Does Lean need to move beyond Deming?


Share on LinkedIn

The Agile Minds Group in Belgium recently held a conference on Lean Software Development. The speakers were a few of my favorite podcast guests such as Jim Benson , David Anderson and Don Reinertsen.

Don is always entertaining and has such a way with explaining statistics that he makes himself difficult to argue with. This time he took on Dr. Edward Deming and for most of us it would seem to be an overwhelming task. Deming – loyalist should understand that Don makes his case outside of manufacturing. He questions if precise optimization is toxic in product development or knowledge work. Such as:

  • Is preventing problems always better than correcting them?
  • Should we really try to eliminate as much variability as possible?
  • Does responding to normal variation make performance worse?
  • Did Deming understand Kanban?
  • Is 3 Sigma upper and lower control limits correct for you?

In this presentation, Don Reinertsen discusses the limitations of Deming’s ideas and how to go beyond them.

Don Reinertsen – Is It Time to Rethink Deming? from AGILEMinds on Vimeo.

I would consider myself a Deming Loyalist. However, I do agree with Don on many of his points. It is the evolution of Lean that is being discussed. As we apply Lean outside of manufacturing many of the basic assumptions that we tie to Deming and Lean may not be valid. Following the principles of John Boyd’s, OODA Loop for a better prescription may open the doors for Lean to prosper outside of traditional process thinking.

An example of this is The Lean Startup where if you review the first writings of Eric Ries you will see the influence of not Deming but The OODA Loop and Don Reinertsen. When you look at the my outline for Lean Sales and Marketing, it follows a similar pattern. It concentrate on the Demand side of the business which requires and encourages variation. It requires placing economic value as part of statistical control. It requires us to look at Lean with a fresh set of eyes!

You gotta like a guy that stirs the pot. Thanks Don!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here