Deming and Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management was a revolutionary concept developed by the American statistician, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a term now commonly referred to as TQM. The basis for TQM is that it emphasizes a number of management concepts which, singly, might well have been utilized by many corporations, but when combined provided a new outlook at the positive results of “zero defect” production. The basic four cornerstones of Deming’s TQM include customer focus, continuous improvement, defect prevention and the importance of sharing quality responsibilities. The goal is excellence whether it involves a specific product or a service. This, according to Deming, can be realized through teamwork and team effort for continuous improvement. . “Total Quality is a description of the culture, attitude and organization of a company that strives to provide customers with products and services that satisfy their needs” (Hashmi 1).

While today Deming and his concepts are widely utilized in the U.S. and throughout the world, and while some of his ideas fostered quality wartime production in the U.S. during World War II, it took his journey to post-war Japan and the beginnings of rebuilding a war-shattered industrial complex to find an outlet for what he called his “Fourteen points.” Here is a summary of Deming’s 14 points. They include the following:

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 any.

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 variation.

6.”Institute training on the job”. If people are inadequately trained, they will not all work the same way, and this will introduce variation.

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 counter-productive.

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”. (Cohen, 2010 para. 1-14)..

As will be explained, these fourteen points need to be considered not individually, but as a group. They “represent a philosophy, a logical, humane and pleasant way to get things done. Each of these points may sound reasonably straightforward, even simple in some cases, but each represents a change in the ways things are commonly done (especially) in the United States” (Dobyns et al, 1994). It is for this “We in the U.S. know best” that Deming found more ready acceptance in Japan after the end of the war. . Perhaps the most vital key to Total Quality Management’s team effort toward improving quality continuously is an understanding that the so-called “North American way” is not necessarily the way things are accomplished elsewhere. As one expert explains: “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy”. (Hofstede 1).

It is this synergistic approach, skirting individualism and moving toward teamwork, even “family” type of production which emphasizes the purpose of the overall system,, not its components, which can result in more productive work by each member of the team. Japan’s burgeoning automobile industry was the first recipient of Deming’s family concepts for TQM, which, in essence, avoided one person’s doing repetitive work day after day until he reaches some barrier which could result in a drop in quality.

Deming’s concepts stress finding some sort of joy and pride in the work, with problems being solved from the center out, rather than from the outside in . Teamwork, as Deming demonstrated, can help members build a data base that can store and process improvements as the work continues, thus avoiding duplication of effort and even finding short cuts that could save time and labor effort. As Dobyns (1994) points out, this teamwork concept means that the people actually doing the work are the best positioned to identify and solve problems.

TQM also avoids one mistake many workers and companies tend to make: the belief that all problems are basically similar and could thus be simply solved. For successful problem solving, all the interrelated elements of a business must be properly utilized. That means focusing on accuracy and efficiency to reach a predetermined goal successfully. The benefits from each team’s efforts far exceed the cost. Their credibility and direct hands-on experience provide a faster and smoother transition. (Nadler, 1994) A transition from individual responsibility to teamwork.

TQM has made a vast difference at Quest Diagnostics, a reference laboratory. Collaborative teamwork is a key which the company utilizes to reach (and promote) its goal of being “the undisputed world leader in diagnostic testing, information and service”. The system this company has established includes three main departments: processing, testing, and technical support. Here is how these departments work: The processing team processes all the patients’; samples, collects patient health information, labels each sample with an identification number and then groups them based on test codes. Then, the samples are delivered to the testing center. Here, another team tests and issues reports based on the codes and ID numbers. From testing, the samples go to the technical support team. Here, the team members monitor the interface, making sure that the results of a sample with a designated and unique number goes back into the individual patient’s health data. Quality control is not a separate entity. Each of these three teams is responsible for monitoring and improving their own quality control. What this creates is a quick recognition of any problems, shortfalls or sources of variability that can detract from a total quality end result. Time may often be of the essence in laboratory testing and diagnostics. Hence, the dedication of each team for making sure the processes are delivered accurately and on time. In the long run, this teamwork creates greater customer satisfaction.

