W. Edward Deming Quotes from The Essential Deming

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The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality

Principle 16. The consumer is the most important point on the production-line. Consumer research and testing in service are statistical problems.

Principle 17. No one can measure the loss of business that may arise from a defective item that goes out to a customer.

Speech by W. Edwards Deming, “New Principles in Administration for Quality and Efficiency” (in Manila, Philippines, July 2, 1971). Reprinted in The Essential Deming, pages 176-178.
Also see: The consumer is the most important point on the production-line

The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good.

The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or tries to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser.

The merit rating rewards people that conform to the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system. Don’t rock the boat.

W. Edwards Deming, “The Merit System: The Annual Appraisal: Destroyer of People,” 1986. Reprinted in The Essential Deming, page 27.

There are four prongs of quality and four ways to improve quality of product and service:

Innovation in product and service
Innovation in process
Improvement of existing product and service
Improvement of existing process

The common mistake is the supposition that quality is ensured by No. 4, improvement of process, that operations going off without blemish on the factory floor, in the bank, in the hotel will ensure quality. Good operations are essential, yet they do not ensure quality. Quality is made in the boardroom.

A bank that failed last week may have had excellent operations— speed at the tellers’ windows with few mistakes; few mistakes in bank statements; likewise in the calculation of interest and of penalties and loans. The cause of failure at the bank was bad management, not operations.

W. Edwards Deming, “The Need to Change”, 1989. Reprinted on page 41 of The Essential Deming.

Motivation – nonsense. All that people need to know is why their work is important.

W. Edwards Deming, from a speech at General Motors in 1992: Introduction to a System. Reprinted on page 157 of The Essential Deming.

What is a leader? As I use the term here, the job of a leader is to accomplish transformation of his organization. He possesses knowledge; he himself has been transformed. He has personality and persuasive power. How may he accomplish transformation? First he has theory. He understands why the transformation would bring gain to his organization and to all the people that his organization deals with, the customers, suppliers, environment. Second, he feels compelled to accomplish the transformation as an obligation to himself and to his organization. Third, he is a practical man. He has a plan, step by step.

W. Edwards Deming in a presentation at Ford Motor Company in 1992. Reprinted in The Essential Deming, page 181.

Performance of the individual cannot be measured, except on a long-term basis, for which I mean 15, 18, 20 years.

W. Edwards Deming in a seminar for CEOs, “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” 1992. Printed in The Essential Deming, page 53.

We carried out the study and found only six teachers were mentioned as the “great teacher of my life.” Only six of the scores of teachers that had been in that school all those years. Only six were mentioned. At the time when the students were there, they did not know it, they did not know that these were great teachers. Not one of the six teachers had received an award from the students “Teacher of the Year.” Not one! The Dean made no special effort to keep any of the six. Nobody knew that they were great. Not till years later. Then the students knew.

W. Edwards Deming in a seminar for CEOs, “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” 1992. Printed in The Essential Deming, page 198.

Our schools must preserve and nurture the yearning for learning that everyone is born with.

W. Edwards Deming in a seminar for CEOs, “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” 1992. Printed in The Essential Deming, page 200.

We’re living in prison. Under the tyranny of the prevailing style of management. A style of interaction between people, between teams, between divisions, between competitors. We need to throw overboard our theories and practices of the present, and build afresh.

W. Edwards Deming in a presentation at Fordham’s Deming Scholars MBA Program, 1992. Printed in The Essential Deming, page 185.