Learning to Learn: Role of a Manager in Education (Part 4)

Learning to Learn: Role of a Manager in Education (Part 4)

This podcast was originally published on In Their Own Words for The W. Edwards Deming Institute

Dr. Deming encouraged lifelong learning for everyone, but particularly for managers and leaders. In this episode, David and Andrew talk about Deming’s fourth point in his list for The Role of the Manager of People After the Transformation: “He is an unceasing learner. He encourages his people to study. He provides when possible and feasible seminars and courses for advancement of learning. He encourages continued education in college or university for people that are so inclined.”


0:00:02.4 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 David P. Langford, who has devoted his life to applying Dr. Deming’s philosophy to education, and he offers us his practical advice for implementation. The topic for today is Learning to Learn. And just as a reminder, we’re going through the section of The New Economics third edition, it starts on page 86 for those who want to follow on, and for those who have the second edition, it starts on page 125, and the title of the list that we’re going through is called Role of a Manager of People. This is the new role of a manager of people after transformation. And we are now talking about the fourth point on this list, which reads as follows: He is an unceasing learner. He encourages his people to study. He provides when possible and feasible seminars and courses for advancement of learning. He encourages continued education in college or university for people that are so inclined. David, take it away.

0:01:16.8 David Langford: Yes, good to be back, Andrew. So I always have to caution people, Dr. Deming wasn’t into all the pronouns and everything that we use today, so he just means everyone. So if you’re a manager… Yeah. So all of these points I, over the years, have taken to heart, and even as a classroom teacher I started figuring out, “Where do I start? What do I do?” Once I have been to a Deming seminar everybody wants to know, “What do you do Monday morning?” And these are really good places to begin, and you certainly can’t do them all at once. It’s sort of an inter-related system, and so when you start concentrating, you’re always wondering, “Well, what do I do next as a manager?” Go back to one of these points to say, “Okay, have I done anything about that?” And so when you think about your role as a manager and if you think about yourself as a teacher, you’re a manager, you’re administrator, you’re a manager, he’s talking about… Anyway, if you’re a parent, you’re a manager of a family, right. And so you wanna think about it in those terms all the time.

0:02:31.2 DL: I never forgot even the very first seminar or the very first time I ever got to talk to Deming, and he was really interested in talking to me because there weren’t very many educators at the time talking with him, and he was an educator. He was taught at New York University for 40 years, so I was really interested in talking to him about education and we were just chatting about the application of his thinking and theories to education. And while we’re talking, he says, “Just a moment,” and he pulls out this little notebook and he starts writing down what we were talking about. And I was just like, “Dr. Deming’s writing down something I said, or we said, or we were talking about or whatever.” And then come to find out his whole life he kept these little notebooks and sometimes if you were around them at the end of the day and people would be talking, he’d pull out his notebook and he’d say to people, “Look what I learned today.” And that was just – flabbergasted about that, and not only is this guy 90, 91, 92 years old, but he was actually living this point every single day of his life. He was consulting…

0:03:48.8 AS: Yeah. And you can realize that when you read his work too, because he’s always highlighting, someone said in a seminar or so and so said this, and that you now picture, he’s taking a note and then later he’s put in into his book.

0:04:03.2 DL: Yeah. When you’re at the seminars, you hear him say, I’m eternally grateful to so and so for this point, or the Taguchi loss function, or all these amazing economical ways of thinking and management and all those kinds of things. He’s really great at giving credit like that, but he was also very great at explaining that, hey, he’d learn something new. Even at his age, 90 years old, he was still learning things that were new to him.

0:04:35.3 DL: I was living in Alaska, at the time we were remodeling a house built in 1898. I happened to find a box of photographic plates in the attic, and when I was cleaning out stuff and everything, and these were late 1800s, and they were photographic plates on glass. The wedding that had taken place at the house that we then owned and we were remodeling, so that was pretty cool. As I was looking at the box, it said if you find any defect, anything… I can’t remember exactly the wording on it but, “If you find anything wrong with these photographic plates, please contact us at this address, and also please add the box number of photographic plates, so we may find the person guilty of making the error and remove them.”


0:05:41.6 AS: What?


0:05:41.6 AS: They’re terminated.

