By August 20, 2012 3 Comments Read More →

Looking Back – What Dr. Deming Taught the Japanese

Last week, I had a chance to see one of the “Deming Library” videos (on loan to me by Claire Crawford-Mason and BTW, I’ll be interviewing Claire soon about her reflections on working closely with W. Edwards Deming for the production of these videos and the famous 1980 NBC program about Deming).

I watched one video, produced in 1998 (after Dr. Deming’s death in 1993): “How Everyone Wins: Finding Joy, Meaning, and Profit in the Workplace.

There are many great points in the video, including a few things I tweeted – thoughts and pictures – while watching.

Some of the great things Dr. Deming said in the video:

“People are different from one another. A leader must be aware of these differences.” They are not interchangeable machine parts.

I have learned from my own career that there are “one size fits all” approaches to managing people in a team. Deming taught that we must understand and manage people as individuals.

Dr. Deming also  said:

“The job the leader is to make his people feel important.”

I suppose one way to do that is to really listen to your employees and to be humble. Ask their opinions and get them involved in improvement – work that matters.

Another lesson from the video is (paraphrasing):

First understand and get agreement about the aim of the system (organization).

We can’t know just WHAT do do. We must also agree on WHY.

And here are five screen captures of “What Deming Taught the Japanese”:






I think we can find these five philosophies in modern-day “Lean management” in healthcare or beyond. We can also find some of it (like “decisions based on fact”) in other approaches like Six Sigma. Although, I’ve learned from Toyota books that “fact” (what you can see and verify with your own eyes) is not necessarily the same as “data” (or just numbers, which might be missing context or other important information).

“Feedback on people,” of course, means more than just an annual review or ranking process. Deming was opposed to the traditional annual review (as are people like Prof. Samuel Culbert – my podcast with him is here) and said we needed to be leaders instead… giving continual coaching and feedback throughout the year, rather than just judging them at year’s end.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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3 Comments on "Looking Back – What Dr. Deming Taught the Japanese"

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  1. John Hunter

    Good stuff. Including the supplier and the customer in the system are immensely valuable ideas. Sadly they are done poorly, or not at all, far too often.

  2. Gunther Hamm says:

    Hi Mark,

    I was reading the new Atul Gawande article in last week’s New Yorker and wondered your thoughts on it and on provider chains like Steward generally. Do these necessarily involve the integration of lean or is it something else? What about the recent acquisitions by Davita, Aetna, etc?



    • Mark Graban

      Hi Gunther-

      Yes, I blogged it about it last week:


      Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better. Do customer service and cost always improve when a company or organization gets bigger? Not necessarily.

      Lean and process improvement are a very necessary part of the puzzle, otherwise things get more complex and dysfunctional as we get bigger.

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