W. Edwards Deming
Jun 5th 2009
W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) was a physicist/statistician with a PhD from Yale who applied the ideas of a little-known American mathematician, Walter Shewhart, to business processes. Deming later said later that Shewhart had an “uncanny ability to make things difficult”. There was always a need for an interpreter of his findings. The most surprising thing is that Deming did not do this first in his native America, but in Japan.
Born in Iowa and raised on his grandfather’s chicken farm, Deming joined the US Census Bureau in 1939 and, after the second world war, was sent to Japan to advise on a census that was taking place there. He stayed on to advise Japanese businessmen how to inject quality into their manufacturing industry. At the time Japan was notorious in the western world for the shabby goods that it produced. By the late 1970s the roles had been reversed: Japan was producing the quality stuff while America’s car industry was in crisis and its standard-bearers of quality were Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
It gave Americans some solace at the time to discover that behind the Japanese quality miracle had been two Americans that few of them had heard of: Joseph Moses Juran and W. Edwards Deming. Juran, an electrical engineer, had also gone to Japan after the second world war and begun to teach middle managers about quality. Juran focused more on the human-relations aspects of quality, while Deming’s approach involved demonstrating that all business processes are vulnerable to a loss of quality through statistical variation. Management, he argued, was responsible for 85% of that variation. Reduce the variation; increase the quality, was the foundation of his advice.
Deming’s method for bringing this about was built on what became known outside Japan as the “quality circle” and inside Japan as the “Deming circle”. These circles consisted of groups of workers who sought to improve the processes that they were responsible for in four stages. First came the planning of how to do it followed by the implementation of that plan. Then workers would check the variance from anticipated outcomes and take any corrective action that was necessary.這可能將品管圈和pdca等搞混
If I had to reduce my message for management to a few words, I’d say it all had to do with reducing variation.
To this day, Japanese industry awards a prestigious annual prize to companies that have demonstrated exceptional improvements in quality. It is called the Deming Prize.
Deming was lauded on his return to the United States and conducted seminars around the country until he was in his 90s. Several big American firms, including Ford Motor Company, came to credit him with transforming their product quality and their profits. Over a number of years he came to distil his advice for managers into “14 points”, which ranged from quality-related items such as “Cease dependence on mass inspection. Build quality into the product from the start”, to more human issues such as “Remove barriers to pride in workmanship”.
Deming was a modest man who loved music and sang in a choir. He was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, second class, the highest Japanese award ever given to foreigners.
“Out of the Crisis: Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position”, Cambridge University Press, 1986; 2nd edn, MIT Press, 2000 這書沒這副標題
More management gurus
This profile is adapted from “The Economist Guide to Management Ideas and Gurus”, by Tim Hindle (Profile Books; 322 pages; £20). The guide has the low-down on more than 50 of the world’s most influential management thinkers past and present and over 100 of the most influential business-management ideas. To buy this book, please visit our online shop.