John Dyer (left) with W. Edwards Deming

A Look Back at the Early Days of Lean

Sept. 15, 2015
Deming quote: A healthy company is in an excellent position to improve and has the greatest obligation to improve.

Recently, I got invited to do a podcast with Mark Graban. Mark got his first exposure to lean as an industrial engineer working for General Motors and eventually focused his efforts on helping the health care industry apply the lean concepts. He is the author of the book “Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Engagement” and is the co-author of “Healthcare Kaizen: Engaging Front-Line Staff in Sustainable Continuous Improvements.” Mark has been blogging about lean for over 10 years and has a sizable following.

In the podcast, Mark and I discuss the early days of continuous improvement at General Electric as well as some of my experiences with Dr. W. Edwards Deming. I have several binders of notes I took during my encounters with Dr. Deming that contain many handwritten Dr. Deming quotes. Some of my favorites are:

“No knowledge without theory. Schools teach information, not knowledge. Information is not knowledge. People go to Japan (to copy what they are doing there) and don’t learn anything because they don’t understand the theories. I hope they enjoyed the ride!”

“We must focus on win-win. Would you want to be married to a loser? Would you want to be in business with a loser… work with a supplier that is a loser or employees that are losers? We must work as a system, Union and Management. Everybody wins.”

“What state of a company is in the best position to improve quality? A healthy company is in an excellent position to improve and has the greatest obligation to improve. A company on the rocks can only think of survival.”

“Reward for good performance may be the same as rewarding the weather man for a pleasant day.”

“A system must be managed. An airplane is never on course. It requires constant changes. This is not a sign of weakness but is a sign of strength!”

“Remember, 3% of problems can be improved by way of plotting data. 97% of improvements, we will never be able to measure.”

“If you cannot argue with your boss, he is not worth working for.”

Mark and I also talk about how the same improvement principles used in manufacturing can also be used in the health care industry. I shared with Mark some observations I had recently when I had the opportunity to stay 24 hours in a hospital. To listen to the entire podcast, click the following link:

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