What does it mean to "commit" to transformation? What does "transformation" mean? In this episode, John Dues and host Andrew Stotz discuss Point 14 of Dr. Deming's 14 Points for Management - with John's interpretations for educators.


0:00:02.2 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 John Dues, who is part of the new generation of educators striving to apply Dr. Deming's principles to unleash student joy in learning. This is episode 20, and we are continuing our discussion about the shift from management myths to principles for transformation of school systems. John, take it away.


0:00:31.1 John Dues: Hey, Andrew. It's good to be back. Yeah, we're on principle 14 today, which is Commit to Transformation. So I'll just start by outlining the principle itself. So Commit to Transformation - "clearly define top management's commitment to continual improvement of quality and its obligation to implement the 14 principles, plan and take action to put everyone in the organization to work to accomplish the transformation. Transformation is everyone's job. Start with education for all and positions of leadership." So, basically, we've been through these 14 principles, and the final one is, put it into action, basically. So I think a good place to start is just remembering or recalling what does Deming mean by transformation? And he's saying transformation is a change in state from one thing to another. So we're going from one thing to something completely new, and there's these 14 principles that help us get us there.


0:01:34.9 JD: And of course, when Deming was talking, he was talking about the prevailing system of management and changing into this new system of management and about this sort of, older version, this prevailing style from 30 years ago, which still is the prevailing style today. He said something that was really interesting. He said, it's a modern invention that cedes competition between people, teams, departments, students, schools, universities. And so when... What he is really saying is that when you transform your organization, you work together as a system. And he is advocating for cooperation and transformation. And I think of course, people are gonna say, yes, absolutely, we need to cooperate. And that's, that's the way that everybody wins. But in reality, I think that's not always what's happening in organizations because I think what you need in order to go about this switch is what Deming called Profound Knowledge.


0:02:41.5 JD: And most people don't have an understanding of, of what that is. So what happens I think is that the prevailing style of management, it's rooted in those management myths we've talked about before we started the principles. And it's sort of this false foundation for your organization. But that's where I think most people, people are. And so part of this commitment is then if we're gonna commit to transformation, there's some things that leaders have to realize, and then there's some steps you have to take if you're gonna sort of go down this path. I think the things that you have to realize as a leader, and these are things that are true for me as I continue this process and my organization is number one, there's gonna be a struggle. There's gonna be this struggle over every one of the 14 principles because it's so different from what we're doing today.


0:03:39.1 JD: I think another thing we're gonna have to realize is that this can't be one or two people at your organization. The entire leadership structure at your organization, it's gonna have to be educated in this new way of thinking, and then you're gonna have to bring along the entire organization. And this can be a challenge because if you are the person doing this at your organization, you very well may be fairly new to this new way of thinking, this new philosophy yourself, unless you've brought in someone externally to help you through this. And even if you do that probably for a good portion of the time, you're gonna have to be leading this before you may be feeling like an expert yourself. And that was definitely true in my case. But I think the emphasis in this initial introduction is that you gotta get that system's view and you have to help people understand the theory of variation.


0:04:43.0 JD: So that has to be sort of initial part of that introduction. And then of course, you have to take your organizational context into account and so how this sort of rolls out or plays out, it's certainly gonna vary by size of organization, by organizational type. But the good thing is, is regardless of size or type of organization, industry, sector, whatever, Dr. Deming offered several steps to get started in this process. So I think maybe as a start to how you commit to the transformation, if you wanna go down this route, it might be helpful to sort of outline those steps first.


0:05:24.8 AS: Definitely. And it just, the idea of everybody, being committed to the transformation, like this isn't something where you can say, well, maintenance department doesn't wanna do it. [chuckle]


0:05:36.4 JD: Right.


0:05:38.3 AS: Or the third grade teachers don't wanna do it, but the sixth grade do. So that's... Of course things can start in kind of piecemeal as they they go, but it is a true transformation. The other thing that's interesting is if you have a situation where you have been through a transformation as a unit at a school or as a company, it's also possible that a new person could come in and destroy that transformation real fast. And I have an example of a company that I've experience with where they had implemented the Deming principles to an extreme level, and the CEO resigned eventually. He was older, a new one came in and he said, I'm not in that school, I'm not in that camp. I got a new idea. I got a different idea. And it went right back to the prevailing system of management.