0:05:44.4 DL: “Thereby improving the quality of our product.” And this is… I’m not gonna say the name of the company, but it was a major company at the time, and I was so blown away by this so I took the box, took the plates out. I took the box to Dr. Deming at one of the seminars and brought it up to him and said, “I have a gift for you,” and he said, “You do?” And I said, “Yes,” and I told him where I found it, and I said, “I think you will really enjoy this label.” And he read it and his mouth dropped open. He said, “Oh my god.” I said, “I’m gonna give it to you as a gift.” And he said, “Oh no, this is too valuable for you to give it to me.” And then… So he made somebody go down and make a copy of it and turn it into an overhead thing, and he started using this at seminars because it was exactly everything that he was reversing in management thinking at the time, for the next 100 years he was reversing that thinking.

0:06:50.0 AS: It was just to put some context…

0:06:52.8 DL: And I was always so proud of that that I was one of those people that said…

0:06:57.3 AS: Look at this.

0:06:57.8 DL: Thanks to David Langford for this. That was my big contribution.

0:07:01.7 AS: There you go. And for the listeners out there who… To put this in a frame of reference, back in those days, the way that we presented, and I didn’t so much ’cause I was pretty young when I went to my first Deming seminar, is that we had acetates or meaning transparent pieces of A4 or letterhead paper, letter paper, the size of that, it was just a clear plastic thing and then you would write on it, and then you would put it onto a screen which would then project up on to a wall. And so it was either that or we had rollers where you could roll the acetate across, so you’d write a little bit and then you’d roll it, and so that was the way that he did his presentations in those days.

0:07:46.5 DL: Yes. He was constantly rolling forward, rolling backwards and drawing right on the screen and working through, so… He was well-known for being very, I’m going to say, curt, but very direct, very short with people. When they asked a question, like people would line up at different points in time and get ready to ask him a question, somebody would come up and ask a question, and he’d say something like, “We already covered that this morning. Where were you, in the parking lot? Next question.”

0:08:23.2 AS: Yeah, which is kinda scary for people in the audience.

0:08:25.4 DL: Yeah. Well, a lot of people viewed that as, “Oh well, he’s not really interested in people learning about things.” But no, it’s just the opposite. If you are trying to ask a question simply to discredit him or to take him down in front of, or make yourself look better in front of other people, or things like that, he had no time for you and he would openly say, “I don’t have time for this. I’m 90 years old or 92 years old. I don’t… ”

0:08:57.0 AS: I’m on a mission.

0:08:58.7 DL: “I don’t have much time left and I don’t have time to waste on you.” And he wouldn’t ever say that…

0:09:00.7 AS: But he would…

0:09:01.7 DL: But he would cut people off, for sure.

0:09:04.8 AS: And I remember that I felt pretty safe as a young guy with pretty innocent questions coming to him. I felt like he was very welcoming to the majority of people. But there was a certain thing that either someone that completely missed what was going on and he could get a little bit annoyed with that, or if it was someone at a senior level that should know this and they don’t know it and, “I’m gonna make sure you never forget this interaction.” And I remember the one that I remember from being in the seminar was when someone got up and said, “Since you’re the father of TQM, I wanted to ask you a question about X, Y, Z.” And Dr. Deming looked at him and he says, “What is TQM?”

0:09:48.7 DL: Yeah. He knew full well.

0:09:50.9 AS: And he goes, “Wait, wait, what? Wait, what? I don’t understand ’cause I didn’t know what he meant.”

0:09:56.4 DL: Yeah. Well, not only was he an avid learner like that himself, he wanted everybody else to be like that too. You wanna do continually questioning, continually trying to understand, continually learning, apply, thinking on a level that most people were never taught to think on that level.

0:10:19.3 AS: I wanted to ask you a question about this from a bigger picture perspective, and that is to say that you’re a learning company or you’re an unceasing learner or we’re into learning and all that. It’s such an easy thing to say.

0:10:36.9 DL: Cliche.

0:10:39.4 AS: Yeah, it’s cliche, yes. But it feels good to be able to say, we’re a learning organization. We’re trying to learn. But the fact is, is that he’s… The reason why he’s raising this is maybe most people really are learning or they’re not a learning organization. Can you put it in that framework before we get into a little bit more detail on it?

