The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

A Perspective on Deming’s Ideas


Here is a long document looking at Deming’s ideas, written by Raphael Vitalo – Deming Revisited: The Real Quality Model for Commerce. The document explores Dr. Deming’s ideas in depth and provides the authors viewpoint.

In my opinion, it is an interesting read. I would disagree with some statements and some characterizations but it is provides a detailed look at a thoughtful examination of Deming’s ideas. It does a much better than most secondary sources on Deming’s ideas at talking about the importance of the overall management system Deming described.

The author clearly understands that the individual ideas within Deming’s teachings are connected and interrelated. He understands that when some try to pick out one or two ideas as though this is the core of Deming’s thoughts they misunderstand what Deming taught.

On psychology and the role in the management system he states:

These basic principles express themselves throughout Deming’s management guidance. Fundamentally, “Good management helps to nurture and preserve these innate attributes of people” (Deming, [The New Economics], p. 108). Effective managers establish relationships of trust based on respect for each individual and strive to understand each individual’s frame of reference. They ensure that people have the opportunity to succeed, to learn, and to grow, and thereby to experience “pride of workmanship.” Based on Deming’s understanding of human psychology, personal learning and successful striving are the springboards for innovation and innovation is essential to continuous improvement. The summative expression of his thinking about human psychology may be in his edict that we need to replace supervision with leadership and unless people performing the executive functions evidence leadership, no success in the pursuit of quality can be realized.

His summation of Deming’s expectations of leaders is a good sample of what you will find in the article.

Deming’s definition of leadership—i.e., those qualities an executive must demonstrate within the Quality approach to commerce—puts the executive in the service of the people who produce value. These are the contributors who transform inputs into outputs that benefit its customers. Status differences—indeed, any feature that divides people into separate groups—are anathema. The role of the executive is to ensure the personal success of every contributor, not vice versa. As you have read, the executive must ensure the delivery of benefits inclusively to all stakeholders, enable the success of every contributor, eliminate all barriers to pride of workmanship, eliminate all barriers to teaming across the enterprise, employ knowledge not intuition as a basis for action, enforce the rule that all problem solving and decision making be evidence-based, and act always to support learning and its leveraging as the central means of success.

The article is a long read but it is worth reading for those interested in understanding Deming’s ideas. He places too much importance on Deming’s 14 points, in my opinion, but does a good job of looking at the management system those points reflect.

Related: The Shortage of Implementation Details in Deming’s Management SystemThinking Required – Not Just a Recipe to FollowManagement Matters by John HunterRon Moen and Cliff Norman Discuss the Evolution of Deming’s Management IdeasPeople Copy Examples and Wonder Why They Don’t Succeed

The scope of effort for this paper:

This monograph analyzes Deming’s theory of management using the following process. First, the analyst studied Deming’s writing about each management point as he presented each to his readers. Second, he analyzed the content of references Deming directs the reader to for further development of his thinking about a point. Third, the analyst integrated statements Deming made elsewhere in his writings that amplified one or another idea Deming associated with a particular point. The following works were studied: Elementary Principles of the Statistical Control of Quality (Deming, 1950), On Probability as a Basis for Action (Deming, 1975), Out of Crisis (Deming, 1982a), Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position (Deming, 1982), The New Economics for Industry, Government, and Economics (Deming, 2000), and Deming’s journal article addressing Quality and the Required Style of Management-The Need for Change (Deming, 1988).

Categorised as: management systems

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