Most people who have been through basic management or quality management training will have been exposed to the work of Edwards Deming. Known particularly for his work in helping Japanese companies establish a quality culture, Deming is regarded as a founding father of the quality movement. Although Deming is best known for his use of process improvement as a tool for improving quality, Deming’s thinking covered a considerably broader view of the organization.
One of Deming’s greatest contributions was his 14 management points. Although the points are generally read as being 14 principles for creating a quality culture, in many ways that’s a misrepresentation of what Deming was trying to convey. Rather than seeing “quality management” as a separate discipline, Deming realised that “quality management” and “management” are one in the same thing. For those who have forgotten or not been exposed to the ideas, the 14 points are as follows;
- Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service: Innovation, research and constant improvement is the way to make money and stay in business
- Adopt the new philosophy: Quality is a philosophy, not just a set of ideas. Genuine improvement requires organizations to become learning organizations
- Cease dependence on mass inspection: Reduce waste by building quality in
- Stop awarding business on price: Aim for minimum total cost and move towards single suppliers with whom the quality philosophy can be shared
- Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service: Improvement is an ongoing process to which there is no end
- Institute training: Many workers learn their jobs from colleagues who themselves were never trained properly. As a result many workers struggle to perform their jobs properly because no one has ever told them how to do so
- Institute leadership: A supervisor’s role is not simply to delegate tasks, but to lead. Leading means helping people do a better job
- Drive out fear: To create a quality product, workers need to feel secure in their work environment. Where there is fear of asking questions critical questions will never be surface and hence never addressed
- Break down barriers between departments: Quality products are created by teams. Where there are barriers between departments there are barriers that will prevent effective teamwork and cooperation
- Eliminate slogans, exhortations and numerical targets: Externally imposed targets or slogans achieve nothing. Workers are better motivated by their own commitment to producing a high quality product
- Eliminate numerical quotas: Because quotas are generally set within a broader framework of incentives workers will do what it takes to meet quotas even if that means sacrificing quality
- Remove barriers to taking pride in workmanship: People want to do a good job and are distressed when they cannot. Leverage off that powerful tool
- Institute a vigorous programme of education: Both management and the workers need to understand how to reduce waste and improve products and services
- Put everyone to work to achieve the transformation: Changes takes leadership and dedication. Change must come from the top and cannot be delegated to the lowest of levels, however everyone must participate
Applications of Deming’s points in the IT industry are rare, but I had the pleasure recently of visiting an IT group that has actually managed to do just that. Although the group didn’t set out to implement Deming’s points (in fact I’m not sure they were even aware of them), when the group’s manager outlined the management philosophy and practices they used I was immediately struck with the parallels to Deming’s 14 points. The outcomes were truly startling. The group had the highest levels of motivation I’ve ever seen, there was a pride of workmanship which was immediately apparent and a genuine alignment between what the technical team was doing and the needs of the client.
I’ve always felt that training, leadership and a positive attitude towards quality are the keys to productivity, profitability and moral. Re-reading Deming’s brings that message home and it’s nice to find the occasional IT department that really has understood that message.