First Wednesday Conversation 2019

Olympia, Washington

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Do not be afraid.

Frederick Buechner

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.

On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Everything is connected. Everything changes. Pay attention.

Tenneson Woolf

Survival is Not Mandatory.

Edwards Deming

2019 Intention

Explore W. Edwards Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge through some of Deming’s original writing and through the work of some of his many students.

The Deming Philosophy, known as Dr. Deming’s “theory of management” and later his “System of Profound Knowledge,” represents a holistic approach to leadership and management. The philosophy brings together an understanding of variation, theory of knowledge, psychology and appreciation for a system.

The System of Profound Knowledge (SoPK) promotes transformation through an essential “lens” which will benefit anyone and any organization. In short, the System of Profound Knowledge is a way for people and organizations to continually improve.

Dr. Deming’s work is continued by The Deming Foundation.

At the beginning of each of his famous four-day seminars, Dr. Deming would ask the participants, “Why are we here?” And he would answer his own question, “To have fun, learn, and make a difference.” (For each month below, the italicized language is a quote from Dr. Deming).

Overall Purpose (since 2007)


The First Wednesday Conversation will continue to develop our capacity for systems intelligence by focusing on a collection of tools and methods that can give us valuable insights into complex issues.

And here’s a reminder about what I mean by systems intelligence. I define it as the capacity and ability to apply systems thinking to complex challenges. Such challenges are different from technical problems. Learning is needed, both to adequately understand the problem and to address the emergent challenge. Systems intelligence enriches and enhances any change methodology. When an organization or community or leader can do three things – develop their systems intelligence, nurture mutual learning, and discern complex adaptive challenges – wise action is possible.That’s what we’re about at the First Wednesday Conversation.

Time & Place

The 2019 First Wednesday Conversation will continue to take place in the lobby of the Olympia Senior Center from 5:00 until 6:30pm. It’s fine to bring coffee, tea or a snack from home or the Bread Peddler on Capitol Way, just across the street. I am grateful to Senior Services of South Sound for the use of their Olympia lobby. Thank you, Eileen!


We’ll begin 2019 with what was to have been the final conversation in 2018: The Habits of a Systems Thinker, based on materials from the Waters Foundation. You can download a one-page handout of the 14 Habits (and I’ll bring a few copies). This conversation about thinking habits will set us up for the coming months of exploring the work and insights of W. Edwards Deming.


The Deming Philosophy: overview of the 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.


SoPK: Appreciation for a System

It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth.


SoPk: Theory of Knowledge

Government service is to be judged on equity as well as on efficiency.


SoPK: Understanding VariationThe Red Bead Experiment

There is no substitute for knowledge.


SoPK: Psychology

Deming’s Second Theorem: ‘We are being ruined by best efforts.’


The July 2019 conversation is about poetry – poetry that is meaningful to us, helpful in our work, powerful in transformational possibilities, inspirational for our leadership practice. Bring a poem to share, preferably several copies so others can follow along as you read your poem.


The Improvement Guide,” by Langley, Nolan, Nolan, Norman, & Provost. Handout will be posted here before this session!

Every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.


Dr. Bill Bellows is a friend and teacher, and someone who has thought deeply about Dr. Deming’s work and expanded upon it.

Stamping out fires is a lot of fun, but it is only putting things back the way they were.


Performance Appraisal, with Peter Scholtes, Alfie Kohn, & Mary Jenkins. Handout will be posted here before this session! In the meantime, you can explore “The Leader’s Handbook” (Scholtes), “Punished by Rewards” (Kohn), and “Abolishing Performance Appraisals” (Jenkins).

The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good. The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. The merit rating nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, [and] nourishes rivalry and politics. It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate, despondent, dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of rating, unable to comprehend why they are inferior. It is unfair, as it ascribes to the people in a group differences that may be caused totally by the system that they work in.


Bellows – LMJ Article – April 2016 – Out of the Blue – Apple Pies, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, and Systems Thinkers – WEDI

 If you’d like to hear Bill talk about Investment Thinking, try this: Bill’s presentation at The W. Edwards Deming Institute’s 2017 Bryce Canyon Society Conference.,-phd

Motivation – nonsense. All that people need to know is why their work is important.


Here’s another article by Bill Bellows:

Bellows – LMJ Article – October 2015 – Out of the Blue – Contextual Excellence and Continuous Investment Thinking – WEDI

Our schools must preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that everyone is born with.