0:06:35.9 JD: Wow. That's really interesting. On the first point, I think, you're not necessarily gonna get all the departments or everybody at once. Obviously it's gonna be a process. On the second point, I think that actually is a good segue into step one because basically what he says, and I've translate this for education environment or education audience, but he basically says the school board and the superintendent have to study the 14 principles. Understand them, agree on a strategic direction, and then make a deliberate decision to adopt and implement the new philosophy, so why bring this up now? As I follow on to your comment there is that it seems to me that well, assuming that this was a company that had a board, then what that board should have done is include something about the System of Profound Knowledge and the job description for the new CEO. That's interesting that they didn't make that a point of emphasis.


0:07:41.5 AS: I think what's fascinating to me about it is that I think on the one hand, cooperation and working together and not living in an environment of fear is kind of our normal state, I would argue, but society just pushes us in so many different ways, that all of a sudden you find yourself in a very different state. And another example of that is how KPIs have taken Thailand in particular by storm, and now all of a sudden you have people who have been very cooperative in the way that they work together, all of a sudden pitted against each other, and it's so painful for them, because it's not the way that they naturally operate.


0:08:33.5 JD: Interesting.


0:08:35.3 AS: And so yeah, it's just... I think you gotta work. And I guess the thing you're saying about the board is that you really gotta work to make sure that this is something precious, and you could lose it in a blink of an eye if you don't...


0:08:52.4 JD: Yeah, yeah, and I'm not hiring a CEO obviously, but I have started including... I don't use System of Profound Knowledge, I don't use that terminology when I write job descriptions for people on my team, but what I do say is, what we're looking for is someone that can think in systems, understand variation and data, run small experiments to find out what works and do that with sort of like while working with people in a cooperative fashion, so I've sort of incorporated the four elements of the System of Profound Knowledge in the job descriptions for people that I'm hiring on my team, so then when I actually do use System of Profound Knowledge, describe the elements once they're on board, it's not a surprise 'cause it was a part of that hiring process. And part of that, even the job description itself, but step one basically is so that, you know, if you do have it at your organization, it includes both board and sort of the senior leadership being bought into that philosophy and that's not a guarantee, but at least if both components have that then if that CEO moves on, maybe it's more likely to continue on in your organization.


0:10:10.4 JD: That's step one. Step two is interesting, Deming basically said that the board and the senior leader or the school board and the superintendent in my case, must feel he said a "burning satisfaction", sorry, "burning dissatisfaction" with past procedures and a strong desire to transform their management approach, so it's almost like you almost have to be hitting your head against the wall, you have to be looking for something, because what he goes on to say is that you have to have the courage to break with tradition, even to the point of exile among peers, as you're going through this transformation process, because from an outsider looking in, if you're adopting the Deming philosophy, much of the stuff is gonna look so different that people are gonna be asking you, what exactly are you doing? And this has happened repeatedly. Not, not, I don't think that to that extent that I've been exiled, but for sure people will be like, well, I don't understand why you're just not setting a goal, just tell people what the goal is and then let them get out of the way and let them achieve it. That's not the approach with the Deming philosophy. So you have to...


0:11:33.2 JD: Again, for me, it wasn't exile, but constant pushback, questioning, why are you saying this, why are you operating in this way? I don't get it, why don't we just tell departments what their goals are and let them all meet them, those types of things, the typical way of operating, and it does take a lot of time and energy to explain that, but that's a part of the process.


0:11:55.1 AS: It reminds me of working with alcoholics and drug addicts, generally, they don't turn around until they've hit a bottom.


0:12:04.8 JD: Yeah. Yeah.


[overlapping conversation]


0:12:05.4 AS: And they have a burning desire.


0:12:05.6 JD: Learning to satisfaction. I think that's right, and I think from the standpoint of someone that's really motivated to look for something new, look for a different way of doing things, that's not all together a bad thing, that they've sort of hit rock bottom. Step three is, again, it seems common-sensical. But even here, even as I was going through this, it was sort of a reminder of a number of things that I need to do on a regular basis, and one of the things he said in step three is that once that sort of senior leadership team, the board, the superintendent, whatever that make up is that your organization is that then you have to go out and explain, whether it's through community meetings or seminars or whatever to sort of a critical mass school system staff, he said, students, parents, why you're going on this transformation, why you're... This change is necessary. And then actually educating your people across the organization, what is this philosophy, what is the System of Profound Knowledge? What are the 14 principles? What are the typical ways that we work? Why are those management myths don't work.


0:13:36.4 JD: You gotta go out and do all of these things. It's gonna be a completely new language, a completely new operating for most people, and it has to be a part of the process, bringing people along and this... I think this isn't an overnight process, obviously. Deming said no instant pudding. He generally said, I think transformation was a five to 10 year process, depending on the size of your organization, but I've definitely found that to be true. There's fits and starts, there are some things that you seem to be able to sort of put in place pretty quickly, and then there's other things where there's a couple steps forward, a couple steps back, and you gotta bring people along, people turn over, you gotta re-educate those types of things. So it's a process. It's definitely a process.