Recent research has examined Deming’s concepts and proven that they work. A group, it is shown, will generally outperform individual experts in making complex decisions which involve a number of variables. The same is true in forecasting future events. It is clear that individuals, no matter how expert, can seldom look at complex problems from as many angles nor draw from as much collective experience in decision-making as a group can. As Berk (1993) sees it, facilitating employee involvement helps to recognize the value of each individual, understands human motivation and can therefore assign people to tasks in which they can be successful. A good example of this can be seen on an assembly line where the work is organized in such a way hat each person is provided with the opportunity to reach greater potential than merely working alone. Basically, what occurs is that communication is improved: Well-defined goals are set to which the workers must contribute. To do that effectively, they need to understand the entire work to be done as well as what the next person is assigned to do, as well as their own contributions. Of course, there must be regular audits of the work to ascertain that quality is improving and where any weakness or lack of performance may occur. Reilly (1994( explains that quality is a direct and dramatic benefactor of these teamwork efforts which can also positively motivate individual workers to help them attain higher levels of self-worth. One might think of the team as a giant puzzle with each team member as a part of that puzzle which becomes whole only when all the pieces are properly in place.

While each team requires a leader, it is the task of the person or persons in charge to see that each team member fits properly into the whole. This “picture puzzle” allusion does not mean change is not inevitable, It must be planned for and any transition must be made as smoothly and effortlessly as possible. This requires the task of having team members bonding with one another in order to manage change. This bonding is an important part of a dynamic, high-performance workplace. Leadership should not be dictatorial, but group action should be by consensus. Goal setting, performance evaluation and behavior standards are all consensus decisions.

The idea of bonding is a powerful one because it not only improves employees’ incentives, but at the same time improves coordination and information flow by expanding the social network. This is really at the core of Deming’s “family” concept for quality improvement. It proves time after time that quality must come from the center (or the bottom) out or up, not from the top down. It is a fact that humans are designed by nature to form intimate tribal groups where each individual is bonded to the tribe and to one another. This is a so-called “natural habitat” where men operate most efficiently, Herr (2009) sees the Gallup statistics as proving this bonding “nature.”

While Deming’s TQM ideas were hatched over sixty years ago, in today’s global economy they are as vital and necessary as never before. Everything moves at a far faster pace than ever. Technology changes literally from day to day. So companies unwilling or unable to provide this coordinated TQM team effort may fall further and further behind their competitors. TQM requires total participation throughout the company and its divisions. Everyone must be involved and become part of goal setting, quality improvement and keeping up (if not ahead) of competition through bonding efforts. Competing in today’s global marketplaces requires organizations to focus on process measurements as well as the technology that supports those processes. The end result may well be escalating sales, higher employment and bottom line profits. To achieve any and all these goals requires total participation- a true group and teamwork effort where every employee- whether management or lower level- understands his task as well as that of the person next to him and thus gets the job done better, faster and with higher customer satisfaction results.

Moreover, this TQM concept can keep tabs on every process every step of the way. Information can flow freely and more accurately than ever. Productivity can be checked, altered if needed constantly. As Harry et al (2000) state, businesses that are able to prevent defects through better production controls rather than waiting to find them at the end of the production cycle or completion of a service will be able to see substantial profit improvements.

What Deming’s TQM concept really establishes is organization of tasks and responsibilities. Everyone has to participate and cooperate for the system to work properly. Involvement of each employee is really to point out clearly and accurately the need and wants of the end customer. Perhaps one can even reduce Deming’s ideas into three simple yet powerful words: people, products and profits. Lee et al (1984) make it clear that people come first, and unless you have a good team of dedicated and committed people, you cannot do much with production or profits. Deming’s 14 points, even as has been shown (above) that there may be some overlap, nevertheless constitute the solid foundation for total quality management- the move toward zero defect production and full consumer/customer satisfaction. As the marketplace, products, even employee and management teams change, still Deming’s TQM and his fourteen points provide a lodestar for every industry to utilize and capitalize on.


Cohen, P. (2010): “Deming’s 14, points) accessed 2010 on


Hashmi, K. (2006): “Introduction and Implementation of Total Quality Management (TQM)”

Six Sigma www.isixsigma.com/me/tqm/

Hofstede, G. (2010): “Five Cultural Dimensions” www.geert-hofstede.com/index.shtml

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