W. Edwards Deming (1900 – 1993)

demingSo, here’s my first Giant. It couldn’t really be anyone else!

Dr Deming is for management, what Sir Isaac Newton is for calculus and Einstein is for relativity. Unfortunately his ideas are still not properly understood and practiced by many.

Once you do consider, and come to understand his work I expect you will find yourself using a different mental model for the world!

  • Born in 1900 in America;
  • An engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer and management consultant;
  • Worked with Dr Walter Shewhart, whose ‘Shewhart cycle’ evolved into ‘PDSA’ (Plan-Do-Study-Act);
  • Was asked by General MacArthur’s Administration after the 2nd world war to go to Japan to teach them about quality control;
  • July 13th 1950: Historic lecture over dinner with Presidents/ top officials of the 21 leading Japanese Industries (representing 80% of Japan’s capital), said to be “the birth of the new Japan”;
  • 1950 – 1965 and onwards: Taught and consulted to Japanese industry;
  • 1960: Awarded 2nd Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure from the Emperor of Japan;
  • 1980: finally became famous back in America after appearing on TV re. “If Japan can, why can’t we?”;
  • 1981-1993: Performed his famous 4-day seminars across America, attended by thousands of people per year;
  • 1987: Awarded the National Medal of Technology from President Reagan
  • Died in 1993.

Author of the books:

  • ‘Out of the crisis’ (1982); and
  • ‘The New Economics (1993)

He is best known for:

  •  The Chain reaction: Start with quality…Improve quality – costs decrease – productivity improves – capture market – stay in business – provide more jobs
  • His management philosophy (‘System of profound knowledge’), which is made up of four components, and how they interact:

– Appreciation for a system (and to think in terms of systems);

– Knowledge about variation (understanding variability);

– Theory of knowledge (how we experiment and learn); and

– Psychology (understanding people and why they behave as they do)

  • His ‘14 Management Points’: on how to transform American industry (and ‘command-and-control’ organisations everywhere)
  • His ‘7 Deadly diseases’: on what stands in the way of this transformation
  • His Red Bead and Funnel experiments

“95% of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in the system…rather than the employee…

…the role of management is to change the system rather than badgering individuals to do better.”

3 thoughts on “W. Edwards Deming (1900 – 1993)

  1. Definitely THE man. Too many don’t know who he was. All the other hot methodologies out there (Lean, Six Sigma, Scrum) can trace their lineage back to this man’s teaching. For me, these methodologies make more sense if you study Deming. My favorite Deming quote (which made me nearly fall on the floor with laughter when I read it): “I would be a mistake to export American management to a friendly country.”


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