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W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming is sometimes known as the 'Father of modern Quality' for the galvanizing effect he had on Western companies after a late '70s TV program in the USA showed that the Japanese quality levels that were terrorizing the West were largely due to the influence of an American.

In fact it was not that simple as there were many other factors, including the Japanese culture and a long history of attention to detail, along with other Western quality experts. But Deming was pre-eminent amongst these and the Japanese named their major quality prize after him.

Deming was an archetypical guru, irascible and insistent about his methods, often refusing to work with a company unless he started with the CEO, and working until he dropped in his 90s.

He is famous for his '14 points' for management and his statistical focus. In this way, he 'topped and tailed' quality, focusing on management and leadership at the top and statistics at the bottom.

  1. Create constancy of purpose to improve product and service.
  2. Adopt new philosophy for new economic age by management learning responsibilities and taking leadership for change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality; eliminate the need for mass inspection by building quality into the product.
  4. End awarding business on price; instead minimize total cost and move towards single suppliers for items.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service to improve quality and productivity and to decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership; supervision should be to help do a better job; overhaul supervision of management and production workers.
  8. Drive out fear so that all may work effectively for the organization.
  9. Break down barriers between departments; research, design, sales and production must work together to foresee problems in production and use.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and numerical targets for the workforce, such as 'zero defects' or new productivity levels. The bulk of the problems belong to the system and are beyond the power of the workforce.
  11. Eliminate quotas or work standards, and management by objectives or numerical goals; substitute leadership.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of their right to pride of workmanship; hourly workers, management and engineering; eliminate annual or merit ratings and management by objective.
  13. Institute a vigorous education and self-improvement program.
  14. Put everyone in the company to work to accomplish the transformation.

Related to this, he describe seven deadly diseases which lead to the failure of organizations:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short-term profits
  3. Evaluation by individual performance
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Running a company on visible figures alone
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of warranty

And also a 'lesser category of obstacles':

  1. Neglecting long-range planning by focusing on short-term performance and profit
  2. Relying on technology to solve problems rather than true understanding
  3. Seeking examples to follow rather than developing new and better solutions
  4. Excuses not to change, for example claiming uniqueness
  5. Obsolescence in school that management skill can be taught in classes
  6. Reliance on quality control departments rather than education of management, supervisors, managers of purchasing, and production workers
  7. Placing blame on workers where the system designed by management is responsible for 85% of problems
  8. Relying on quality inspection rather than improving product quality

He also said that managers should have a deep understanding of the system of Profound Knowledge, that

  • Appreciation of a System: Understanding not only individual processes but how the whole interactive system is designed and behaves.
  • Knowledge of Variation: Knowing how variation happens and the statistics of understanding and addressing it.
  • Theory of Knowledge: Understanding how we know, seeking facts and managing what we know so we can do the job well.
  • Knowledge of Psychology: Understanding people, how they think and how they decide so they can be fully motivated.

His most famous book is 'Out of the Crisis' but probably does not do him justice (my opinion).

See also:

Philip Crosby, Joseph Juran, System, Variation

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