Deming, Drucker, Boyd, and You

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W. Edwards Deming died in 1993, Peter Drucker in 2004, and John Boyd in 1997. All three men thought about the world in new ways. Their work affects how we think and live our lives and do business today. Many of their thoughts have been adopted as “common knowledge” or “good practice” or just part of the way we do business. We often think like they taught us without invoking their names. That’s why I included references for each man below.

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming has been gone the longest, but in many ways he has the legacy most likely to last. That’s because he developed powerful and simple ways of thinking and wrote about them in books. Today you can study Deming’s thoughts by reading his books or by studying the books of others about his systems or by observing systems based on his thoughts.

From The Deming Institute: The Fourteen Points for Management

“W. Edwards Deming offered 14 key principles for management to follow for significantly improving the effectiveness of a business or organization. Many of the principles are philosophical. Others are more programmatic. All are transformative in nature. The points were first presented in his book Out of the Crisis. Below is the condensation of the 14 Points for Management as they appeared in the book.”

From ASQ: About W. Edwards Deming

“W. Edwards Deming, named an ASQ Honorary member in 1970 for his role as adviser, consultant, author, and teacher to some of the most influential businessmen, corporations, and scientific pioneers of quality control, is the most widely known proponent of statistical quality control. He has been described variously as a national folk hero in Japan, where he was influential in the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II; as a curmudgeon; as the high prophet of quality control; as an imperious old man; and as founder of the third wave of the Industrial Revolution.”

Peter Drucker

Peter Drucker wrote voluminously. There are thirty-nine books and “countless scholarly and popular articles” filled with insight and lucid explanation. But even though he’s only been dead for half as long as Deming, Drucker’s remembered impact is fading away. There are young people in business today who don’t recognize his name or his legacy. They can read his books, though, and many do, after old-timers like me point them out.

From The Drucker Institute: Peter Drucker’s Life and Legacy

“Peter F. Drucker was a writer, professor, management consultant and self-described “social ecologist,” who explored the way human beings organize themselves and interact much the way an ecologist would observe and analyze the biological world. Hailed by BusinessWeek as “the man who invented management,” Drucker directly influenced a huge number of leaders from a wide range of organizations across all sectors of society. Among the many: General Electric, IBM, Intel, Procter & Gamble, Girl Scouts of the USA, The Salvation Army, Red Cross, United Farm Workers and several presidential administrations.”

From the New York Times: Peter F. Drucker, a Pioneer in Social and Management Theory, Is Dead at 95

“Peter F. Drucker, the political economist and author, whose view that big business and nonprofit enterprises were the defining innovation of the 20th century led him to pioneering social and management theories, died yesterday at his home in Claremont, Calif. He was 95.”

John Boyd

John Boyd was a career Air Force officer who created some powerful strategic concepts. The best known is the “Boyd Cycle” or “OODA Loop” that is the basis for a number of strategies based on increased tempo.

From Air Power Australia: Briefings – Colonel John R Boyd, USAF

Compiled by Col. Chet Richards, USAF (Retd), PhD

Wally’s comment: This site originally mirrored a US site that is now devoted to other things. The original briefings are the best direct source of Boyd’s thinking.”

From Chuck Spinney: Introduction to the Strategic Theories of John Boyd

“If you ‘Google’ John Boyd and/or his theory of OODA loop, you will be inundated with references of widely varying in quality. To help get you going, this page lists a few references that I can vouch for.”

Systems and Books and Legacy

There’s a lesson here. All three of these men were powerful thinkers. All three articulated concepts that are now part of our intellectual heritage. But it’s likely that only Deming will be remembered and recalled fifty years from now. That’s because he produced a system and wrote about it in books.

Peter Drucker wrote a lot, but he didn’t develop a system. What will happen is that individuals may recall one or another quote from Drucker, but there won’t be other authors writing about his thoughts. You will be able to find out what he said, but it will be up to you to connect any dots you think are important.

John Boyd developed a system, but he never wrote a book. So you can’t experience his thought directly except through his briefings, which can be pretty tough going. He never thought of them as finished and prepared them as presentations that he would be there to explain.

If you want to have maximum impact, I suggest two things. Develop a system that hangs together and that others can adopt. Write about it in book form. That’s where a powerful legacy lies.

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