W. Edwards Deming

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In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.
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In my mind, if you run your company on visible figures alone you will have neither company nor figures given time. Important figures are unknown and unknowable.

—Lloyd Evans

“Information is not knowledge.”

“The merit rating nourishes short-term performance, annihilates long-term planning, builds fear, demolishes teamwork, [and] nourishes rivalry and politics. It leaves people bitter, crushed, bruised, battered, desolate, despondent, dejected, feeling inferior, some even depressed, unfit for work for weeks after receipt of rating, unable to comprehend why they are inferior. It is unfair, as it ascribes to the people in a group differences that may be caused totally by the system that they work in.”

W. Edwards Deming

Unfairly remembered mainly for a trite observation about data,[1] — we prefer the one above — Mr. Deming was a man before his time. Either that, or we are a people after his time, since his ideas seem to have been pretty popular at the time — though unwisely, to have forgotten them:

Here are 14 principles — actually, 13, since one seems to be repeated — to improve a business. They were first presented in Deming’s book Out of the Crisis.

  1. Create constancy of purpose: to improve products and service, be competitive and stay in business.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy: We are in a new economic age. We must take on leadership for change.
  3. Stop relying on inspection to ensure quality: build robust quality processes in the first place.
  4. Stop buying the cheapest item. You get what you pay for. Instead, minimise total cost — see waste. Move toward a single supplier[2] for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Always be improving: Iterate; understand the landscape is complex; demand and impulses change; constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
  6. Training on the job: Train people on the job. Encourage people to learn on the job. Encourage self-improvement
  7. Be better leaders: The aim of management is to help people — and machines — to do a better job.
  8. Look to remove fear: Let everyone may work effectively for the company.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. Encourage diversity, agility, operate a government of all the talents. Break down silos. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Cut out the slogans: Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the workforce.
  11. Eliminate goals: Eliminate quotas, objectives, numbers and goals. Substitute leadership.
  12. Allow people pride in their work: Get rid of annual merit ratings and management by objective.
  13. Make change everyone’s responsibility: Put everybody in the company to work to effect transformation.

See also


  1. “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
  2. Not sure about this: some redundancy/diversity of supply is an advantage to ease adaptability.