Member Profile - Beth Blankenship - July 2007

Beth Blankenship

The Facts:
I live in Maryland and am able to enjoy horseback riding as a favorite hobby. My career began as a software developer, but quickly turned on its side after being exposed to Deming's thinking during a Four Day Seminar. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Ed Baker, (who I now greatly admire for his own work) and asked him where I could learn. He replied, "There is no place". Frustrated, I took pen to paper and wrote a letter to Dr. Deming himself. I asked him where I could learn. To my great surprise, he wrote me back. My letter is stored safely away, however, here is a portion of what he wrote.

Dear Miss Blankenship,
Thank you for your kind letter. It came while I was in Japan. I had trouble to read it because it was written with blue ink on blue lines. Professor Marta Mooney has come up with a magnificent idea. Fordham University will have an extraordinary program. Please contact Dr. Joyce Orsini.

W. Edwards Deming

Professors Marta Mooney and Merek Hessel, had gone to Dr. Deming with the intention of building a management curriculum around his theories. Deming encouraged them and recommended Dr. Orsini to lead the task. Less than ten months later I was in New York, sitting in a classroom with Dr. Orsini and the first class of the Deming Scholars MBA program. Joyce Orsini and Fordham University provided an extraordinary learning experience for me. The program itself has also found great success, each year attracting a new group of scholars eager to emerge themselves in an extraordinary learning experience. The program is about to welcome its 16th class.

After graduating in 1994, I continued learning while working as a practitioner and whenever time permits, pursuing my own research and writing. My first article, co-authored by Dr. Pete Petersen, of Johns Hopkins University and published by the Journal of Management History, explores those who influenced Deming early in his career is called "W. Edwards Deming's mentor and others who made a significant impact on his views during the 1920s and 1930s. I recommend this article to those who are interested in going beyond mainstream knowledge of Deming's thinking.

I currently enjoy researching, writing, public speaking and consulting; and am employed by MAXIMUS as a Quality Manager in Alexandria Virginia.

In2:IN Forum Attendance:
In which years, if any, did you attend our Forum and what inspired you to attend? I attended the Forum in 2006. I've been continually inspired by Bill Bellows and wanted to see the great work he and his team have done. While nothing can replace Deming himself, the work of the In2:IN Forum provides an effective avenue for learning and sharing challenges, frustrations and successes.

Tell us about a recent "a ha" moment.
I experienced an "a ha" moment recently, while observing an organization in the midst of change.This experience has solidified much of my textbook learning on the importance in understanding psychology of change and managing change.

Change will inevitably disrupt the stability of any organization. At best, managing the psychological impact of the change will return an organization to a mode of healthy functioning. However, I recently realized that many organizations often lack a healthy functioning culture to begin with. As a result, change will destabilize and already unstable situation.

Often leaders choose not to deal with the psychology of change. But they are fooling themselves if they believe that ignoring the situation will make it go away. Instead, the important lesson to take away is - when a leader fails to handle the conflict, everyone else has to deal with it! Conflict will trickle through the organization, increasing both the size and scope of the problem. In many cases, a shift in the organizational culture will become apparent at some point, with obvious changes in morale, added conflict and turnover. Once the effects have become visible it will often take months or years to recover.

My aha moment came when I realized that we often assume that an organization is stable to begin with. But like the processes that make up an organizational system, we must manage them to create stability and eliminate chaos.

What book(s) are you reading now?
I'm currently reading a murder mystery written by a friend of mine who is about to be published. I have a love for writing and strive to support others pursuing their own dreams.

What recent book have you read that you consider both beneficial and readable?
I have an interest in science. Last summer I read "Boltzman's Atom, The Great Debate that Launched a Revolution in Physics" by David Lindley. Both Deming and Walter Shewhart were physicists. I believe their background influenced their thinking on management theory. For me, modern physics can be used a vehicle to explain the uncertainty and complexity in organizational systems.

What advice do you have to people new to In2:IN?
Stay true to yourself and follow your dream. And remember, you are not alone.