To Improve: “Undoing” Needed to Create Better!

This is an attempt to introduce you to Don Wheelers excellent work about improvement.  I am beginning to learn more and more about it.  His work complements that of W. Edwards Deming and Walter Shewhart.  Dr. Don Wheeler however attempts to make it more accessible by changing the language.  Some of the changes he suggests are to use Predictable and Unpredictable processes rather than In-Control and Out of Control Processes.  He also suggests using Process Behavior Charts (PBC) instead of SPC or Statistical Process Control Charts. For me, these terms are much better and more descriptive.  I do not cover Process Behavior Chart’s here but will soon.

W. Edwards Deming, Walter Shewhart (Deming’s mentor), Don Wheeler and so many more are demonstrating that there are better ways to get things done that are more efficient, less costly, generate more joy and are better for everyone and everything.  In other words, if you follow me, you can see this is how I developed and focus on Paneugenesis or creating all good.

In general, their great work suggests more undoing of traditional methods. By “undoing”, I refer to Michael Lewis’s characterization in his book, “The Undoing Project” where he explains how traditional ways are being undone and replaced with better methods.  Lewis’s book,  as discussed in the post Mental Illusions Impact Our World, highlights how Kahneman and Tversky’s Noble Prize winning work uncovered more about our minds built in biases.  In that book he also highlights undoing in many other fields, most notably baseball which he had previously described in his book Moneyball (also a Movie of the same name).

Undoing, as discussed here, is about finding ways that are not what we have traditionally done.  We are learning that those traditional ways never worked as well as believed but were used because they were what had always been done.  I have talked about this often and how it relates to Deming and his quality management methods and my area, salutogenesis, a method for health creation rather than just disease prevention and treatment.  This idea is also covered in my presentation, Create More Good, Not Just Less Bad.

Dr. Don Wheeler

This post evolved from Don Wheelers work and his book, Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos.  I plan on reading and learning more.  To me the book was more about how to improve than how to manage chaos.  In a way, this book provides an answer to my previous post,  Do Good or Don’t Do Bad – Does it Matter?  because he explains:

Action is needed for improvement.  Data provides a basis for action.  Before action however, we must interpret the data. To interpret the data you need context and a way to filter out the noise. – Don Wheeler

In other words, it is the type of action we take that makes a difference.  The right action to take, however, depends on the circumstance or context.  The book explains how we have been using the traditional “Squeaky Wheel” Definition of trouble.  That is we only take action when something  is broken, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”.  However he shows why this is not the best way.  In simple terms, only fixing it when it is broken can only make it work as it should and cannot create improvement beyond what was originally intended.

He explains that this has caused us to have a binary view of the world by only focusing on if things are operating Ok or are In-Trouble.  Using this limited lens, good or bad, to view the world, as we all know, is not an accurate picture of reality.  He points out that Process Behavior Charts (the name he prefers over SPC or Statistical Process Control Charts), should be used by all to determine the proper action to take.  He further explains Process Behavior Charts are not to monitor and confirm things are functioning as expected, but are to be used to improve.

He explains that Process Behavior Charts help managers and people because they guide them to take correct action by determining if the variance, or different outcomes, are due to routine (what he prefers over common cause) variation or exceptional (the name he prefers over assignable or special cause variation).  If there is only routine variation, things should continue to function as they have.  If there is special variation then action to correct should be taken.

He further explains, just as Deming and Shewhart have shown, routine variation is expected and is due to the process or system and a specific cause should be identified.  Attempting to find a cause for the different outcomes is a waste of time and money.  Additionally, if action is taken and things are treated as if there is a special detrimental cause when it is only routine variation, these actions will generally make things worse, not better.

Exceptional variation, however, means something special is happening and the cause of that exceptional variation should be found and removed so the process or system can function as designed.  He also emphasizes, improvement efforts should not be taken until exceptional variation is removed.  It is therefore vital to make sure the process is predictable or stable, by using Process Behavior Charts, before you do anything because it will not be possible to know how or why the process would have improved or gotten worse if the process is unpredictable.

The first step is to help the process be predictable, turn out basically the same because there is only routine variation.  Once it is stable, then efforts should be made to improve the process. Existing traditional approaches, “The Squeaky Wheel Approach to Trouble”, only attempts to work on the process when it is not functioning well.  The New and Better Approach would be to have on-going efforts to improve stable processes so processes can reach their potential and beyond.  This is an example of using the Deming Lens.

The Deming Lens

Upon review, I realize I have been using, often without realizing it, the Deming philosophy since 1988.  I was first introduced to Deming by my dad who was implementing it at work.  I used it for a school project my junior year at Purdue.  At that time I read Deming’s 1982 book, “Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position“.  After reading it, it seemed so simple and obvious, I didn’t understand how there could be any other way.  Little did I know…

The Deming philosophy became ingrained in me, it was all I knew, and it has guided me through my career.  My work built on his philosophy, without fully realizing it, as I worked to continually improve the lifestyle process so the product, health, could take care of itself. My idea of Paneugenesis, creating all good, is my attempt to carry out Deming’s methods.

