The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Deming Chain Reaction


From page 3 of Out of the Crisis

Image of Deming Chain Reaction - text: Improve Quality —> Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, snags, better use of machine-time and materials —> Productivity Improves —> Capture the market with better quality and lower price —> Stay in Business —> Provide jobs and more jobs

The prevailing action during the crisis Dr. Deming alluded to in the title of his books was to cut costs to improve profits. Massive layoffs of employees would get executives big bonuses and send stock prices up. Sadly focusing on cost cutting and layoffs is too often still the way some executives think.

There has been more acceptance though of the idea that to improve the focus should be on continual improvement not cost cutting. But focusing on continual improvement you are able to remove waste, reduce errors and remove delays. Reducing costs through process improvement, and at the same time improving productivity and product effectiveness allows a company to benefit from the positive chain reaction Dr. Deming explained.

The chain reaction lets you reward workers as the company prospers, instead of seeking to prosper on the backs of workers. Flipping the means and the ends does not work. Reducing costs as the result of process improvement is effective management. Reducing costs based on a spreadsheet sent down by executives and then hoping that the cuts don’t damage the value provide to the customer too much is a recipe for disaster.

Categorised as: continual improvement, customer focus, respect for people, systems thinking


  1. tim higgins says:

    A concept related to continual improvement is “continuous investment thinking.” With such thinking, we attempt to allocate our limited resources (invest) toward those items which are likely to offer the biggest return to the system. Applying continuous investment thinking requires appreciation for a system, theory, knowledge of variation and psychology.

    Investing in improvement may be gaining some visibility and combined with continuous investment thinking may offer attention getting results.

  2. […] I discussed some of my history with Dr. Deming’s ideas on management and my thoughts on the application of those ideas today. My history includes growing up around these ideas through the work of my father […]

  3. […] The clip above begins with Dr. Deming discussing a facet of the Deming chain reaction: […]

  4. […] his concern for the impact of statistics on society. Those of you who have looked at the so called Deming chain reaction have seen that it doesn’t end with money, but it ends with jobs and more jobs – that is […]

  5. […] In this presentation Dan Jones discusses what we (with an understanding of Deming’s ideas) can see as an aspect of the Deming chain reaction: […]

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