Quality Improvement “Dr. Edwards Deming”

Employee Engagement

I have read, studied, and observed hundreds of management fads, management philosophies, and gurus during my lifetime. I am old enough to remember the 70’s and 80’s when this country faced a worse economic condition than today. All at the same time, America was reeling from the competitive onslaught of less expensive, but better made products coming from Japanese companies. This crisis triggered a reaction forcing a revolutionary change in how this country conducts business.

(Note: It seems to me that we are returning to the difficult times experienced in the 70’s.)

Few management philosophies have more influenced the business world as widely than quality management. It had one goal–to tap the potential, abilities, skills, and knowledge of the workforce. Furthermore, its goal was to systemize every aspect of the organization forcing a laser like focus on exceptional customer satisfaction. The quality revolution claimed many names such as Total Quality Management (TQM) and Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI).

The most widely known quality expert at the time was Dr. W. Edwards Deming. At the end of WW II, Deming worked for the U.S. government and traveled to Japan to help rebuild their economy with his unique style of management. For years, Dr. Deming was more widely known in Japan than his own country. His rise to iconic status in 1980 was attributed to Claire Crawford-Mason, a veteran news reporter and TV producer, who produced a documentary on the decline of American competitiveness for NBC called “If Japan Can.Why Can’t We?” The rest is history.

The key characteristics forming the foundation of the quality management philosophy are listed as follows:

  • Customer Driven Focus – Place the customer as the center of the universe. Businesses strive to meet and exceed the customer’s needs and expectations.
  • Continuous Improvement – Demands continual improvement in all areas. William Perry, past Executive Director, Quality Assurance Institute, said, “If quality is not improving, it’s deteriorating.” Quality management is a long-term, never ending process.
  • Prevention Orientation – Eliminate inspection and substitute prevention. By eliminating problematic root causes, prevention lowers costs by avoiding rework, unsatisfied customers, recalls, and defective products and services.
  • Team Approach – Everyone, including suppliers, management, workers, and customers become equal partners in the improvement process.
  • Process Management – Follows a structured problem-solving approach versus typical “knee-jerk” decision making.
  • Employee Empowerment – Quality management requires a unified effort from everyone in the organization. Productivity comes through harnessing the ideas and energy of all people at all levels. Management provides the resources, training, and support to get the job done.

In summary, Deming’s primal message to Japan and this country was “that they–management–were the problem, and that nothing would get better until they took personal responsibility for change.” His message still rings true today.

Dr. Deming’s Fourteen Points For Management

1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product or service. By being innovative, continuously improving everything, and providing the right equipment, businesses become competitive, stay in business, and provide more jobs.

2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age where western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on a new attitude for change.

3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve Quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building and designing quality into the product at the very beginning.

4. End the practice of awarding business based on price tag alone. Move toward single suppliers for any one item. Build long term relationships with suppliers based on loyalty and trust.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service. No longer be satisfied with just, “good enough.” All aspects of the business must improve constantly. By improving quality, costs decrease and morale and customer satisfaction increases.

6. Institute training on the job. Training enhances job performance. All workers and managers should receive training on the job.

7. Institute leadership. “Leadership is the job of management.” The aim of management is to help people and machines do a better job with less effort. American management is in need of a major overhaul.

8. Drive out fear so that everyone may work effectively for the organization. Management must create a secure environment and build pride of workmanship.

9. Break down barriers between staff areas. People must work together as teams. Invisible barriers between departments cause delays and frustration.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force. Slogans and posters do not motivate or improve productivity. Management must seek the root causes to the problems that inhibit worker productivity.

11 a. Eliminate work standards (quotas). Substitute leadership.

11 b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

12a. Remove barriers that rob hourly workers of their right to pride in workmanship. Management must be involved in the day-to-day struggles workers face. Most managers are too detached to what really is happening on the job.

12b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and staff of their right to pride in workmanship. Management should abolish the annual merit rating system and management by objectives. The majority of all formal evaluation systems are unfair and invalid.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.

14. Put everyone to work to accomplish the transformation. Transformation is everyone’s job.

Excerpted from OUT OF THE CRISIS, copyright (c) 1986 by the W. Edwards Deming Institute.

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