Memorable Quotes By Deming, Part I

Basic Business Cents

Memorable Quotes by Deming, Part I

Dr. W. Edwards Deming was one of the great statisticians employed by Stanford University to teach American industry about methods that allowed them to rapidly ramp up production of war-time goods during World War II. After the war, the Japanese leaders invited Deming to teach them these techniques. They were an island nation, production capacity destroyed by the war, and few natural resources, so they were desperate. He is generally credited with turning their economy around and helping them become a factor in the world economy. He then focused on improving the quality of American industry through his process thinking methods.

Some of his oft-quoted comments are:

  • Good intentions are not enough. They must be accompanied by profound knowledge. Deming often said, “People are doing their best.” Workers and managers alike intend to do a good job but their processes and knowledge may be limiting their results. Dictionary definitions of profound and knowledge can be interpreted to mean deep understand of perceived truth. It involves knowledge of variation, understanding that no process is perfect, and variation always exists. Quality for international trade must be good enough to command a market.” If the quality of the product or service is not sufficient to entice people to buy it, there is no market.
  • “Better quality is the answer to industrial survival in the western world.” Worldwide communications are so efficient today that people know where they can find the best value, i.e., quality vs. cost. People no longer have to accept poor quality.
  • “How would you know?” Without data, you don’t know how to make proper decisions. We often expect people to know information that they have no way of finding or analyzing.
  • “When a system is stable, telling workers about mistakes is only tampering.” Using statistical methods, like control charts, to analyze data allows people to take correct action to improve the processes., and avoid incorrect action. If a manager takes action on individual points, the variation will only be increased. Deming called this action “tampering”. If the process is stable and the mean is not acceptable or if the variation is to be decreased, the process must be improved. Simply criticizing or making demands of the employees will just make it worse.
  • “People with targets and jobs dependent upon meeting them will probably meet the targets, even if they have to destroy the enterprise to do it.” If the targets are arbitrary, people will find a way to achieve them even if it has a detrimental effect elsewhere. It the process is not able to achieve the desired target, the employee will find a way to reach it, no matter at what cost. If the process is capable of doing more than the target, the employee will tend to not go beyond the target.
  • “People hope for instant pudding,” People want immediate results, but improving quality is a long and never-ending journey. Dr. Noriaki Kano of the Science University of Tokyo said, “I wish quality was easy but unfortunately it is a hot and sweaty job.”
  • Change is upon us. It is not optional.” We cannot ever rest on our laurels. Changes in market desires, technology, transportation, communication, environment, and world politics contribute to change in the business climate. We must constantly and forever change.

We will conclude with some of Dr. Deming’s famous quotations in the next article. It is interesting to note how they are standing the test of time.