0:10:58.8 DL: Yeah, absolutely. I thought the first time I went to see Deming, I was a year out from getting my Master’s degree, right. And so I’m thinking, well, yeah, I’m a learner, right? I got my Master’s degree and like you have a whole bookshelf behind you, yet people just listening can’t see it, but you have a ton of books behind you, and I might have an entire library here myself, etcetera. And so I’m a learner, but at that time, I suddenly had this realization in probably the very first four-day seminar, I had never read anything that wasn’t assigned to me. I’ve been going through school my whole life or being a teacher myself and teaching a curriculum or dictating what other people should read based on that curriculum, but I’d been… I don’t know, probably since I was a little kid that I just went to a library and looked around and just picked out a book I wanted to read. And that started really my journey of thinking, “Okay, I have to be just learning all the time, I have to be reading all the time and thinking all the time,” and have never forgotten that. And so that also causes you to have a very open mind about things.

0:12:23.7 DL: In the politically charged realm that we are now, there are so many people that you can’t even talk about the opposite point of view. It’s just a complete shut down of, “No, I’m not gonna talk… I’m not even gonna talk about that.” I think Deming would just be shocked and dismayed about that, that if you can’t argue with your boss he’s not worth working for.

0:12:53.8 AS: Yeah. And also as a person that’s lived outside of the US for many years and look back at the US, I realize that the collision of ideas and opinions is actually the whole process of learning.

0:13:09.0 DL: That’s the whole point. Yes.

0:13:10.5 AS: That is how… That is kind of the history of how we’ve acquired new knowledge.

0:13:18.9 DL: Quickly and move a society for it or a business forward or whatever it might be. And so what he’s talking about here in a company or a school, etcetera, if you’re not constantly encouraging people to think and to learn and to understand, you’re gonna become stagnant or not only stagnant, you’re gonna go backwards, and I think about things.

0:13:44.1 AS: Can you explain this again? Going back to the big picture. I bet you that if you and I did a survey of top US companies that are successful, or the companies they’re gonna all say… They’re gonna all say, we’re a learning organization.

0:13:58.5 DL: Right.

0:13:58.6 AS: And I just want to understand…

0:14:00.5 DL: When I started this journey, yeah, I studied Toyota because Deming had done a lot of work with Toyota and everything at the time. And one of the things I learned from one of the managers there, I said, “Well, how much time do you spend in training and development of employees?” And he said, “20% of the time.” He said, “We’re hoping to get to 40% of the time.” “What? You mean 20% to 40% of the time you’re actually training, developing people, giving them information, etcetera, instead of actually producing their products?” That didn’t make any sense. So I went back to my school, I did an analysis, how much time did we actually spend with our staff and faculty in training, and it came up to be like 5% of the school year was actually spent in us training them in new concepts or ways to think, etcetera.

0:15:00.5 AS: And it’s a great point…

0:15:03.8 DL: And I thought how much time do we spend training the students in thinking?

0:15:09.6 AS: Yeah.

0:15:10.4 DL: Well, zero.

0:15:10.6 AS: Yeah. It’s a great point to stop for a moment for the listeners and the viewers to ask yourself, how many hours, what percent of the time, of the week, of the month, of the year do you spend or does your school or your firm spend in learning and training, in both training and education? I bet you it’s not 20%.

0:15:39.5 DL: Well, the students that I was working with, these were just high school kids, and so we were going through these points and we’re having this discussion, and I showed them the data, and they said, “Well, when do we get to learn?” And… “So what are you talking about? You’re going to school.” And they said, “No. You’re learning all this stuff about Deming and discussing it and watching videos and everything. When do we get to do that?” And I realized I wasn’t doing that with students, and so I put them to work because the teachers all said, “Oh, we don’t have time for that. We’re already crammed. We can’t get through the curriculum. We don’t have time for anything like that,” and so I put the students to work to come up with a new master schedule and then come back and present it to the staff, and they came up with two… I think it was 60 or 90-minute sessions per week that they wanted to come together and just and learn, and it was just an amazing way to think about it.

0:16:42.7 DL: So one of those sessions I had each week with the entire student body, and basically I’d show them a Deming film or I’d show them something new or something that’s happening in education, and I’d put them into groups and have them discuss about it, and what do you think about that and how could that be applied here, and what should we do differently? And then the other session was a session where they wanted to go anywhere that they needed to go in the building to get help and catch up on anything they needed to catch up on. And this is totally a foreign concept because we were constantly following every kid down, “Where are you going? You’re going to the bathroom. Here’s a bathroom pass and you’re gonna go here and… ” What? We’re going to actually trust these kids to do stuff? So it took us probably a whole year to convince the staff, the administration and everybody that, “Okay, well, let’s at least try this.” Right.