0:14:27.4 AS: I was thinking about. I can't remember whether I heard Dr. Deming said that or whether it's somebody, or I read it or somebody told me, but that somebody asked him, "How long has this transformation take?" And he said, "Well, it can take as long as 10 years or as short as 10 years."


0:14:49.8 JD: [laughter] Yeah, so no matter what. It's a significant amount of time. There's no doubt about it. Step four, he basically says that every job and every activity within the school system or your organization is a part of this process that can be improved. And he talks about using flow diagrams for important processes within your organization so that people can see that this is about optimizing that whole system, and not the individual stages. But he really wanted people to see visually, even if it's just a simple sort of flow diagram, how one stage connects to other stages for us, maybe it's the teaching and learning process going from kindergarten to first to second to third grade.


0:15:37.3 JD: That again, seems obvious that that should be how the system works, what I think is less typical and common is actually doing activities from a systems thinking lens, where you are making sure people understand that the kindergarten teacher is also serving the first grade teaching team in addition to the students and families in their classroom and simple things like we have two elementary schools, two middle schools, do the middle school principals leave their school at some point and go to the elementary schools on their side of town and introduce themselves to the fifth graders, so things as simple as that is what I'm talking about.


0:16:28.8 JD: There are lots of other things. For sure. But how often does that happen? In some places, it may be fairly typical, in other places, it's not happening at all, but in the case, even where it's happening, do you explain why it is that you're doing this activity. Are people making that connection that they're part of a bigger system. I once consulted at a very small rural school district here in Ohio, and when we talked about systems, they just had two buildings, they had a sort of an elementary building and then a seven through twelve building. And talking to people, they said, I've never been to the high school - an elementary teacher, I've never been to the high school. And so people may say, Well, that seems strange. But when you were in the school system, it is very difficult sometimes to get out, so you actually have to make it... The leader has, or the leaders have to facilitate this, bring this about... There has to be some coordination of efforts, so that's step four. I think step five is you have to teach and then utilize the Plan-Do-Study Act cycle. You have to use it as a procedure to learn how to improve the organization's processes.


0:17:48.1 JD: I think that we've talked to your... And the Deming community is familiar with the Plan-Do-Study Act cycle, PDSA cycle, but most people aren't. Most people don't have this... Some people might call it sort of like a scientific thinking approach to testing ideas and see if they work, but most people don't approach change like that. They just try something, there's no system for collecting data, a lot of times it's just sort of a mass implementation, there's no process for testing on a small scale, seeing if it works, getting feedback on a short time frame, like a week or two weeks or three weeks, and then trying that next test. So that's, that's in terms of putting the Deming philosophy into action, I think that's a critical part using the PDSA cycle.


0:18:44.0 AS: Yeah, I'm just thinking about my Valuation Masterclass Bootcamp, and we're just about to start our round 13. And so having taught it 12 times before, but part of our PDSA, part of our process of understanding the cycle is that, at the end of every bootcamp, every single student gives us their recommendations for improvement. And we do it through a survey where they're all excited at that moment in time, because they're at the end of the process, but they've gotta go through the survey. And they give some great ideas, and then we capture all that into a document, and then we go through it and we see there's some ideas that just seem like obvious we should have implemented that a long time ago, or we knew. And then, so we say, okay, how do we implement this? But then there's others that are also a question. Right now, one of the ideas is to do one of our class sessions per week as a live session.


0:19:52.4 AS: And it's the feedback session where students get feedback, and in that case, people from outside can watch it. And it has some benefits. There's a marketing angle to it for us, but also, there is the excitement of showcasing your work and all that. But on the other hand, it could be terrifying and it could be that it doesn't do what we think. So in the end, we asked what is it that we think we would want from this as an outcome? And then we said, why don't we just try it one night in week four? And so we've set up that we're gonna do it on one night, we're gonna prep them ahead of time, and we're gonna see how it goes. And if it produces the effect that we want, which is, we think it's gonna up the intensity in, all of that, that it's gonna work. But if not, then we'll abandon it. And so that's a little bit of our little PDSA thinking on how do we test out an idea and see the result of it?


