Dr. W. Edwards Deming

October 1900 - December 1993

William Edwards Deming was was an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. He is considered to be the leading Quality Guru, Father of Quality.

One of his teachers was Walter Shewhart, who developed  statistical process control and the “Shewhart Cycle” of constant improvement,  PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act). 

He is known to many mostly thanks to his work in Japan, where he brought his ideas for improving quality of processes and statistical process control. Many Japanese consider the adopting of his ideas responsible for Japan’s uncommon flourishing in the 50s and 60s on the previous century. However, most people think of him and his work in Japan chiefly in terms of statistics, which is very far from the truth. Most of his statistical work was focused on population census field, not quality.

Deming considered statistics a tool. A beautiful tool, which he loved and could use better than others, but merely a tool and not a target. All Deming’s principles are based on true improvement, correct and timely thinking, efficiency, management and leadership. Not one of his 14 principles mentions statistics. Still, he did, indeed, bring there the idea of using statistical tools in order to measure and improve processes, and his contribution to Japanese high quality reputation is considerable.

To honor him, the JUSE’s board of directors established the Deming Prize for quality. Later, Emperor Hirohito awarded Deming Japan’s highest honor, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class, which is extremely rare for Westerners. 

The heart of his success, both in Japan and later on, when he opened his own company and was invited to dozens of countries all over the world to help with census and various statistical tasks, was due to him being a very sensitive man with an open heart and mind. He hasn’t pushed his ideas down people’s throats, and shared them without running the Japanese unique culture down or ignoring it. Thus he not only met with no resistance and his ideas were not only heard, but understood and immediately adopted. It must be noted, that the Japanese culture was ideally suited to both hear and adopt these ideas, for it is based on the same ideas of self-discipline, striving for improvement, responsibility and respect.

In contrast to the Japanese, the West has completely failed to understand and adopt Deming’s ideas. Only after Japan’s lightning success and its meteoric recovery after the devastating war, the Americans remembered to asked what has happened, began inviting him and tried to listen to him. However, the Western culture is different, and to this day progress is slow, and not entirely in the right direction. To this day most of his ideas are not implemented, and the focus is mainly on tools and statistics.

Selected quotes

One of the main effects of evaluation of performance is nourishment of short-term thinking and short-time performance.

Mere allocation of huge sums of money for quality will not bring quality.

If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.

A bad system will beat a good person every time.

The result of long-term relationships is better and better quality and lower and lower costs.

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

Quality is everyone’s responsibility.

Quality is pride of workmanship.

If you don’t understand how to run an efficient operation, new machinery will just give you new problems of operation and maintenance. The sure way to increase productivity is to better administrate man and machine.

Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them.

Customer expectations? Nonsense. No customer ever asked for the electric light, the pneumatic tire, the VCR, or the CD. All customer expectations are only what you and your competitor have led him to expect. He knows nothing else.

People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets – even if they have to destroy the enterprise to do it.

No one knows the cost of a defective product – don’t tell me you do. You know the cost of replacing it, but not the cost of a dissatisfied customer.

The prevailing – and foolish – attitude is that a good manager can be a good manager anywhere, with no special knowledge of the production process he’s managing. A man with a financial background may know nothing about manufacturing shoes or cars, but he’s put in charge anyway.

I am forever learning and changing.

Innovation comes from the producer – not from the customer.

My mother was my biggest role model. She taught me to hate waste. We never wasted anything.

Export anything to a friendly country except American management.

Any manager can do well in an expanding market.

Research shows that the climate of an organization influences an individual’s contribution far more than the individual himself.

The big problems are where people don’t realize they have one in the first place.

The emphasis should be on why we do a job.

Eliminate numerical quotas, including Management by Objectives.

If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.

All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride.

The average American worker has 50 interruptions a day, of which 70% have nothing to do with work.

Whenever there is fear, you will get wrong figures.

Declining productivity and quality means your unit production costs stay high but you don’t have as much to sell. Your workers don’t want to be paid less, so to maintain profits, you increase your prices. That’s inflation.

The prevailing system of management has crushed fun out of the workplace.

People don’t like to make mistakes.

American management thinks that they can just copy from Japan. But they don’t know what to copy.

In Japan, a company worker’s position is secure. He is retrained for another job if his present job is eliminated by productivity improvement.

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