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Discuss Deming’s 14 Principles

In this post, we will discuss the 14 principles by W. Edwards Deming for effectively improving quality organizationwide.

Dr. Willian Edwards Deming is renowned as a leading statistician, author, lecturer, and management consultant. Deming is hailed as the leading management thinker in the field of quality. Trained in engineering, Deming also worked as a professor, author, lecturer and management thinker. His critical mix of skills led to his becoming one of the leading management thinkers. During the 1930s Deming had become interested in how statistical analysis could be used to achieve better quality control. He is also credited for having played a central role in the rebuilding of the devastated Japanese economy in the post world war II era and beyond. Deming’s 14 point philosophy focuses on cooperation and continuous improvement.


  • Create a constant purpose towards improvement

The first point of Deming’s 14-point philosophy focuses on creating a constant purpose towards improvement for the entire organization. The organizational leaders should create a unifying purpose and then communicate it to their followers. However, the key thing to note here is that they should not plan for quality in the short term but in the long term. Organizations feel tempted to react with short term solutions.

They must avoid this tendency and instead adopt a long-term approach to quality which includes devoting resources to research and innovation. Improvement does not mean that organizations should try to do the same things better. They must also try to find better things to do. The first point of Deming’s philosophy also focuses on future and futuristic planning. Companies must predict the challenges that can arise before them in the future and prepare themselves for it. However, at the end their focus must always remain on the goal of getting better.

  • Adopt the new philosophy:

Quality should be a part of the company’s business strategy and culture that strives to improve continuously. Leaders must focus on making it an organization wide focus. It means everyone at each level must embrace quality to make the change successful.

The second point of Deming’s philosophy also stresses on putting customer needs first. In many cases, the focus of businesses rather than being on their customers and their needs and preferences remains on their competitors and their actions. Organizations that let themselves be driven by competitive pressure lose. So, businesses must focus on their customers’ need and preferences and design products that cater to those needs efficiently.

When leaders are implementing quality improvement organization wide, they must remain ready for a major change or transformation in how their business operated. Adopting the new philosophy means leading and not simply managing. The leaders must develop their own vision of quality and then implement it organization wide.

  • Stop depending on inspections:

The third point of the Deming’s 14-point philosophy highlights the uselessness of inspections. According to Deming inspections were unreliable and drove cost upwards. Inspections are carried out to find a lack of quality. They do not necessarily improve quality. What companies must instead do is to build quality into processes from start to finish. Their focus must not be just on what they did wrong but businesses should try to eliminate all the wrongs altogether. Deming argues in the favor the use of statistical control methods instead of physical inspections alone to prove that the process is working. Businesses must not depend solely on inspections for improving quality and business processes.

  • Use a single supplier for any one item:

In the fourth point of his principles, Deming highlights the importance of consistency in terms of sourcing and supplier management. Companies must not depend on various suppliers for the same raw material. It produces variation in quality level of the raw material. Quality, according to Deming is based on consistency and if the level of variation in the input which can arise when the number of suppliers supplying the same raw material is high, the level of variation in the output will also be high. To keep the quality of the final product consistent, businesses must depend on a single source for one item.

Businesses must try to turn suppliers into partners in terms of quality. They must encourage their suppliers to invest more time improving their own quality rather than just compete for your business on the basis of prices. Companies should not analyze just the initial cost of the product but the total cost it incurred.

Apart from that, it is important to apply quality standards to your supply chain to ensure that the suppliers are meeting quality standards. To ensure that their suppliers are meeting quality standards businesses must use quality statistics.

  • Improve constantly and forever:

The fifth point of Deming’s 14-point principles emphasizes on continuous improvement of systems and processes. In this regard, Deming suggested the use of the PDCA cycle or Deming cycle for process analysis and improvement. Apart from it, companies must also focus on helping their employees improve their performance.

 In this regard, organizationwide the emphasis needs to be on training and education to help employees get better at doing their jobs. Deming also stresses on reducing wastage in this point. He suggests that companies use the Kaizen model for reducing wastage and to improve productivity, effectiveness, and safety.

  • Use training on the job:

The output level of employees varies which is due to different level of skills and knowledge. However, companies can reduce variation by providing on the job training. Organizations should train workers for consistency to reduce variation. They must focus on building a foundation of common knowledge.

Apart from that, it is important that each of your workers understands his role well. Workers should know how they fit in the big picture. Teamwork is also essential for continuous improvement. However, it is something related with organizational culture. Businesses must strive to build a culture that drives teamwork. Teamwork can maximize efficiency and productivity. It is important that the leaders encourage the staff to learn from one another. Apart from a suitable culture that drives teamwork, it is important that the leaders focus on building an environment of teamwork.