0:17:41.0 DL: So the first time we ran a session like that where the students could go any… They could go to the science room, they could go to the computer lab, any place they needed to go to learn and catch up and get help or work or however they wanted to do, but they just had to be learning during that hour session. Well, the principal went around and actually counted kids in all these rooms and everything else, and lo and behold found out there were like 10 kids that took off and went to town. Right. So he calls an emergency meeting after that day and says to the whole staff, “We can’t keep doing this. We got 10 kids that took off and just blew the whole thing off, and so we gotta change the whole master schedule and redo it and everything, and we gotta start over again.” And I’ll never forget ’cause we’re just sitting there, sort of stunned. Trying to think, “Well, okay, now what are we gonna do? And then we’re gonna have to redo everything.”

0:18:46.0 DL: And all of a sudden, the science teacher said, “You know, in my room, I must have had 60 kids doing science, and he said, I’d say a majority of them weren’t even doing stuff that was assigned to Science class. They were exploring all kinds of new concepts, asking me questions about all kinds of things in Science.” And English teacher said, “We were having the greatest discussion about applied Romeo and Juliet to modern issues.” She said, “I never had time for that in my classroom, but a whole bunch of us just ended up sitting around and we just started talking about the application of these things in a modern society.” And almost every single teacher said the same thing. And then finally somebody said, “Well, how many students we have?” And I think at the time we had about 300 students, so 10 of them left. That means 290 students were actually engaged in learning and doing exactly what we want them to do, and we wanna throw this out because of special causes. And that’s when I realized, oh, special and common cause – people are getting it. Our training is actually seeping into the terminology and the way of thinking about people. So we didn’t throw it out and we kept it, and within a few weeks there wasn’t anybody gone, because the kids that had took off came back.

0:20:19.3 AS: They got it out of their system.

0:20:21.5 DL: While the other kids said, we’re talking about the great time they had, and not only that they were catching up on work that they didn’t have time to normally, and all kinds of other things that went on. It even happenened in sports, a whole bunch of them went to the gym and just worked on basketball techniques, and even the PE teacher was amazed that I just had all these kids in their learning and wanting to know about, “How do you do a shot and how do you do this and how do you make this happen?” And teachers were just sort of dumbfounded about this, that students would actually learn on their own without being given a grade or forced to do something.

0:21:01.9 AS: And what I wanted to also think about is the idea that if we read the 14 points and trying to understand what Dr. Deming is telling us, there’s this, number one, constancy of purpose, there’s this real focus on improvement, there’s a focus on the customer, not the competitor, to try to improve what you’re delivering to the customer, and then you combine this focus on learning and training. You bring these things together and in some way, it’s almost like you’ve created kind of a tunnel vision that’s between your company and the customer and your company and the suppliers, and it’s this obsession on these things. And at first, it’s hard to understand, but as you start to see this obsession you realize this type of focus can… And because you’re learning, everything you’re gaining it’s taking you to another level and another level, and then you’re applying it for your customer, for your student, for your school, and next thing you know, you do that over and over again, and you will be at a very different place, and you’ll also be at a place where people really feel great about it. That’s not what’s happening in learning organizations, companies that say we’re a learning organization. Tell me more about that?

0:22:25.4 DL: Well, if you’re continually learning like that as an organization and constantly expanding the ways of thinking, etcetera, when you get to major hurdles like Covid, etcetera, you have a whole staff, learned staff that’s used to learning and used to figuring things out and used to thinking and coping with disasters or anything that goes on, and so the system doesn’t fall apart, that’s what I saw happening over and over in companies and schools and universities that I worked with for a long time, that those organizations could just overcome obstacles that would just be a huge thing to other systems, because they weren’t used to learning or coping or understanding. They’re usually used to just being told what to do. The same thing in education, the curriculum is coming down from the state or the national edict on X and… Oh, well, we just got… So they just learned to constantly be in a response mode, so they’re not in a mode of constantly innovating, thinking, what can we do next.

0:23:41.7 DL: So I know in my school, I started… Not only did we have this one time a week where we could work with all the faculty and…or all the students, we just started having a faculty come in and learn with the students, which was a novel idea. Right? ‘Cause normally we segregate them out and the faculty goes off and learns this stuff and comes back and does it to people. Right? But we just set up this learning session with students, faculty, everybody and faculty were learners and lo and behold, that’s probably the best model that you could be in a school, is to show students that you’re constantly learning, that you’re constantly reading, you’re constantly figuring something. “Hey, I read this thing last night. This book, it’s really great. Da da da da da.”