0:21:00.5 JD: Yeah, I love that. I love that because it's not... We're gonna just do this new thing in our course. We got this feedback, we're gonna just do it. We're gonna actually test it on a very short cycle, one session and get the feedback back right away to see if this works. And if it does, we're gonna do more of it. And what's likely gonna happen is you're probably gonna learn something, and you're probably gonna have to sort of change the approach a little bit, and you're gonna do it again and again and again until this is... Assuming the feedback is positive, then you'll do more and more of it. And, you know, if it doesn't work, then you'll learn that in a very quick, easy fashion and you'll know not to do, you know, more of that thing in your course.


0:21:44.2 JD: So I think that's the exact type of thinking that Deming was trying to get us to do, to improve our organizations, versus this sort of plan, plan, plan. We're planning these grand changes, then we put them in place, and then they don't work out like we thought, and then all of a sudden, we've had this significant investment in time and/or resources and sunk costs. And maybe we even keep doing it because we feel like we can't make a change at that point. So that sounds...


0:22:12.1 AS: Iterate, iterate.


0:22:12.2 JD: Iterate. Yep. Small, small, small test of change. So that was step five is use the PDSA cycle. Step six I really love, he says, Deming says, "Transformation is everyone's job." So no matter who you are in the school system, student, staff member, parent, you have to play a role in this transformation. And one of the ways that this can be set up is that you have these cross-functional teams on which parents, students staff members from various departments can be set up to work together on a problem. And one thing that we're doing right now, we have a new position in our network called Network Medical Coordinator. We're very fortunate. We actually have a pediatrician that's on staff, and one of the projects she's working on is critical care. So basically, when students require some type of critical care at school for something like, let's say diabetes, that's not something schools are used to sort of dealing with or maybe don't typically have the internal expertise to deal with. And in this case, there's a team of people figuring out the best approaches for various critical care areas.


0:23:35.3 JD: And this includes the Network Medical Coordinator. It includes one of the operations managers at one of the schools. It includes a parent and some outside partners, a pediatrician from a local hospital, for example. So you have this cross-functional team that's coming together in a way that's not super typical in a school system, but for a very important reason, it includes these various functional areas. And I think the outcome, what comes out of this project is gonna be better because it's not just the doctor saying, this is what we're gonna do. There's the parent, there's the ops manager that understands like how the office works, and how kids come to the office to get this care and things of that nature. And so you have this sort of cross-functional team working in a way that's gonna improve our system. So transformation is everyone's job, putting everybody to work for the transformation is step six. And there's various ways to do that a cross-functional team is one of those areas or one of those ways of bringing that to fruition.


0:24:37.1 JD: And then step seven is interesting. He basically said to deliberately construct your system for quality with certain percentages of staff understanding continual improvement at different levels. And sort of the way we've characterized that is sort of everybody, the goal is to have everybody have sort of like a basic level understanding of continual improvement. And by basic level, everybody knows what a run chart is in our network. The goal was, so everybody can sort of put one of those together. That's a pretty simple chart. Everybody could put together a process map to understand how do we map out, how a process unfolds at one of our schools. So everybody sort of gets that basic level of understanding.


0:25:28.8 JD: And then there's this sort of next level, we call it intermediate level understanding. And basically, this centerpiece of this level of understanding is, this is maybe 25% or 30% of the people really understand the process behavior chart. They really understand how to construct a chart, interpret a chart, and understand data over time and how to use that as an improvement tool. And then at the advanced level, that's something we're still working toward. Maybe you have one or two people. We have about 120 staff members. We have one or two people that have an advanced level of understanding. And so an example there would be, someone knows how to run design of experiments, basically something you may use on a limited basis outside of like an engineering sort of setting. But it would be good to have some advanced understanding. But I think the biggest bang for the buck is at those first two, that everybody has a basic level understanding of certain tools and techniques. And then you have this intermediate group that really has an understanding of how to use the process behavior chart to drive change and bring about improvement in your organization. Those are sort of the seven steps. So sort of concrete advice on how to bring the 14 principles to life.


0:26:53.1 AS: How would you... We've gone through so much stuff in this series. How would you wrap it up? How would you... I guess the first thing is like, what is the core takeaways? And the second thing is like, what would be your advice to the people who've made it to the end of this, who are by this time in their own process of transformation at various stages. So maybe the sum up of kind of what's the core concepts you want people to know? And then the second thing is, how would you advise people to continue their journey?


0:27:29.4 JD: Yeah. I mean, I think, just like, I think step one was this does require study. But what I found is, reading the 14 principles is really helpful after you read about the System of Profound Knowledge, because the 14 principles are sort of a logical extension of the System of Profound Knowledge, and give you a little bit more sort of concrete sort of...it's not a list of do's and don'ts, it's not a recipe, but it's some concrete stuff that you can start to understand, okay, and this is how you actually put the System of Profound Knowledge into action. I think it also again, not a recipe, but the 14 principles do paint a picture for what a healthy work environment looks like. So I think that's really helpful to understand those things. They're not a checklist, they're not... The 14 principles aren't completed in sequence. Rather, they're this interdependent mutually supporting sort of set of guiding principles for system leaders that do help make that transition to the Deming philosophy a bit more concrete.