  • Implement leadership:

Leadership is something that must not remain limited to the top level of management. However, the managers and supervisors at the mid-level and the frontline managers must also understand the workers and the processes they use. The job of the managers or supervisors is not simply to supervise. They must provide their employees the necessary support and resources that they need to become the best at their jobs.

A manager must try to be a coach for his employees instead of trying to police them for performance. Managers must try to figure out what each of their employees needs to do to become his or her best. Organizationwide the emphasis must be on participative management and transformational leadership for best results. Instead of just meeting targets and quotas the focus must be on helping the employees achieve their full potential.

  • Eliminate fear:

An environment of fear can be counterproductive. It stops employees from achieving their full potential and using their creativity. When employees are afraid of expressing their ideas and concerns before their managers and supervisors, their productivity remains low. It is a common obstacle to superior performance. Organizations must not let the attitude of micromanagement grow among managers since it hurts productivity. Moreover, eliminating fear helps at building trustful relationships with the employees and retain them longer. Let your employees make mistakes and not be afraid. Do not blame them when they make mistakes since they can learn by making mistakes. You should let everyone know that the goal is to improve quality by doing more things right.

Businesses must value their workers since it is the people who are their most important source of competitive advantage. Managers must find ways to make their workers feel values like providing recognition. They must also encourage workers to constantly look for better ways to do things. Leaders should be approachable and the layers of bureaucracy must be low. When leaders are approachable and employees can tell them their concerns, it is in the best interest of the company. However, open and honest communication is essential to eliminate fear from the environment. Managers and leaders must openly and honestly communicate with their employees to eliminate every type of fear that may hurt workers’ productivity.

  • Break down barriers between departments:

Cross-functional collaboration is also an important ingredient for improving organizational productivity and quality. Bringing down functional barriers will help different functions collaborate and improve the organizational productivity. Companies should build the internal customer concept and recognize that each function or department serves the other functions or departments using their output. For example, marketing does not just serve customers but also sales, finance, HR and other functions. However, collaboration between these various functions will require establishing a common vision. Adversarial relationships harm the quality of work and output. However, cross functional teamwork will help build understanding and reduce adversarial relationships. The focus of the leaders should be on building collaboration and achieving consensus instead of compromise.

  • Get rid of unclear slogans:

The management must let the employees know what it exactly wants of them instead of using unclear slogans. They must not keep the employees guessing. For example, companies use short and memorable slogans like Excellence in service. However, it fails to clearly define the objective. The short slogan does not have a clear meaning and it does not spell out how excellence is achieved.  So, if the company uses a better slogan like one can do better if he tries, the message will be clearer and the impact overall better.

Words or nice sounding phrases are not a substitute for effective leadership and slogans must not try to replace leadership. The leaders must clearly spell out the objectives to their people. Apart from that, rather than sending emails, they must meet people face to face to praise good work.

  • Eliminate management by objectives:

The eleventh point in Deming’s 14 point philosophy suggests eliminating management by objectives. The focus of the management must not remain only on numerical targets but they should instead look at how the process is carried out. According to Deming, setting production targets meant encouraging higher output and lower quality. The management must provide the employees proper resources and support so that production levels and quality are higher and achievable. The management must focus on measuring the process rather than the people behind the process.

  • Remove barriers to pride of workmanship:

Several companies are known to use strict measures of work quality to rate their employees. However, in several cases it proves counterproductive and hurts not just employee performance and organizational productivity but also employee morale. Companies that use rank and yank systems to rate their employees can feel its bitter impact on performance. Irrespective of any type of ratings or comparison with others, every worker should be allowed to take pride in his work.

The management must treat all the workers the same. It should not try to encourage internal competition for sake of financial and non financial rewards. If they treat all the workers the same or maintain an environment of equitable treatment, the quality system will naturally raise the level of everyone’s work to an equal level over time.

  • Implement education and self-improvement:

Upskilling is important to improve worker performance. If the workers continue to maintain the same level of skills and knowledge for a long time, they might not be able to experience much career growth. So, the focus of the management should be on improving the current skills of the workers. They must establish a culture of training and education to drive superior employee performance and faster career advancement. The managers and leaders must encourage the employees to learn new skills that can help them cope with the fast-changing industry environment and new challenges. It is important to encourage the staff to learn new skills that will make them more adaptable to change and help them find and achieve superior improvement. Employees also want continuous improvement and growth. Training and education are critical so that they can achieve self improvement.

  • Make transformation everyone’s job:

Quality is not just the responsibility of the leadership and the managers. Instead, everyone must have an equal role in helping the company move towards higher quality. Transformation should not be only the top management’s job but everyone throughout the organization at all levels is liable. The leaders must encourage each person to take a step towards quality to improve the entire organization. Moreover, the change process is not easy and companies need to analyze each small step and understand how its fits into the larger picture of transformation. At last, the companies that strive to introduce the new philosophy and ideas in Deming’s 14 points, must employ effective change management principles.