Deming’s Christianity

imageThe Japanese revered the Godfather of quality who, as it turns out, was a Christ follower.  For all of his emphasis on process control and data, he was very humanistic in his approach– understanding well not only the laws of physics but what lay behind them.

From Deming’s  “System of Profound Knowledge”:

The first step is transformation of the individual. This transformation is discontinuous. It comes from understanding of the system of profound knowledge. The individual, transformed, will perceive new meaning to his life, to events, to numbers, to interactions between people.

Once the individual understands the system of profound knowledge, he will apply its principles in every kind of relationship with other people. He will have a basis for judgment of his own decisions and for transformation of the organizations that he belongs to.”

What does this sound like to you?  What do you think are the origins of this system?

Being a Six Sigma black belt and purveyor of lean philosophy, I rub elbows with a lot of data geeks who stand on Deming’s principles.  But in order to move people toward transformation in the workplace and elsewhere this “profound system of knowledge” must be known.  This is the part I find lacking in the work of so many who seem to have the science and numbers down.

I believe the Japanese never got that part.  Instead they relied on their ability to conform and will to win.  This will only carry a company and country so far.

I’d love to read your thoughts!  






10 thoughts on “Deming’s Christianity

    • Yes I can Rosemarie! In fact, I’d like to write an article about lean and the church. Maybe I’ll put an into to lean and Deming in there. Thank you for the suggestion!


  1. There are some common themes when reflecting upon respect for people, value and how the quality of life can be improved for everyone in the stakeholder enterprise. Continuous improvement (lean) is being carried out in several church groups from what I have studied. The basis of servant leadership, while adding value to others is represented perfectly by Christ who was the ultimate servant leader. Ken Blanchard has provided excellent resources. I can’t speak for Deming but we see the connection. Lean is best served with people, while not being done to people. It’s a servant leader approach that not only changes but sustains a culture. Regardless of automation, most of the world is executed by human beings, not human doings.


    • I was wondering when someone would take this to churches. I develop such materials and have long wanted to approach our church (larger but not mega) with a proposal as I have noticed so much waste when it comes to the paid staff and volunteers. Thank you for the comments and reference! Servant leadership is such a key principle it is a natural fit.


  2. Bonsai,

    For years I have also pondered the essence of your post. Years ago, Herzberg published literature about what motivates people. The things that motivate us (according to the results of his studies) are 1. Achievement 2. Recognition 3. The Work Itself (does it have meaning) 4. Responsibility and several others. When we engage in tasks that result in achievement – there is no greater motivator. Once a team or a person tastes achievement, they become self motivated. Achievement does motivate me!

    We have to remember that “systems change behavior”. If we want to change the behavior of people (or us!) in an organization, then we need to put in place a system that will produce the desired result. That’s what I like about Lean / 6 Sigma – it leads a group/team/individual to achievement.

    But why is this true? It is because God made us that way. Even in the Garden of Eden “God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Genesis 2:15) So from the beginning we were created to do meaningful work – and this was in Eden before there was sin!

    Having knowledge of what needs to be done doesn’t accomplish much. It is when this knowledge is applied, when it is used to help people and organizations that it becomes effective. Applying lean principles as an agent of change within our organizations, whether it be at home, at church, at work, at play leads to achievement – and that is very satisfying because God made us that way!

    There is a 100 page book called “The Heart and Soul of Manufacturing – How Lean Management Aligns With The Better Angels of Our Nature to Create Extraordinary Business Results” by Bill Waddell that does a great job in linking why Lean principles work well within our nature as humans. I recommend it to those who are interested in knowing the “why” of Lean.

    Dave Hughston

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Mr. Hughston. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments. I have not read Waddell’s book but I am pleased to know there are other out there who think this way! For so many years I led lean events without much thought as to these matters. Originally I learned lean from reading in the native language and then being mentored in Japanese factories as an interpreter in the mid-late nineties. Many of my mentors were gruff Engineers and higher level managers who wanted me to really come down on the Americans and push them to follow. I was used to this from my marriage to a Mazda engineer and being around Japanese Automotive for years. But in order to get the best results from the works, I Secretly coached the Americans on what was needed and why.

      In 2001 I acted as interpreter for a famous Japanese lean consulting firm and again I saw the same demonstrative huffing and puffing about– fits of anger and intimidation really. Later that year I left my Japanese life completely and began working for an American automotive supplier. I took everything I had learned and applied the WHY strongly. The workers were UAW and it was a depressed area (racial tension) but the results were amazing actually. My best work. At the time, I wasn’t even Christian.

      The details of this are in a post entitled “Chubby Company: My Life as a Lean Fat Cat” under a tab/page about lean. I really like everything you said and I am so grateful you commented! Please keep in touch. I get the book!

      Most Sincerely,
      Stacy Gleiss (a.k.a. Bonsai)


  3. I recently asked my pastor if he thought that the scientific method (aka Deming PDCA cycle) was biblical. He asked me, “how do you know if someone is a true prophet?”. I replies, “if his predictions become true.” We both agreed that the scientific method was biblical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your comment Mark Sands. I was into lean and Six Sigma way before I became a Christian. For me, having a logical system was critical to that transformation. While their was still a “leap of faith” involved, the chasm became much narrower and the leap all but a “hop” to get to the other side because I understood and could argue it.


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