0:24:38.9 DL: I didn’t fully realize the impact of what we had done until after the first year that we’d really tried to implement this and get stuff going. And during the summer time, teachers are usually… The school year ends and all the kids leave and you never hear from them until start the next school year up, right. So I’m out mowing the lawn in the summer time and my wife comes out with the phone and she says, “Hey, one of your students is on the phone.” Well, I’m thinking that there must be some kind of accident that happened or something that goes on. And I’ll never forget because when I’m talking to this student, I actually stopped. I was looking at the phone like, “Who are you?” Because he said, “Hey, I read this book and I just wanted to know if you read and there’s some really interesting concepts that I picked up on it and wanna know if you’d heard about it.” And I was so stunned ’cause 15 years, no student had ever done that. It never ever come up to me like that? Well, that summer, I had 12 students do that. Twelve of those kids called me over the summer, and I started to learn… When they’d call up, “Hey, what have you been learning?” And they, boom, they just tell you, because we had taught them to be learners, learning to learn.

0:26:00.9 AS: And what about people that are listening that are in, let’s say, public schools or other places, and they feel constrained, they’ve got the mandates from on high, as you mentioned, and I think what I guess what I’m hearing is the idea that you may be less constrained than you think in that there may be more room to do and still be able to follow what you got to follow. What would you advise to them?

0:26:27.6 DL: Yeah. Well, if you have management of your organization, etcetera, that wants nothing to do with this and they’re not really interested in making big changes or doing anything differently, etcetera, that doesn’t preclude you from doing something as a teacher and I did the same thing. I’ll give you an example, one of the classes I was… I can’t remember the title of it now, but it’s media management or something like that. I can’t remember what we called it. But I just set up the first 10 minutes of class, I said the first 10 minutes of class we would get all the newspapers from the library that were used up the previous two or three days. And you got 10 minutes to go through the paper and pick out the most relevant things happening, and then share that with the rest of the group, and then we’re gonna talk about Deming Management as applied to those issues. And it was such an amazing, amazing thing because the kids would talk about how stupid some of the things were happening politically, or this was happening, and it was totally contrary to what Deming talked about, and then they talk about what should happen, etcetera.

0:27:37.6 DL: So after about three or four years, I started taking students out on a tour, and we’d take any students who wanted to go and we’d raise money throughout the year and everything else, but we wouldn’t go just on a field trip just to go to Disneyland or something. We went to universities, we went to major corporations, we went to places where we could learn stuff. And I’ll never forget, the kids were at Motorola, Motorola, I think, it was in Phoenix, Arizona. And they had heard all about us and everything, and they set up all this thing, and our students would come in and give this whole presentation about Deming management applied to education. Well, when we got there, we walked into this room that they had set up for us, and there was literally a red carpet laid out, and in the back of the room was this whole banquet of seafood and just huge tables of food and everything else. Kids all walked in. And the CEO from Motorola is there and everything. And the kid says, “Who’s this for?” And he says, “It’s for you, we think you’re the most important people in the country right now.”

0:28:49.6 DL: These kids, a lot of them Native American kids, a lot of them from very rural background, you could literally see them grow 14 feet in that instance. I’ll never forget because after we finished our presentation the CEO got up and he said, “I wanna know two things.” He said, “Number one, how do I get my son in your school because he’s not learning this in his school? And number two, I’m gonna set up a room across the hall, and I just wanna start interviewing people so you can come to work for us when you get out of high school.” And some of those kids did actually get hired and go there.

0:29:32.3 DL: I’ll tell you another story. The same thing, we took a group of kids to Texas and we went to one of the, I think, it was one of the oil companies, I think it was. And so the whole thing was, we said, “Hey, we’d like to come in and give you a presentation about what we’re doing, how we’re applying quality methods and thinking to education. We’d also like your managers to give us a presentation about what goes on here, what do you do, how do you apply these things and work things through.” I’ll never forget, we’ve finished our presentation at 45 minutes, kids were very efficient, they were all… That was part of it. Everybody was helping everybody do the presentations and work through that. And so their manager, I can’t remember his title, but it had something to do with quality, the quality manager for the corporation or something, he gets up and start… He’s got his presentation stuff and he starts giving a normal business presentation after these kids giving multimedia presentations for 45 minutes. And he talks for about 30 seconds about some of the things they’re doing, and he said… He said, “Forget it,” he said, “You guys already know more about this than we could ever hope to know about it.” So he said, “What we wanna do is we’ve got all of our executives in the room, we just wanna pair up with these kids, high school kids, 15, 16, 17 years old, and have conversations about this and why it’s applied.