0:28:52.5 AS: And so for someone who's on their journey, they've been following this. What words of encouragement or words of wisdom would you provide for them?


0:29:11.4 JD: Yeah. It's like a two-parter. There's like, I just sort of reiterated, the study is important. This takes study. You're gonna have to dedicate time to this. You're gonna have to commit to understanding this first yourself, and then starting to sort of dip your toes in the water in terms of talking about this approach with other systems leaders in your organization. And that's sort of the long term play. On the short term, there are things you can do just to start to put the System of Profound Knowledge into action. And I think to me, that's also a good way to learn that doesn't take years and years. And I've said it before, but I think pick one thing that you wanna improve, let's say that thing is attendance rates in your classroom. And just start plotting those rates on a line chart over time. Just see what happens. Plot it over two weeks.


0:30:13.3 JD: So two school weeks is 10 days. Look at those points over the course of two weeks, and start thinking about what you learn when you see that pattern of your data, the ups and downs. Anybody can do that. Anybody can make a simple line chart. And for two weeks, just jot down, okay, on day one, 94% of the kids in my class came to class that day. On day two, it was 91%. On day three, it was 95%. I can start looking at that data over time. And then at the point where you've gathered that baseline, simply draw a vertical line and say, I'm gonna try something to improve this problem. I'm gonna plan it, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna study what happens when I try this one small change, and then I'm gonna decide on the next thing to do, and I'm gonna do this with the students in my class. I think that's a way to put, basically combining that data over time with this small change, what I call a PDSA cycle, basically an experiment, that's the System of Profound Knowledge in a nutshell. And I think anybody can do that. And I think that both the long-term study and putting some of this into action right away are both sort of important ways that people can continue on this journey.


0:31:40.3 AS: I'll, I'll end on with little story. When I was 20 something, maybe 23, my grandfather passed away and my father and I, and the family went to the funeral, and it was my father's father. And we were in the car driving there, and I was sitting in the front seat with my father. By this time, my father and I had had, begun to have a really good relationship, a deep relationship. And I asked my father, "Dad, why is it that I haven't seen you cry when your dad died?" And he said, "I cried 30, 40 years ago when I lost him." And what he was explaining to me was something he never told me. And that was, that his father treated him in a lesser way. He just didn't pay attention to him. He didn't give him time. My grandfather was kind of a famous guy in the world of architecture and history, and I don't think that he disliked my father, his son. I think he just was so busy, he just didn't give time to him and he didn't really show that he cared.


0:32:56.1 JD: Interesting.


0:32:57.5 AS: And what I respect the most about my father was that, he made a conscious decision not to treat his children that way. He married a woman who believed that you don't treat people that way, but he also made a conscious decision, and it took effort. And it wasn't until as we started getting older that the fruits of that effort started to pay off. But I can say that my dad created a trusting environment. And when my dad was close to his death, I asked him, what was your biggest proudest moment in life? And he could have said my best golf game I ever did which he was, he was almost a professional golfer or the great accomplishments, he had in work and life and whatever. And he just looked at me and said, "I created a trusting family."


0:34:00.4 AS: And I think about when you're going into this world of Deming, you're going into a world of chaos, of grading and scoring people, and blaming and all of this crap that goes on in schools and in businesses. And Deming is providing us a way to think differently and provide a more of an environment that drives out fear and sees the potential of humans. And funny enough, you're gonna have to work hard to create that environment. And you're also gonna have to work hard to protect that environment.


0:34:37.5 JD: Yeah.


0:34:39.4 AS: And my dad was an example of somebody where I learned that you can do it, and you can change. And so that's my words of inspiration for everybody listening. You can make a major change and make it a lasting change.


0:34:54.5 JD: Yeah, that sounds like transformation. It sounds like he had the psychology component down too. He sounds like an incredible guy.


0:35:00.9 AS: Yeah. So, John, on behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I wanna thank you for taking this time to go through all of the stuff that we've been through over this time that comes from your book and your work, and your experience. It's very valuable. And for listeners, remember to go to deming.org to continue your journey, and you can find John's book Win-Win, W Edwards Deming, the System of Profound Knowledge and the Science of Improving Schools on amazon.com. 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.

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