Deming Got It Right
Back in the late 1970s, when I ﬁrst started in management, I became
increasingly frustrated with the lack of discipline I encountered in the manu-
facturing workplace. We made many errors that resulted in lost productivity
and sometimes marginal product quality. The system relied heavily on luck.
This was because the processes were largely out of control and produced
considerable variability in the ﬁnished products. Added to that was frequent
equipment breakdowns, some of which were near catastrophic. Workers
were inadequately trained, and some of them were in positions for which
they were unqualiﬁed. I even encountered some ﬁnished product designs
that appeared to be noncompetitive because of the inferior raw materials
used in order to reduce costs.
On my own, I set out to improve the processes I was responsible for and
even met with some successes, but I continued to have negative feelings
about the organizations I worked for and their overall philosophies. Around
1984, I had the opportunity to see Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s videotape
series. All I can say is that it was life changing. In the ﬁrst couple of sessions,
I felt completely validated as a person. He presented his methodology for
improved quality and productivity in practical, real-life settings that reinforced
my own experiences and made my personal dissatisfaction seem logical and
rational. But most of all, Dr. Deming gave me a conﬁdent, clear path forward.
At this point, it might be helpful to provide a little background on who
Dr. Deming is and why his work is so signiﬁcant. Born in 1900, he lived
until 1993. He earned a BS in electrical engineering from the University of