From Davis Balestracci -- A Tribute to a Man Many of You Have Probably Never Heard of

Published: Mon, 06/10/13

From Davis Balestracci -- A Tribute to a Man Many of You Have Probably Never Heard of

[~ 1300 words, but an easy read:  Take 5-7 minutes to read over a break or lunch

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One of Deming's Best "Translators"

Hi, Folks,

I know I promised a statistical technique today to deal with demotivators.  However, I was just made aware of the death of someone whose thinking influenced me profoundly.  I am deeply saddened and felt obligated to write this tribute.

Death announcement: KERRIDGE
Peacefully with his family by his side, on Thursday, May 9, 2013, Professor David Kerridge, former Head of Statistics at Aberdeen University, aged 81 years, beloved husband of the late Audrey, much loved father of Sarah and Deborah, dear father-in-law of Bruce, adored grandfather of Becky and Ben, brother of Joyce and Grace.

David Kerridge was one of the leading Deming proponents in the world, yet how many people have heard of him?  This dry, somewhat reticent Scottish academic became part of a panel that aided Deming in his seminars during the last few years of his life, which is how I first encountered him.  He was very quiet and direct in his presentations and had a brilliant gift for synthesizing the "uncommon common sense" of Deming's philosophy, as I discovered in his subsequent writings.  

Note that he was a former academic head of statistics - and I just came to a shocking realization:  He neither used numerical statistical examples in his talks nor have I ever seen one in all of his writings!  Rather, he had an uncanny clarity in his ability to explain "variation" in all its guises and a "theory for using statistics" within the Deming theory (analytic).

What does that tell you?

"Don't waste too much time on tools and techniques. You can learn the lot in 15 minutes."

Here is a wonderful example of his no-nonsense style in an e-mail from the year 2000, on which I was copied.  It is still relevant today:

"For example, the topic of 'How can we improve the DEN [Deming Education Network]?', comes round regularly under different titles.

"The answer must be 'Improve ourselves: *we* are the DEN.'

"But many other topics require the same answer. For example, 'How should we deal with those who are not interested?' WED [W. Edwards Deming] had a profound answer, which I doubted for a long time. In fact I am only just beginning to see it.

"If we as individuals transform, we will have an inevitable effect on those about us. As so often, this was a challenging and disturbing statement. It is easy to put all the blame on 'the others'. And our natural impatience, and the aggressive responses we often meet makes the effect we have invisible to us.

"Or take the 'Attack on the Quality Movement.' As Ed Baker warns us, some of the attacks are justified. We do often concentrate too much on 'Quality tools', instead of ways to improve the whole system. This reminds me of another of WED's comments: 'Don't waste too much time on tools and techniques. You can learn the lot in 15 minutes.'  [Davis's emphasis]

"It is easy to feel lost without concrete tools to hang on to. OK, so we need a bit more self-improvement. You have to crawl before you can walk, but you don't want to spend your whole life crawling.

"I don't wish to discourage anyone, not even myself. We can be so appalled by our own ignorance that we forget how much we have learned. Of course, if we think we know everything, we haven't yet begun. Just as every process or system needs continual improvement, so does everyone's understanding.

"Learning is fun. Focus on the joy of learning rather than the visible effect we have, and we will both enjoy it more, and achieve more, in the long run.

"Shewhart wrote 'Progress in modifying our concept of control has been and will be comparatively slow.' (DK's emphasis). By control in this context he meant, I believe, his whole approach, not just control charting, though that is a good place to start.

"The first thing we must learn is patience. This is difficult, in a world where there is so much pressure for short term, visible results.

"One of the (many) reasons why the 14 points are so important is that they create a world of long-term thinking, instead of short-term goals and pressures. Organisational transformation makes individual transformation easier, which makes organisational transformation easier..... in a never ending cycle.

"Best wishes

Think You Understand P-D-S-A?

I've noticed that the P-D-S-A (Plan-Do-Study-Act) cycle has pretty much evolved into a platitude - everyone touts it, yet I see very little true understanding of it.  It also seems to be the best thing that everyone else should be using.  

Here is Kerridge's wisdom excerpted directly from his article "Improving a Process," co-authored by his daughter Sarah Kerridge:

There is not one way to improve a process, but many. These are not alternatives. Used with understanding, all contribute to the continual improvement of every process, and the whole system. Each makes other methods more effective, and so they should be used together. To illustrate this, we concentrate on the practical problems of using Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle (PDSA cycle - a.k.a Deming Cycle), and show how other actions help it work.

A unified approach
This combined and unified approach to improvement is typical of the Deming Philosophy. Instead of learning one technique, and applying it as much as we can, we take a system view. This fits in with the way we tackle anything complicated. An automobile is simple compared to most processes. If we want it to run well, we do not spend all our time on the electrics, and ignore the fuel supply, or concentrate on the tires and forget the brakes. If there is a break-down, it probably affects just one part, and naturally we find out which, and work on that first. But for trouble-free motoring, we make sure that all the essential parts are regularly serviced. We do not wait for something to go wrong.

Seven ways to improve a process
We express these as a list of actions and questions. Any one may produce dramatic improvement on its own. For example, improvement in the measurement process, even though it does not directly affect the process, may reduce tampering. More often it is the interaction between these approaches that produces results. What is more, we must see the investigation of this one process as part of the transformation of the whole organisation.

Without overall change, it is hard to improve an individual process, and the improvement, even if we achieve it, seldom lasts. But equally, working on a process can make some of the ideas behind overall transformation more concrete, and fix them in people's minds.

1, Study the customers' needs. Is the output of our process the most helpful that could be given to them? Is it causing problems in a later process? There is no point in improving a process until you know what a good result really means.

2, Flow-chart the process. Are there unnecessary stages, or examples of rules 2-4 of the funnel? Have you identified all the internal and external customers and suppliers? Do you listen to them?

3, Improve the training of the process operators [DB:  anyone working in the process]. Introduce Operational Definitions.

4, Study ways to measure outputs and inputs. What measures are most relevant to the success of the process? Check that the measurement processes are under statistical control before attempting to use the measurements to study the process.

5, Reduce variability of the inputs. The inputs include every way in which the rest of the system affects the process. Can you reduce the numbers of internal or external suppliers to the process? Do the suppliers understand your process?

6, Plot the outputs and inputs on SPC charts. Remove special causes. Eliminate tampering.

7, Collect suggestions for improving the process, and test them using the Deming Cycle.

There are more ways to improve a process, but these are enough to make the point. The Deming Cycle relies on checking the results of a change, using measurement. When the process itself varies less, and measurements on it are more accurate, it is easy to see the effect of a change. Besides which, the understanding of the process which comes from all these different ways of studying it will suggest changes that should be tried.
[End of excerpt]

Rest in peace, Professor Kerridge.  I am forever in your debt.

Until next time...

Kind regards,

P.S.  Care to learn more about this approach that will make you one of the 20%?
I will say it very simply:  Dr. Rodney Dueck, Dean Spitzer, and I will do our best to apply this philosophy to your problems in our October seminar in Portland, Maine.  Details are just about finalized and will be made available to you soon. 

Please contact me if you are interested -- we want and need your input.  As we plan further, we want to dialogue with you -- and maybe have you dialogue with each other -- to design an experience that will take your success and respect for your role to the next level -- a quantum leap.

As always please also contact me if you're interested in:

* a "data sanity" seminar

* a leadership retreat

* a plenary speaking engagement

 * some mentoring

 * changing conversations via plotting a dot.

Or just about any other reason!

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