0:31:00.3 DL: And I’ll never forget, I walked by this girl that was talking to this high level manager at this petroleum corporation and they’re arguing about intrinsic motivation and how employees have to be extrinsically motivated and everything else, and this girl, 16 years old is not backing down and she’s just taking this guy to task. And finally they end their conversation and she leaves, and I walked over to him and I said, “Do you realize she’s only 16 years old?” And he just looked at me, he said, “I forgot all about that.”

0:31:34.1 AS: Yeah.

0:31:39.2 DL: See. And…

0:31:39.4 AS: Potential. The potential.

0:31:40.2 DL: Yeah. Deming often said that profound knowledge is not limited to age, and I didn’t know what that meant for a long time until I started seeing young kids adapt these… Or absorb these concepts and take them to heart and be able to do it much better than us as adults, learned a different management thinking and we had to sort of transform ourselves. These kids they didn’t know anything different. I think somebody asked one of the students one time how did you learn to do this or how did this happen or whatever? And they just looked at him and said, “Well, doesn’t everybody do this?”

0:32:20.9 AS: Yeah. We stamped that out.

0:32:24.6 DL: They couldn’t understand.

0:32:26.3 AS: We stamped that out at an early age.

0:32:26.3 DL: I’ll give you one more quick story. We took the kids to visit a huge high school in California at the time, and that was probably about around 1991 or something like that. So computer technology was really starting to get into the schools, but our schools are already one-to-one technology and we had advanced technologies for all kinds of stuff and STEM and things like that. And so the principal is… Big high school in California, a pretty brand new high school, that’s why we went there to cut and I wanted them to see what a big high school looked like, and we were going around, and he goes and he says, “We’re really proud of this room,” and he goes and unlocks the door. And this was in the spring probably around about March, unlocks the door and turns on the light and there’s like 60 computers in there, all set up, all ready to go and everything. And one of the kids says, “Well, where is everybody? Why aren’t people using them?” He said, “Oh well, you know, we haven’t got the teachers trained and we’re not ready to start using this, but we got it all purchased, we got it all set up and we’re gonna start using it for… We’re starting, using it next fall in September.” And I’ll never forget one of our students said, “Can we just take all those back with us and we’ll ship them back to you in September.”


0:33:48.9 AS: Yeah, exactly.

0:33:50.8 DL: Said, “We know what to do with those.”

0:33:52.3 AS: And if you unleash group of kids in there, before you know that they would be training the teachers on that.

0:33:57.7 DL: Yeah, absolutely, they’d be training the staff about how to do the stuff so.

0:34:01.2 AS: Yeah. I wanted to wrap up with a little bit of kind of discussion about the idea of… I’m gonna talk briefly just about business, just ’cause that’s something I understand pretty well, and that is a lot of times when managers in businesses see the same mistakes happening, they’re like, “We’ve got to stop. Who is responsible for this?” Or as you started the whole discussion, “We got to get rid of the person who’s the problem.” Or, “Why is everybody making these same mistakes or whatever?” And that’s really the problem actually at leadership level, really it’s the idea of how can we study this situation, how can we get together, pool our resources and our knowledge and make some scientific style analysis, like a PDSA, a Plan-Do-Study-Act, and try to understand and learn here what the problem is and how can we solve this problem. And that is the process of acquiring knowledge through the scientific method, but acquiring knowledge is meaningless if it’s not continually applied, so then we take that knowledge and we build it into our training of the new workers or new employees that are gonna be in that area, so we never go back and make the same mistake. We’ve fixed it permanently, and we’ve trained people to another level. But of course we’re gonna come up with another common problem that’s showing up all the time, and we do the same thing, and then we improve that and we gain knowledge on that, and then we train so that everybody’s operating at that next level.

0:35:33.4 AS: Now, when you do this over a period of years with this constancy of purpose of continually focus on learning, what ends up happening is that you have actually acquired a large amount of knowledge in your organization that does not exist in your competitor.

