10 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Dr. Deming is known as The Father of Quality Management, popularized PDCA, and is the motivation behind the Deming Prize. But that’s not all of his contributions. There are many other things that Dr. Deming has given us.

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was a huge follower of Dr. Deming. I was reading every book that was written about him and, of course, I digested his book, Out of the Crisis.  You probably know that he is well-known for his 14 Points for Management and for modern quality control methods, but do you know these other interesting tidbits?

Before I get into these, I want to share a bit of my direct experiences with him and where my exposure begins.

How I Know Dr. Deming

As an Industrial Engineering student, I studied Dr. Deming within a few of my classes, including my advanced statistical quality control class.  This was in the late 80s, and Motorola was just starting to talk about 6-sigma, which is the nickname given to the high-quality they expected from doing process capability studies following some of what he teaches.

What landed me my first job after college at the Wiremold Company was my Dr. Deming background and experience implementing Statistical Process Control and Process Capability at a series of small companies across Western Massachusetts (my first experience as a consultant!). Wiremold was not yet fully on a journey to become Lean and not yet world-known, but these were the seeds of its future greatness. By 1990, Wiremold had started continuous improvement teams – and by 1991, I was facilitating and overseeing about 70 of them concurrently.

The Wiremold Connection

Wiremold had the input of its subsidiary, Brooks Electronics, and its president, Gary Brooks, one of the founding members of the Philadelphia Area Center of Excellence (PACE). PACE and their member companies worked with Dr. Deming as an advisor.  Gary and I were the two “Deming point people” inside Wiremold.

During 1989 and 1990, the senior management team from Wiremold attended “Dr. Deming’s Four-Day Seminar for Managers” in various cities across the United States. In addition to the two times that I attended his Seminar (and his 1-day seminar for educators), I jumped into the Deming world in a bigger way.  I negotiated to not work on Mondays, and instead would go down to New York University’s Stern School of Business, where Dr. Deming was teaching a graduate class within their MBA program.  It’s a much different experience being in a class of 40-50 business students for 13 weeks, compared to 800 executives in a four-day seminar!  Plus, I had the opportunity to interact with Dr. Deming in person, and hear his feedback about what I was working on.

All this was priceless and shaped my thinking. I had direct and indirect exposure to Dr. Deming and his work for about five years, which equated to about 20 percent of my formative business years. As I look back now, I realize that Dr. Deming was my first business mentor.

Information About Dr. Deming That You Might Not Know

1. Deming was born during the 2nd Industrial Revolution.

The second Industrial Revolution, which took place between 1870 and 1914, is what moved industry forward, with electricity, the internal combustion engine, and the growth of huge factories.  Dr. Deming was born October 14, 1900, and so grew up during this exciting time in our industrial history.

2. Deming’s work with standardizing production procedures and statistical quality control were his first major contributions.

The United States war-time production during World War II had a new workforce. While the men were off fighting The Great War, women now entered the workforce for the first time.  The methods that Dr. Deming created enabled our factories to produce high-quality products that led to creating the US into an industrial super power.

Interestingly, these statistical methods, which were part of the secret to American high-quality during the war, soon faded as demand after the war was so strong that output, rather than high quality, became the dominant driver in American companies.

3. Deming was sent to Japan by the US Government.

Dr. Deming developed the sampling methods used for the 1940 US Census. After WWII had ended, he helped with the Census in Japan and then, due to General MacArthur’s frustration with the lack of working infrastructure, asked Dr. Deming to support Japan’s reconstruction.

4. The Japanese invited Dr. Deming to teach them the methods he had taught to US companies during World War II.

The Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) appreciated who Dr. Deming was, and invited him to conduct a series of lectures to business leaders in Japan during 1950.  They voraciously learned and applied what Dr. Deming taught, and Dr. Deming is credited from these lectures for initiating Japan’s post-war economic miracle.

5. The Deming Prize was named after Dr. Deming to honor his contributions to management in Japan.

The JUSE established the Deming Prize and first awarded it in 1951.  In 1989, Florida Power & Light was the first non-Japanese winner of the Deming Prize. Today, winners around the globe compete for this award, with companies from Indonesia and India winning in 2018.

6. Deming was humble, and gave credit to all of his prior mentors.

One of Dr. Deming’s mentors was Dr. Walter A. Shewhart, the statistician who developed the Shewhart Control Chart. Deming was introduced to Dr. Shewhart in 1927 and began to simplify the application of Shewhart’s methods over the next decade.

For all of you 6-sigma practitioners, the Statistical Process Control charts that you have learned during your green belt and black belt certifications have their origins in Dr. Deming’s applications of Shewhart’s work. During the time that I knew him, he would credit Dr. Shewhart and refer to them by his name, rather than take credit himself.

7. Deming was relatively unknown in the US

After the economic boom in the US during the 1950s, Dr. Deming’s statistical quality control methods were soon forgotten. It wasn’t until a documentary called, If Japan can…Why Can’t We? that US business leaders discovered who he was, as he was named as a central figure in Japan’s emergence. Soon, everyone wanted to learn from Dr. Deming.

8. During the 1980s, Dr. Deming’s consulting fee was reported to be $10,000 per day.

Dr. Deming taught at NYU’s Stern Graduate School of Business on Mondays (and later at Columbia University), which left him Tuesday through Friday each week to consult for clients such as Ford Motor Company. That fee of $10,000 per day in 1980 dollars equates to over $30,000 per day today.

9. The Deming Wheel, or the PDCA Cycle, has many other names.

Dr. Deming learned the process of continuous improvement as a series of experiments from Dr. Shewhart, and called this The Shewhart Cycle.  The steps are Plan – Do – Check – Act, which is widely known as PDCA. Fans call this the Deming Wheel, as when he taught the process during the JUSE lectures, he showed it as a wheel moving up a graph.

He re-named the steps to Plan – Do – Study – Act, as he felt the word Study was a more descriptive word than Check.  We spoke about this during my time in his class at NYU, and he released this in his 1993 book, The New Economics.

10. Deming taught the problems are with management, not with the workers

Dr. Deming used statistical techniques to study the performance of a system. He would demonstrate, using the Red Bead Experiment, there is an expected level of variation in a system. Too often, managers overreact to data that is attributed to the system rather than to a special cause, outside the system.

For this reason, he states that management actions were responsible for 85% of problems (a statement he famously told the executives at Ford Motor Company). He also shared that “new knowledge must come from the outside,” meaning that the thinking that created the existing results cannot also improve those results without the aid of outside thinking.

Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management

I studied the heck out of Dr. Deming’s 14 Points in the late 1980s. At one time, I had them memorized and would happily debate their deeper meanings. During his 4-Day Seminar for Managers, Dr. Deming would playfully demonstrate the role that managers have in creating the culture that will support high levels of quality and productivity.  In that seminar, he taught all the basic principles of his 14 Points, as well as demonstrating system-created variations, using his famous “Red Bead Experiment.”

About the Author: Pete Winiarski

Peter D. Winiarski is the founder and CEO of Win Enterprises, LLC. He is a speaker and the author or contributing author of seven Amazon best-selling books on business transformation, consulting, leadership, and goal achievement.

His company, Win Enterprises, LLC, helps business leaders transform their results for themselves and their companies.  The Win team of resources are experts in business transformation, organizational culture, leadership, and goal achievement, and are highly skilled consultants and executive mentors.

Win’s clients experience fast results, lasting change, and huge ROI working with Pete’s team.

Learn more at www.CompleteBusinessTransformation.com  and Contact Pete’s team at PeteW@CompleteBusinessTransformation.com.

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