Applying Deming's Work To Our New Frontier

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On March 3, I was an invited speaker at the 20th Annual International Deming Research Seminar at Fordham University in New York City. My paper and presentation was developed from my 25 years of studying Deming's work and applying it to corporate strategies. Recently, I have become convinced that the teachings of Dr. Deming are as important as ever, in fact, perhaps even more so. To that end, as we reflect upon the rapid step-change that has occurred in the global economy, and a new generation of leaders and managers, I am also convinced that we must talk “beyond Deming” and integrate Deming’s work into a new paradigm.

This paradigm should provide a model of how to link, apply and advocate Deming's system of profound knowledge in a new global economy driven by fierce competition and emerging technologies. I proposed in my paper that the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria be used as a lever, augmented by events such as TED, TEDx and Ted Talks as a new delivery vehicle to excite and reach the next generation of problems solvers, innovators and new frontier pioneers. This is a progressive approach that created some discomfort from traditional "Deming Disciples", but received praise from those, who like myself, see Deming's work losing appeal and widespread advocacy.

Insights this past year have caused me to propose the linkage of Deming, Baldrige and TED.

  1. Deming: System of Profound Knowledge has a foundation built from an unwavering belief in "continual improvement" which led to a set of transformational theories and teachings that changed the way we think about quality, management and leadership. All focused on advancing commerce, prosperity and peace.
  2. Baldrige: The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes U.S. organizations in the business, health care, education, and nonprofit sectors for performance excellence. The Baldrige Award is the only formal recognition of the performance excellence of both public and private U.S. organizations given by the President of the United States.
  3. TED: a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. TED started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less).

I particularly illustrated that we need to appeal to our next generation of future leaders, and that our current university curriculum and corporate leadership development programs are absent of much of the work Dr. Deming advocated in his System of Profound Knowledge. To that end, we should work toward:

  • Continue exploring with creative application and integration of Deming’s philosophies, methods and teachings so we can compete commercially, create jobs and engage digitally in our rapidly changes global economic environment.
  • Introduce a new conversation about earnings, growth and quality - ask tough questions, e.g. does strategic management in a rapidly changing, global, technology impacted economy require quick wins and consolidation?
  • Reshape the ethos - if we beat the same drum, we have not internalized the most basic fundamentals of Deming’s teaching; that of transformation, education and leadership – it is 2014.
  • Reach the millennial(s) – we will not do that by continuing the same approach toward teaching, and with the same approach in which we conduct our traditional professional seminars and their structure.
  • Deploy new channels of reach, and re-package learning, engagement, understanding, action and results.

I enjoyed the opportunity to present at this important annual meeting of Deming's work - and, furthermore believe my approach helped enable new thinking, while creating discomfort with old thinking. I believe this approach is fundamental to change and advancing our competitive future, while at the same time exciting our next generation of leaders. In the event you would like to explore future, please seek me out.