0:35:52.2 DL: That’s right.

0:35:52.4 AS: In addition, you’ve codified it, you’ve quantified this to be in the behavior of your employees. So let’s say you do that for one, two, three years, all of a sudden you have created a deep level of knowledge on a particular topic that your competitor does not have that deep of a level of knowledge on that particular topic. Now they may be… If they’re a good competitor then they may be learning in another area, but let’s just say that most new companies aren’t learning. And the end of, end result is that you start to build a competitive advantage and that…

0:36:26.3 DL: Even though.

0:36:27.2 AS: Competitive advantage just shows that… That competitive advantage just could last for decades.

0:36:34.7 DL: Yeah. Even though defeating your competitor was not your aim. Your aim was learning and getting better all the time, but by doing that you became a very fierce competitor, you became very good at solving problems, moving forward, understanding new concepts, applying things quickly, adapting to new technology, whatever it might be. You become a very good competitor even though you’re not actively trying to compete. People sometimes blame Deming saying, “Oh, you don’t want… You’re against competition,” ’cause he talked about cooperation a lot. And he said, “No,” he said, “The best thing you could have is a good competitor. Right? Somebody else that’s innovating, somebody else that’s thinking something. Getting you to think differently about things.” So the great irony is the greater you cooperate and learn together, the greater you compete, even though you’re not necessarily trying to compete. You see the same thing in sports. We have March Madness going on now. If you listen to coaches at the end of games or coaches getting ready to play really big games coming up, they’ll say things like, “Well, this will be a good learning experience for us, or this will be a really good test for us.” Those are the really good coaches because they’re looking at every single game about, “What can we learn, how can we apply that to the next one, and how can we move forward?”

0:38:03.0 DL: One of those trips I took with students, I took them to an electronics corporation in Phoenix, I can’t remember the name of it, I don’t really remember what they were making, but it was very sophisticated electronics with chips and all of that kind of stuff in a dust-free environment and it’s a huge room in which these panels… I think it was very sophisticated art tablets that they were making, but they had all these lights up around the room and everything red, yellow and different things, and so most… Every one of the stations had green lights and everything, and then all of a sudden a yellow light came on at one of the stations. And I said to the guy giving me the tour, I says, “Well, what happens now?” And he says, “Well, immediately, any managers that are available, we rush to that center to find out what’s going on. There’s an error or a problem or somebody has observed something that is going on there, and we try to actively fix it and try to understand it and fix it for tomorrow too and make sure it’s not gonna happen again.

0:39:13.3 DL: And I said, “What’s the red light for?” And he says, “Well, anybody in the entire corporation has the ability to stop the entire line and turn on the red light. And when the red light comes on the whole place shuts down.” And this was like 300 employees that they had. The whole place shuts down and everybody has the authority to do that. And I said, “What happens then?” He said… Then he said, “All management empties out, comes down in a learning environment and tries to study what’s going on, what has happened, how do we fix this, how do we make this.” Well, that’s totally different than if you make an error or you screw up, you might get fired. And if that’s the case, you’re not gonna share an error or a problem that’s happening, right? You’re gonna keep that and hide that or cover it up or do something else, because you have managers that don’t understand this thinking so.

0:40:08.7 AS: Yeah. I saw just the opposite of that when I was working in Pepsi, that in the production and process, basically, you constantly running around trying to patch things up and not raise them to a higher level, and so you’re constantly making the same mistake. I wanna wrap up this discussion by just going back to point number four now that we’ve been through so much about it. So this is, again, we’ve been reviewing the role of a manager of people. And the fourth point that he talks about here is, he is an unceasing learner, he encourages people to study, he provides when possible and feasible seminars and courses for advancement of learning, and he encourages continued education in college or university for people that are so inclined. David, is there anything you would add as we wrap up this discussion?

0:41:03.6 DL: Yeah. He does mention college or university classes, things like that, but he also was a very strong proponent that they just need to be learning. Learning a new language, learning new concepts, new things that are happening because you have active minds then and you have people making new connections and thinking, and it does something to your personality and the way you think about things, etcetera. And so he just said it could be anything, they can be learning basket weaving, but they just need to be learning all the time.

0:41:38.2 AS: Fantastic. Well, David, on behalf of everyone at the Deming Institute, I wanna thank you again for the discussion. For listeners, remember to go to deming.org to continue your journey. And listeners can also learn more about David at langfordlearning.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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