Memorable Quotes By Deming, Part II

Continuing the discussion of often-used quotations from Dr. W. Edwards Deming, we find more comments on the inevitability of change in our work.

  • “It is not written anywhere that survival is mandatory.” One only needs to look at the changes over the years of the companies listed on various stock exchanges. In my early years in the computer industry, we talked about IBM and the Seven Dwarfs-Burroughs, Control Data Corporation, General Electric, Honeywell, National Cash Register, Univac, and Xerox Data Systems. None of them capitalized on the change to minicomputers. Digital Equipment, Data General, and Varian became the leaders. However, none of them were a factor in the next generation of microcomputers and Apple, IBM (yes they came back), Dell, and Compaq capitalized on the new opportunity. Apple and IBM made the transition into tablet computers. As Deming said, change is not an option.
  • “If you want to be ahead, then you have to get ahead.” We all want to get ahead in life or have our company get ahead. We won’t get there unless we do something different. We have to improve, innovate, and dare to make breakthroughs to get ahead.
  • “Customers expectations are only what you and your competition led them to think.” We all know we have to meet, if not exceed, customers’ expectations, but Deming has a point; what leads customers to develop their expectations. Certainly, specifications to make their systems work are an input. But designs tend to be based on what is available in the industry. They review offerings of you and your customers and design around them or change their purchasing to reflect what they believe is realistically available.
  • “We can’t make it on satisfied customers, they will switch. We need loyal customers who will wait in line and bring friends. Profit is six to ten times greater with a loyal customer.” Advertising and promotion costs are significantly higher to attract new customers, and communication and testing costs are minimized with existing customers.
  • “Doesn’t anyone give a hoot about profit anymore?” This comment usually followed a discussion of his chain reaction theory introduced to Japanese leaders in the summer of 1950. It is:

o “Improve quality. Costs decrease because of less rework, fewer mistakes, fewer delays, snags: better use of machine time and materials which leads to-

o Productivity improves-
o Capture the market with better quality and lower price-
o Stay in business-
o Provide jobs and more jobs.” This chain reaction became engraved in

Japan as a way of life. “Simple, so simple”, he would often say to emphasize the point.

• Deming’s work provokes people to think, whether it’s in a classroom or on a drive across town. At New York University where he taught for many years, Deming often liked to ask his students which other courses they were taking that would help them have a positive impact on the U.S. balance of trade. “Looking at their faces, you can see them getting mad as they realize their other classes really do not contribute to reducing the balance of trade”, he said.

  1. “The Japanese have much to teach Western enterprises, such as eagerness of top management to learn and to treat people as treasures not as assets.” Considering the investment in training, coaching, and understanding strengths of employees, turnover is very costly. Retaining loyal employees is not only the moral thing to do, it is also makes sense economically.
  2. “Dogs like a pat on the back, and so do people.” Positive reinforcement is useful in encouraging employees. Pride in work and receiving satisfaction from doing work that is valued is key to employee motivation. This doesn’t mean that you never coach employees to improve but do not be overly critical.
  3. “He who tooteth not his own horn the same doth not get tooteth.” Don’t be arrogant but at the same time have a conviction that what you are doing is right and good. Don’t hide your light under a bushel.
  4. Closing out his famous four-day seminars where he talked about the futility of people doing their best in processes which were not capable of providing the output expected of them, he would say, “And now I leave you with five words, I have done my best.” He was reinforcing what he often said about workers, they are doing their best and he was too. At this point in his last seminar, 10 days before he passed away at age 94, there was not a dry eye in the house.