Reflections on the International Deming Conference

Having just participated in the International Deming Conference . . . I thought I would take a few days to reflect on the keynotes and sessions I attended.  It was a fast two days so unpacking my thoughts was necessary.  There was some good and some bad as in any conference especially with representation internationally.

I found myself disappointed in 2 of the 3 keynotes.  Dr  Vladimir Kvint is a well-traveled Russian that name dropped a number of famous US and Russian names that he had interacted with over the years.  A number of things were alarming to me, but this quote from his paper and slides was especially egregious:

“A fundamental idea of communism and a staple of all command economies is the equality of wages, salaries, and other forms of compensation regardless of a worker’s output.

This practice removes effective incentives for worker efficiency, innovation or leadership, and often even integrity.

When motivation is removed from the process of production, the result is low-quality labor goods, services, and subsequently, a much lower quality of life”

Pinch me, am I really at the Deming conference? Did I walk into the wrong room?  No, I can see Dr. Joyce Orsini and Dr. William Latzko in the room.  I sat wondering if they would let this go on.  Makes me wonder what Dr. Deming would have said.  Incentives are form of motivation, yes . . . the wrong kind.

An absolutely great keynote the next morning from Robert Browne from the Great Plains Coca-Cola bottling company.  He was fantastic.  Two wonderful quotes:

“The hardest part of change is changing your mind.”

“Changing culture is harder.  I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.”

I had moments where I thought I was talking to W. Edwards deming listening to Bob Browne.  He spoke about getting rid of all the accountants that were focused on costs and how much money that saved him.  It took Mr. Browne years to refine his improvement method, something that the 95 Method can speed up for service organizations.

As brilliant as Mr. Browne was, I was frustrated with Dr. Thomas Kelly.  Never heard of him, but he came armed with a speech on solutions.  He had all the answers, but no knowledge.  He was challenged on his opinionated solutions and his response boiled down to bold and courageous moves require some controversy.  I kept asking myself, “By what method?”

I was shocked at some of the wrong thinking that continued into the first day.  ISO and technology presentations that were certainly not Deming.  But more alarming, the papers provided zero evidence that their thinking even works.  Dr. Latzko saved that day from keeping the first day a complete wash.

The second day came with more speakers that actually understood Dr. Deming’s teachings.  Jam Myszewski was difficult to follow (english was not his first language), but had some good information from his research.  Unfortunately, I missed Gordon Hall’s Theory of Knowledge presentation.

My presentation was very different than all others.  I went through the model for “check” and talked about recent engagements by 95 and myself.  Anyone interested in this presentation can email me for a PDF of the paper, those that have read it describe it as a good summary of the 95 Method.

That is my thoughts about this conference.  No “lean” presentations or practitioners which I found strange.  There would have been no Toyota, Taiichi Ohno or “lean” without Dr. Deming.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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