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Remembering Deming’s Lessons—Always Important, But Somehow More So Now

by David Brock on December 22nd, 2008

Art Petty reminds us in Management Excellence, about Deming’s lessons and their continued currency–particularly in light of the crises in leadership we face. Every time I read Deming, it seems that he is speaking of issues that are critical to leaders and organizations at this very moment, yet the work comes from many years ago.

While many other business guru’s come and go like the latest fashions, Deming’s teachings are always important. There is so much of his work that one can cite in a post. Art mentions his theory of Profound Knowledge and 14 Points as good starting points. I agree.

The W. Edwards Deming Institute offers some great materials, including a nice summary the theory and 14 points. For a nice review, go to The Deming System of Profound Knowledge at the site. I’ve reproduced the 14 points for review.

  1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership (see Point 12 and Ch. 8). The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
  11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective (see Ch. 3).
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

It is easy to blame others about the crises we face, but the recovery will begin only when each of us takes personal responsibility in providing thoughtful leadership within our organizations and communities. Using Deming’s teachings as a road map is a great start. Now it us up to us!

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