The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Deming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 Points

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

With better quality and lower costs you can capture the market with better quality and lower price. It will help you to stay in business, provide jobs, and more jobs.

These clips are taken from the Deming Starter Library on the 14 points for management. Llyod Dobbins is the narrator and the animated character is by Pulitzer-prize-winning cartoonist Pat Oliphant. As is mentioned in the video Dr. Deming approved the wording, so when Lloyd Dobbins is speaking the wording represents Dr. Deming’s view.

Llyod Dobbins:

The 14 points will lower costs, but that isn’t the point. They will create better products for the consumer, quality will go up and so will our skills.

Dr. Deming:

Finding what is wrong is not improvement of the process. If there were a fire here in this building and somehow we put it out that is not improvement, that is putting out fires.

that is a path toward destruction because they are not studying the system, they are managing outcomes, managing defects instead of looking at the system that produced the defects.

In my opinion the video above is packed with great material. It continues with Llyod Dobbins saying:

Each of Deming’s 14 points is implicit in all of the others. The way not to depend on mass inspection (point 3) is to continually improve the process (point 5). To do that you will need quality supplies (point 4). If finding a quality supplier takes time, well remember point 1, constancy of purpose. And also remember to adopt the new philosophy, which just happens to be point 2. No one of Dr. Deming’s points stands alone, nor did he intend that one should. The 14 points are one philosophy, an original way of looking at business and industry or anything else.


This is one of the most important concepts to consider while applying Deming’s ideas – it is a system. Trying to pick 1 or 2 points and deciding that doing that alone won’t succeed where you work is not surprising. This is a management system; each component is dependent on the other points. Trying to adopt 1 or 2 points might work in some instances but it is not what Dr. Deming was suggesting.

Dr. Deming on viewing the organization as a system (which is one of the four components of the System of Profound Knowledge which was the new way Deming came to describe the management system after these videos).

The 14 points evolved into the System of Profound Knowledge as he saw what happened as organizations adopted his management ideas (and one of those things was that even with words like Lloyd’s quote above, organization were very focused on taking points individually and in isolation). The System of Profound Knowledge attempts to counter this tendency by making the system nature of the new thinking much more difficult to ignore.

Everybody has a customer in any organization, be it a laundry, bank, newspaper, manufacturing, education, not matter what. To do my work I need to know who is going to use it. Who am I working for? In an organization who is my customer. Why am I here? What am I doing? The customer, the next stage, must work with the preceding stage.

There is a great deal of meaning behind the few sentences he says here. I have discussed some of that meaning previously in: Customer Focus with a Deming Perspective, The consumer is the most important point on the production-line, User Gemba and looking at customers: internal and external customers and end users.

Lloyd Dobbins, using the insight from the thinking behind the 14 points shows that certain beliefs are just plain wrong.

The first belief is that if every did the job and worked hard you would get quality. But if the process is wrong all the hard work in the world can’t make quality. The second belief is if workers would pay attention and not make mistakes all our problems would be solved.

Dr. Deming then gives a passionate response to the idea that mistakes of employees are what needs to be focused on in his discussion of Continental Illinois Bank:

You think that happened because of mistakes of tellers? Mistakes in calculating interest and penalties on loans? You think so? Does anybody think so? From operations? Nonsense. Those things are attributable to management.

Continental Illinois Bank was a huge (at one time the 6th largest bank in the USA) too-big-too-fail bank that failed in 1984 (the FDIC essentially nationalized the bank). The recent too-big-too-fail financial firms failures once again would have earned Deming’s passionate response. Dr. Deming firmly believed in the responsibility of leadership. Sadly, it seems to me that far too many senior executives today are focused primarily on their perks instead of focusing on their responsibilities to the organization’s stakeholders.

The most important failures to address are not workers making mistakes. The failures rest entirely with the choices made by senior executives. The management systems they put in place and maintained created the financial crisis, and the crisis for their company (that required massive government bailouts).

The video goes on to discuss Deming’s statement (from page 315 of Out of the Crisis):

I should estimate that in my experience most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to the proportions something like this:

  • 94% belongs to the system (responsibility of management)
  • 6% special

There is plenty of great material from the short clip above that is not included in this post, make sure you watch the video to see it all.

Related: Podcast with Clare Crawford-Mason Discussing Dr. Deming’s Ideas on ManagementLessons From the Red Bead Experiment with Dr. Deming 94% Belongs to the System


Categorised as: Dr. Deming, education, management systems, psychology, video


4 Comments

  1. John Dowd says:

    Nice post. It’s not possible to repeat these basic concepts too much.

  2. Andrea “He [Dr. Deming] had tremendous respect for ordinary workers and that respect was recipricated. There was real humanity there.”

  3. […] as a system above the individual components but most do not. The 14 points offer advice on practices that make optimizing the system difficult and what should be done to succeed. When individual bonuses and annual performance reviews are part […]

  4. […] Lessons From the Red Bead Experiment with Dr. Deming – Deming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 Points – Analysis Must be Implemented by People to Provide Value – People Take Time to Believe […]

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