What this means is I have been using a Deming Lens.  I heard it referred to as this in one of The Deming Institutes podcasts.  They talked about having a Deming lens such that when it is used, people focus on improvement rather than looking for problems to fix.  Deming’s work is something I continually learn from and gives me a guiding star.  I encourage all to learn more.  A great way to do this is to go to the Deming Institute’s website to access their many resources, go to one of their conferences and or listen to their many helpful podcasts (both linked).

With regard to the Deming Lens, Don Wheeler provides models to demonstrate the result of using the Deming lens. The models below are my attempts to recreate the models Don Wheeler provides in one of the appendices of his book,  Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos.  One model is of  the traditional “Squeaky Wheel Improvement” method, and the other of a “New Way and Model and its Implications for Processes”.

I was unable to find examples of these models on the web.  These models provide a Deming Lens and guide one to focus on improvement with better methods and therefore to “Undo” traditional “Squeaky Wheel” methods.  I encourage you to learn more, if you do, everyone and everything benefits.

These models helped me because it provides more guidance on how I can  Practice Paneuegenesis.  That is it helps me understand how I can more effectively work to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits. I encourage you to check out Don Wheelers work, it can help “Make it a Great Week!

Please share your thoughts so we can all get better together!

PS I realize this was a very brief and basic overview, for more detail I encourage you to refer to the multiple resources listed.

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Contact me at:











Do Good or Don’t Do Bad – Does it Matter?

“When I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.”                             – Abraham Lincoln

First – “Nothing is wrong”, everything is fine.  At least I can assume that because you are reading this.  Besides, as noted,  Prevention can’t work and Problems are Irrelevant – if improvement is desired. Of course saying nothing is wrong, this is our reality, does not mean things are good – they are just not bad enough. We could however be jumping from crises to crises.  If we want things to be better, there is only 1 option, make it better – or don’t.

As William Shakespeare declared (see previous post: We Choose Why Things Happen)

Things are not bad or good, thinking makes it so

What is the goal, to maximize social benefits or create behavior change? Choices of behaviors must be measured against benefits of taking alternative behavior choices. Reduction in speed limit is related to less accidents but behavior adaptation often nullifies benefits.

In Germany, when a highway went from no speed to a speed limit, people took alternative routes. While the highway had less accidents, the alternative routes they chose instead had more accidents.  The overall outcome therefore was a wash. People preferred increased mobility, ability to drive faster, than to travel more safely. People therefore were motivated to maximize benefit, not minimize problems.

In a Bill Burr comedy special (showing on Netflix), “I’m Sorry you Feel That Way” he explains why sometimes we go off the rails – that is make a poor choice. During a section he is discussing religion and death. He then discusses the differing beliefs about what happens after death. At one point he says,

…This might be the most arrogant thing I say all night but I actually resent the fact that I’m gonna get judged someday – like if thats true. That somebody’s gonna judge me that doesn’t even make any sense, like dude you made me – this is your F*** Up!…You give me freedom of choice, whores, you make me suck at math and you don’t think this thing is going to go off the rails? Like you set me up to fail and now you have the balls to now question your own F**ing work…            – Bill Burr, comedian

Isn’t this life?  We go off the rails because we are human and want to maximize benefits.  There are many influences in life. Sometimes we learn the hard way. Our aim however needs to be more than just “to get back on the rails” – the state quo.  We must aim for a better way to move forward. If we just get back on the rail we are returning to life as it was, not better. We must generate a better way to move forward.
As the Indian Proverb relates:

When you shoot an arrow for distance, aim high not on the level, for even if it does not go the distance you desired, it will go much farther than it would have if you had shot it on the level.

Life is interesting or irritating – that is our choice.  If we want better, we must create a new reality.  We can’t just fix problems because that means we are back to where we were while fixing a never ending list of problems by running crisis to crisis without ever making it better.  These actions therefore make the start quo our highest possible outcome, our ceiling. Why? Why not set for an Idealized Outcome?

This means if Do Good or Don’t Do Bad – Does Matter?  There are multiple implications.  Doing something, doing anything causes everything else to change.  Not doing something is something in the future so this leaves us at the whims of all else that happens.

Technically this is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.  Things move toward chaos, entropy unless we create more order.  I highlight this is the comparison of pathogenesis and salutogenesis.  This concept is also explained by The Royal Institution which ends by explaining,

We can take comfort from the fact that we can continue to create things and draw local order from the chaos for a long time to come…

An example is how many are finally realizing the benefits to people, animals and the planet that come from eating a whole plant based foods.  Animal agriculture is bad for people, animals and our environment and consuming whole plant based foods is good for our health.  This is an example where doing something, eating whole plant based foods is much better than simply avoiding animal derived foods. Actually just avoiding animal foods doesn’t make us stronger because we must eat what we should eat – plant based foods.  I was reminded of the power of foods tonight when I saw, “Eating You Alive“.

