Dr. Deming's Management Training



Dr. W. Edwards Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces. Unfortunately, some of the most difficult obstacles to successful adoption of Deming's management philosophy are taught as standard practice in American business schools.

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Resources for Learning About Quality Management

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Deming's Philosophy of Quality Management

Dr. Terry Halwes

Common sense informs us that quality is expensive. Psychologists who study skilled action refer to this as the "speed/accuracy tradeoff": you can work faster, but only at the expense of reduced accuracy; you can be more accurate, but only by taking time to be more careful. To create manufactured products of higher quality, for example, you must hire more experienced, better trained (and higher paid) workers or give them more time to do the work, inspect the finished pieces more carefully, and so on.

However, we now know that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty). 

The management systems philosophy of Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an American physicist and statistician who taught in Japan during the decades following World War II, is already familiar to nearly all Japanese adults and to many Americans. Japan's most valued quality award, the Deming Prize, is named for him. Several other American consultants also contributed to the effort, and the Japanese, with their help, created a system out of what had been several more or less unconnected insights. Then, in the early 80s, this "Quality Revolution" came back to America, sparked by an NBC News White Paper If Japan Can...Why Can't We?. It tells how the Japanese captured the world auto and electronics markets by following Deming's advice to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as bits and pieces.

Workers work in the system, which management created or allowed to continue. Management must work on the system to improve the process. With instruction, workers can be enlisted in this improvement.

To study the processes that make up their system, management must involve those who actually use those processes -- the people who actually do the work. The people who build the product or provide the service are the only people who really understand the processes that management has assigned them. The role of management changes from giving orders and giving out punishments and rewards, to leading and supporting the workers in improving quality. 

If the workers are to succeed in studying the processes they use and in creating ways of improving them, they must have several kinds of support. For example, they must be given the understanding that change is possible and that management is committed to supporting them in studying and improving the system; they must receive training in their new job -- training in process improvement and in other skills they will need, as well as in Deming's philosophy of management; and their suggestions must be put into effect and the results studied. (An inappropriate suggestion must be discussed openly -- also, further training may be indicated.) 

In Deming's presentation the changes that must be made by management, if any transformation is to succeed, are known as the Fourteen Points. As an example, Point 3 is: "Cease dependence on mass inspection." Inspecting a product as it comes off the line and either scrapping or reworking the defective items is expensive. "In effect, a company is paying workers to make defects and then to correct them. Quality comes not from inspection but from improvement in the process" (Mary Walton, Deming Management At Work, p. 17). 

Along with making changes according to the Fourteen Points, management must avoid or remove each of Seven Deadly Diseases, along with several Obstacles. Dr. Deming feels that the Obstacles, like "Hope for instant pudding" (sudden improvement accomplished by "affirmation of faith") are somewhat easier to cure than the Deadly Diseases, such as "Lack of constancy of purpose," "Emphasis on short-term profits," " Mobility of management." Sadly, though, several of the Diseases and Obstacles are exactly what American business schools teach. 

The Books, Web pages and videos listed in Resources for Learning About Quality Management give clear discussions of the Fourteen Points, the Deadly Diseases and the Obstacles, and the process-improvement tools. Here, though, our attention turns now to what happens once the various aspects of Deming's system are understood. 

A lot of work, that's what happens! Putting Deming's philosophy into effect makes many jobs harder, not easier. The saving grace is that the work is much more interesting and more enjoyable; everyone may have begun working harder, but they will tend to be less tired. "By managing the process, you free up people to do what they want to do anyway. It's like being in a phone booth. You can turn around, but you can't move very far. Management's job is to continue to move the walls back." (Quote from Bob Dorn, chief engineer at G.M's Cadillac division; The New York Times, Sunday, January 26, 1992, business section, in the article "Take This Job And Love It.") 

The organization's "culture" will change dramatically. Competition among individuals and among departments will be replaced with cooperation. Inter- and intra-personal tension will be reduced, and the ability to use intelligence to benefit oneself and others will be enhanced. 

The training everyone has been receiving will have included an invitation to "first, pick the low hanging fruit" (using the colorful Japanese phrase). Some opportunities for improvement may be relatively easy to spot, and the benefit to the system of making the change may also be easy to document. Every individual will then have a chance to see that the new system is working. 

Unfortunately, the supply of low-hanging fruit will surely be limited; sooner or later, more difficult problems will have to be addressed. However, the effort to reach higher will make the group more flexible, more agile; difficult today, easier tomorrow. 

As everyone begins to understand more and more deeply not only that the transformation to producing quality is working, but how it is working, it will naturally tend to spread. Suppliers will tend to be selected for their willingness and ability to join in. Customers will be invited to help out with the problem-solving efforts. The teams will become more and more fed up with the meager supply of  well - educated potential employees, and efforts will begin to extend the transformation to the institutions that are responsible for education and training. The government, the churches, medical facilities, service agencies of all sorts -- even competitors can be invited to participate in developing and continually improving a healthy society. 

Deming's book, Out Of The Crisis (p. 246), William G. Hunter tells the story of a group of mechanics working for the city of Madison, Wisconsin. They developed a plan for preventive maintenance and presented evidence of the savings expected to the Mayor. His response was "You know how to find problems, you know how to solve them, and you wish to solve them. We should get out of your way and let you do it. I am very impressed with what you have shown us here today, and we are going to extend these methods to other departments in the city." Later offered payment for taking Deming's seminar and working on improvements on their own time, they answered "No, thanks. We are doing this stuff on the Deming Way because we are really interested. It is important to us. We are not doing it to get paid." 

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Revised on April 27, 1998

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