be presented to higher and higher levels.


0:27:33.3 BB: What technologies are developing? What's the roadmap? And so more and more and more I heard this tech roadmap, tech roadmap. And then with colleagues, we started thinking about thinking, we thought, we need to have a thinking roadmap to combine with the technology roadmap. So the technology roadmap is gonna be helping us enormously in terms of efficiency, but not effectiveness. And I thought to integrate those two is quite powerful, which is, again another reminder of why Dr. Deming's work is a brilliant foundation for the use of technology. Otherwise, what you end up doing in a non-Deming company is with a cell phone you can increase the speed of blame.


0:28:21.4 BB: All right. So then I went back since last time I did some more research into transformation and came up with some great thoughts from Russ Ackoff. Again, our dear friend Russ Ackoff. And this is from an article that Russ wrote on transformations. And he says, "transformation is not only require recognition of the difference between what is practiced and what is preached. He says a transformation called four years ago by Donald Schön in his book Beyond the Stable State," and this is a 1991 book, he said, "it requires a transformation in the way we think.”  “Einstein," Russ says "put it powerfully and succinctly." He says, "without changing our patterns of thought, we'll not be able to solve the problems we created with our current pattern of thought."


0:29:08.2 BB: Russ continues. "I believe the pattern of thought that is required is systemic. It is difficult if at all possible to reduce the meaning of systemic thinking to a brief definition. Nevertheless, I try. Systemic thinking," again from Russ, "is holistic versus reductionist, synthetic versus analytic. Reductionist and analytic thinking derived properties from the whole, from the parts, from the properties of their parts. Holistic and synthetic thinking derived properties of parts, from the property of the whole that contains them." So I thought it was neat to go back and look at that. And then I want, more from Russ. "A problem never exists in isolation. It's surrounded by other problems in space and time. The more of a context of a problem that a scientist can comprehend, the greater are his chances of truly finding an adequate solution."


0:30:11.4 BB: And then, and so when I was going through this over the last few days, thinking, boy, I wish Dr. Deming defined transformation, it would've been, if he had an operational definition. But I thought, but wait a minute. 'Cause part of what I'm finding is, in my research, an article I came across years ago, Leading Change in the Harvard Business Review, a very popular article, 1995, by John Kotter, Why Transformations Fail. So Kotter uses that word and the title is Leading Change: Why Transformations Fail. And he is got establishing... Eight steps of transformation. "Establishing a sense of urgency, forming a powerful guiding coalition, creating a vision, communicating the vision, empowering others to act on the vision, planning for, and creating short-term wins." And under that step, Andrew, he's got a couple of steps, I'd like to get your thoughts on. One is "recognizing and rewarding employees involved in the improvements." So I thought, but of course this is transformation in the realm of the prevailing system of management. And so what that got me... Tossed around on it. I thought, well, wait a minute. There's a bunch of words that Dr. Deming uses that others use, but we know they mean something different. So Dr. Deming...


0:31:56.6 AS: Like I'm thinking, improvement is what he may be talking about.


0:32:02.4 BB: Well, but Dr. Deming talks about teamwork and the need to work together. Everybody talks about that.


0:32:08.1 AS: Yep.


0:32:09.2 BB: But just that we know, in a non-Deming environment, it's about managing actions, completing those tasks in isolation. I can meet requirements minimally, hand off to you, and that in a non-Deming environment, we call teamwork. So what I was thinking is, well, it's not that we need a new, 'cause I was even thinking, maybe we need a new word. Maybe in the Deming community, we should stop using the word transformation and come up with another word. Well, the trouble is, there's a whole bunch of other words that we use from teamwork to work together, to leader, quality. We talk about performance. We talk about root cause versus root causes. We talk about system. And so it's not that we need a new word, we need a new foundation. And that goes back to this notion as you read The New Economics or Out of the Crisis, you're hearing words that Dr. Deming uses that others use like John Kotter, but they're not used in the same context.


0:33:26.2 AS: How would you wrap up the main points you want people to take away from this discussion about transformation?


0:33:38.1 BB: Big thing is, we are talking about transformation. We are talking about seeing with new eyes, hearing with new ears. So the seeing, we talked about last time, is it's not just the systems. We're seeing systems differently. We're seeing variation differently. We're thinking differently about people and what motivates them and inspires them. The psychology piece, the theory of knowledge piece, we're challenging what we know. And then we have to think about all those interactions between two of them, between three of them, between four of them. And so I'd say that it's, the essence is transformation is essential. It is about rethinking our thinking. And I just wanna leave with two quotes. One fairly recent, one a little older. And the first quote, the more recent one from Tom Johnson, "How the world we perceive works depends upon how we think. The world we perceive," Andrew "is a world we bring forth through our thinking."


0:34:44.9 BB: That's H. Thomas Johnson, a dear friend in his 1999 book, Profit Beyond Measure. And my advice to people in reading that book is, do not attempt to read it laying down in bed. It's just, now you can read those other books we talked earlier. I think you can read those lying in bed. But Tom is very pithy. You wanna be wide awake. The last quote I wanna leave is from William James, born in 1842, died in 1910. He was an American philosopher, psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the US. He is considered to be a leading thinker of the late 19th century, the father of American psychology, one of the elements of Profound Knowledge. And his quote that I wanna leave you with, Andrew is, "The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind."


0:35:45.2 AS: Whoa. Well, Bill, what an ending. On behalf of everyone at The Deming Institute, I want to thank you again for the 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. This is your host, Andrew Stotz, and I'll leave you with my favorite quote from Dr. Deming. "People are entitled to joy in work."