One can avoid animal based foods and just eat processed foods and this is likely even worse.  The way to better health for people and the planet is to eat more whole plant based foods – so doing good is more effective than not doing bad.

In a related conversation between legendary organizational behaviorists, Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. Russell Ackoff, they pointed out the importance not just doing the wrong things better, but actually doing the right things to improve:

The distinguished systems theorist Russ Ackoff describes the trap as ‘doing the wrong thing righter’. ‘The righter we do the wrong thing,’ he explains, ‘the wronger we become. When we make a mistake doing the wrong thing and correct it, we become wronger. When we make a mistake doing the right thing and correct it, we become righter. Therefore, it is better to do the right thing wrong than the wrong thing right.’ Most of our current problems are, he says, the result of policymakers and managers busting a gut to do the wrong thing right.

All of this relates to how what we do impacts everything else or systems appreciation.  As noted, it is suggested we focus on doing all good by generating comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic interactions so everyone and everything benefits or the Practice of Paneuegenesis. I encourage you to engage in the practice so you can “Make it a Great Week!

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Contact me at:


Best Practices and Meeting Specifications are Orwellian

Orwellian” is an adjective describing a situation, idea, or societal condition that George Orwell identified as being destructive to the welfare of a free and open society. Orwellian can be deceptive and manipulative use of language.  It is Orwellian when words do not convey meaning but corrupt meaning.  This causes us to alter our perception and create a false reality. (see video)

Most of us know this happens when many politicians speak.  It is however very common in our language. Health Centers are Orwellian because they are not where we go for health, “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being”, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) but are places to treat sickness. Health  is “…not merely the absence of disease and infirmity.”  There are many more examples. For instance I am reading more about quality management methods and a recent section discussed best practices and another talked about specifications.  These are examples of Orwellian terms.

Best practices and meeting specifications are the same idea in different contexts.  Best practices are generally for a service organization and meeting specifications is for a manufacturing organization. Do these practices produce the best outcome?

If we review the idea, at best, these methods would help the employee and organization achieve what is considered the minimum acceptable, NOT THE BEST.  Despite being called best practices, what would you call practices that are not the best but acceptable?   The idea  of “Best Practice” also halts a search for improvement because if it is the best practice, why search for better ways?

Higher quality or quality management practices as espoused by W. Edwards Deming means lower costs and increased productivity.  This definition is different than the general understanding and is another example of Orwellian talk. High quality is not just meeting specifications or doing what is considered best practices it is instilling continual and never ending improvement through innovation.

Meeting specifications, therefore, is the bare minimum, NOT high quality. 

Innovation is the way to improve.  Innovation, however can only happen after statistical control is achieved through reduced variation.  This means the process will produce a predictable outcome, something not possible without stability.  Innovation comes from improving the process with better methods.

Whether we are discussing products, services, or life, it is all about the process.  Do not let Orwellian speak keep you from taking action that will result in better outcomes.  Our lifestyle is our process. By continually improving our lifestyle process, the product of a better life will take care of itself.  Study, learn, and experiment so you can innovate and improve the process of your life. As you continually improve the process, the result will be a better and better outcome.

For me the way to continually improve my process is to find ways to cause all good by generating comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic, interactions so everyone and everything benefits or the Practice of Paneuegenesis. I encourage you to engage in the practice so you can “Make it a Great Week!

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Contact me at:


We are Being Ruined by Best Intentions and Best Efforts

W. Edwards Deming said,

Best efforts and hard work will not suffice, nor new machinery, computers, automation, gadgets. One could well add that we are being ruined by best efforts put forth with the best intentions but without guidance of a theory of management for optimization of a system.”

What does he mean by this?  How can best intentions and best efforts make it worse? As he explains, if we are doing the wrong things such as tampering by altering methods based on results, thus increasing variation, rather than improving the process, and decreasing variation, it makes things worse.  He also suggests best efforts just get the wrong results faster.

An example of this phenomenon is described by Dr. Michael Greger, MD in his thought provoking, scientifically supported video “Do Mammograms Save Lives?“.  As he explains, the good intentions and best efforts used to encourage mammograms may be making things worse – not better.

As Deming explains, we need a method to achieve the goal or the goal would have already been achieved.  The method he recommends to improve is to have a clear aim and use his System of Profound Knowledge’s four interrelated areas: appreciation for a systemknowledge of variationtheory of knowledge and psychology.

I use these methods by working to generate comprehensive improvements by creating pervasive, reciprocal, selfish, selfless, synergistic, interactions so everyone and everything benefits, which is the Practice of Paneuegenesis. Make it a Great Week!

Be Well’r,
Craig Becker

Be selfish, selfless, & synergistic so everyone and everything benefits!

Contact me at:

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