Articles / Deming's 14 points
W Edwards Deming
was an American statistician who was credited with the rise of Japan as a
manufacturing nation, and with the invention of Total Quality Management
(TQM). Deming went to Japan just after the War to help set up a census of
the Japanese population. While he was there, he taught 'statistical process
control' to Japanese engineers - a set of techniques which allowed them to
manufacture high-quality goods without expensive machinery. In 1960 he was
awarded a medal by the Japanese Emperor for his services to that country's
Deming returned to the US and spent some years in obscurity before the
publication of his book "Out of the crisis" in 1982. In this book,
Deming set out 14 points which, if applied to US manufacturing industry,
would he believed, save the US from industrial doom at the hands of the
Although Deming does not use the term Total Quality Management in his book,
it is credited with launching the movement. Most of the central ideas of TQM
are contained in "Out of the crisis".
The 14 points seem at first sight to be a rag-bag of radical ideas, but the
key to understanding a number of them lies in Deming's thoughts about
variation. Variation was seen by Deming as the disease that threatened US
manufacturing. The more variation - in the length of parts supposed to be
uniform, in delivery times, in prices, in work practices - the more waste,
From this premise, he set out his 14 points for management, which we have
1."Create constancy of purpose towards improvement". Replace
short-term reaction with long-term planning.
2."Adopt the new philosophy". The implication is that management
should actually adopt his philosophy, rather than merely expect the
workforce to do so.
3."Cease dependence on inspection". If variation is reduced, there
is no need to inspect manufactured items for defects, because there won't be
4."Move towards a single supplier for any one item." Multiple
suppliers mean variation between feedstocks.
5."Improve constantly and forever". Constantly strive to reduce
6."Institute training on the job". If people are inadequately
trained, they will not all work the same way, and this will introduce
7."Institute leadership". Deming makes a distinction between
leadership and mere supervision. The latter is quota- and target-based.
8."Drive out fear". Deming sees management by fear as counter-
productive in the long term, because it prevents workers from acting in the
organisation's best interests.
9."Break down barriers between departments". Another idea central
to TQM is the concept of the 'internal customer', that each department
serves not the management, but the other departments that use its outputs.
10."Eliminate slogans". Another central TQM idea is that it's not
people who make most mistakes - it's the process they are working within.
Harassing the workforce without improving the processes they use is
11."Eliminate management by objectives". Deming saw production
targets as encouraging the delivery of poor-quality goods.
12."Remove barriers to pride of workmanship". Many of the other
problems outlined reduce worker satisfaction.
13."Institute education and self-improvement".
14."The transformation is everyone's job".
Deming has been criticised for putting forward a set of goals without
providing any tools for managers to use to reach those goals (just the
problem he identified in point 10). His inevitable response to this question
was: "You're the manager, you figure it out."
"Out of the crisis" is over 500 pages long, and it is not possible
to do full justice to it in a 600 word article. If the above points interest
you, we recommend the book for further information.