Remembering Brian Joiner

I knew Brian Joiner as a child growing up in Madison, Wisconsin. He and my father worked together and our families spent time together. As I grew I interacted with Brian in my professional life and that relationship made my life better.

photo of Brian Joiner

Brian Joiner, 1984 by Bill Hunter

We often saw things similarly. We could see things that we thought should improved and liked to focus on actually making improvements. Doing that is quite a bit more difficult than just pointing out all the problems that exist (in management and in society in general).

Brian was one of the people that best captured the desire and ability to make positive change, in my experience. Sometimes that means making compromises that will lead to actual improvements. I really enjoyed talking about ideas with him. He and Peter Scholtes were very similar to my father in their desire to improve people’s lives and the willingness to do the work to realize those improvements. It is very difficult to do.

His book, Fourth Generation Management, is one of the top handful of books I most recommend for those interested in improving the practice of management in their organization.

I have posted about Brian previously on this blog including:

image of quote - "There are three ways to get better figures... Improve the system... Distort the system... Distort the figures"

My life is much richer for having known Brian. Many people’s lives are better due to the work Brian did during his lifetime. And more people’s lives will be better as his ideas, in Forth Generation Management and elsewhere, are applied in the future.

Related: Brian Joiner’s obituary (2023)quotes by Brian Joinerarticles by Brian Joiner

We need to work together to optimize the system as a whole, not to seek to optimize separate pieces… Optimizing separate pieces destroys the effectiveness of the whole. For the organization to work well as a whole, the components must work together.

– Brian Joiner, Fourth Generation Management

blame the process not the person. We need to ask, “how did the process allow this to happen?”

– Brian Joiner, Fourth Generation Management

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One Response to Remembering Brian Joiner

  1. John Hunter says:

    Comments on this post made on Linked In

    Sad to hear. His Fourth Gen Management book was the first book recommended to me by Davis Balestracci (even over his own book Data Sanity!) Get both is my advice.

    What a well written easy to read book and easy to put the ideas into practice.

    RIP Brian.

    – Allen Scott

    John Hunter, thanks for sharing this about your interactions with Brian Joiner. I had the good fortune to briefly meet Brian. He came up to me at a conference and said, “My people told me to look you up.” The reason was that our EDS Quality Consulting and Resource Cerner (QCRC) had purchased and distributed over 10,000 copies of the Team Handbook and we were delivering the Fourth Generation Management training materials to EDSers on the General Motors account. I continue to use and refer to his Fourth Generation Management book.

    – Eric A. Budd

    He was a giant among men. I’m sorry to hear of his passing and wish all associated with Brian the best.

    I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to interview Brian and listen to his stories about Madison, WI being the hotbed for statisticians (Box, Hunter, Scholtes, Deming). If memory serves me correctly, Brian, as a young statistician, started working in an office with Deming’s wife. His passion not only for quality but sustainability was remarkable.

    – Joe Dager

    I’m very sorry to hear of Brian’s passing. I never had the opportunity to meet him, but “Fourth Generation Management” is a very important book to me and I find myself citing him all the time. My condolences to you and Brian’s family and friends…

    – Mark Graban

    I was introduced to Brian via the Deming Video Library.

    He and Peter Scholtes shared the unique honor of being the only two people in the library to star in two of the videos.

    I took this evidence of the incredible respect Deming had for them both.

    Both Peter and Brian presented unassailable arguments for change that could be understood by anyone. I’ve used those ideas for more than two decades as a teacher, in schools where no one has even heard of Deming. And my students have been better for it.
    Blessings to all those that improved their lives, and lives of others, because they connected with his teachings.

    – Terry Rosen

    I was unaware that he had passed. I keep “Fourth Generation Management” on hand, particularly his chapter dismantling the performance review.

    – Jonathon Andell

    Great man. I was privileged to have a few conversations that helped me learn.

    – Clifford Norman

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