Dr. Edward Deming is said to be the father of modern quality and a leader in business management. He claimed that an organization must change its organizational behaviors if it had any chance of reaching its highest level of performance. Deming’s work in Japan–rebuilding industries after World War II and instructing top executives and engineers in quality management–was a driving force behind the nation’s economic rise and their reputation for high-quality products.
His advice to Japan made Mr. Deming the leader of a generation of specialists on product durability and reliability who were then sought by American companies trying to catch up to Asian competitors. But his renown in the United States never matched the reputation he achieved in Japan. (Holusha, 1993)
However, Deming was relatively unknown in the United States. During wartime in the US, efforts to establish quality-control methods were ignored in favor of a rush to push products out the doors of factories. The prevailing attitude in American culture from the 1950s through the 1970s was that more quality meant higher prices and consumers did not want to pay the prices for high-quality goods which all went against the teachings of Dr. Deming.
Deming has published many books and several of his lectures on his philosophy of continual improvement, quality control, and cooperation. Deming is most known for his widely published book, Out of the Crisis in which he writes about the productivity and quality control issues facing businesses and considers the practical responses that management should take.
Out of Crises provides a detailed account of Deming’s thinking on how to improve productivity, quality, and competitive advantage and what management’s role needs to be to achieve these increases. Deming claims in Out of the Crisis that management’s failure to plan for the future brings about failure in the business. Management must create innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future success, and provide more jobs through improved product and service.
Deming offered fourteen key principles for management for transforming business effectiveness. The points were first presented in his book Out of the Crisis. (Deming, 1986 p. 23-24)
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and 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 towards 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 cost.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Institute leadership. 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 an overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
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 workforce.
11. a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute workmanship.
12. a. 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.
b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in the engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everyone in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everyone’s work.
At the core of Deming’s method of quality improvement was his use of statistics to detect flaws in the production process at the company. But, he also developed a broader management philosophy that emphasized problem-solving based on cooperation. He taught managers to encourage their subordinates to take initiative in their jobs and look for ways to improve the process. He encouraged managers to make employees feel comfortable making improvements to the workplace.
Deming also introduced his Theory of Profound Knowledge to the world. Profound knowledge theory involves expanded views and an understanding of the seemingly individual yet truly interdependent elements that compose the larger system, the company. Deming believed that every worker has nearly unlimited potential if placed in an environment that adequately supports, educates, and nurtures senses of pride and responsibility; he stated that the majority–85 percent–of a worker’s effectiveness is determined by his environment and only minimally by his own skill. (Skymark, 2008)
The Deming Cycle or Shewart Cycle describes a simple method to test information before making a major decision. Most will find the four steps in the Deming Cycle familiar, they are, plan, do check and act. Dr. Deming called the cycle the Shewhart Cycle, after Walter A. Shewhart. The Shewhart cycle is still used in various ways, such as running an experiment. Plan (design) the experiment; Do the experiment by performing the steps; Check the results by testing information, and Act on the decisions based on those results. (Wikipedia 2008).
The Deming Cycle is not the only of Deming’s theories and ideas that are still valuable today. Many of his philosophies and variations on his theories can be found is some formation in companies around the world. For instance, companies that once had management only perks such as special parking spaces and executive dining rooms have eliminated these perks, to change their entire culture, following Deming’s theory that if workers feel they are part of the team they will work together to improve quality.
Deming, W. E. (1986) Out of the Crisis, MIT Press
Holusha, John. (1993, December 21) W. Edwards Deming, Expert on Business
Management, Dies at 93, The New York Times http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE5D81E3BF932A15751C1A965958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
Skymark. (2008). Retrieved December 9, 2008, from:
Wikipedia. (2008). Retrieved December 9, 2008 from: