“If the Japanese Can, Why Can’t We?” was the 1980 TV documentary that made Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran household names in America. Deming was a statistician, who was invited to Japan by General MacArthur to advise on the census. At that time their economy was struggling, and Japan’s reputation was for shoddy workmanship not high quality. Japanese businessmen were afraid they would never recover, but Deming believed it would take five years to build a new reputation – it took four.
When American business men adopted Deming’s principles, some saw immediate change. As an example, Nashua Corporation of New Hampshire (A Fortune 500 Company) cut its order lead time from eight days to one hour and saw its customer claims go down by 70%. Deming was a true thought leader.
What Was Deming’s Principle for Achieving Quality?
Essentially it is that:
- Loss of quality results from variations during a manufacturing process.
- Manage variation, and quality will go up.
- Quality is about people not products.
- Production faults are more to do with management than workers.
- Companies must anticipate customer needs, to stay ahead of their competition and to keep their customers loyal.
There are 14 points that open up the mind to new ideas. Those ideas will lead to different and better ways of organizing a business and working with the people in it. The result will be continuous improvement and, ultimately, total and consistent quality. Trust within the company, and between the company and its market will lead to total success.
Deming’s 14 Points
- Create constancy of purpose for continuous improvement of both products and service.
- Adopt the philosophy, rather than passively believing it.
- Stop relying in post-process inspection; build quality into the process itself.
- Stop buying production materials and equipment on lowest price; require meaningful product quality, and pay the right price.
- Continually look for ways to improve planning, production and service.
- Train everyone for the job in hand, making it each person’s responsibility to look for a better way.
- Leaders must always demonstrate the principle that highest quality is crucial.
- Improve two-way communication, so ideas can be properly assessed, tested and implemented.
- Remove the barriers between departments and functions.
- Stop merely demanding or exhorting workers to do better, as this only creates new barriers.
- Replace isolated quality targets driven by carrot-and-stick methods with supportive leadership to achieve accepted targets.
- Remove barriers to, and then personalize, pride of workmanship.
- Encourage people to self-improve.
- Define management’s commitment to continuous improvement, and oblige them to implement all of the above.
Today’s business world is complex, separated by geography and time-zones, multi-functional, fast and high-pressure. Variation is an easy thing to allow and to ignore, if only because of the separation and complexity. Business leaders should still focus on Deming’s philosophy of ideas, communication and commitment to continually look for a better way.
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