William Edwards Deming (October 14, 1900 – December 20, 1993) was an American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. Educated initially as an electrical engineer and later specializing in mathematical physics, he helped develop the sampling techniques still used by the U.S. Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Deming is best known for his work in Japan after World War II, particularly his work with the leaders of Japanese industry. Many in Japan credit Deming as the inspiration for what has become known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from the ashes of war to start on the road to becoming the second largest economy in the world through processes founded on the ideas Deming taught. In the United States, Deming's work was foundational in the development of Total Quality Management, first used to improve the Navy's operational effectiveness and later revolutionizing management in the private sector and reinvigorating industries during the 1980s.
William Edwards Deming was born in Sioux City, Iowa on October 14, 1900. His father's name was also "William" so he was called "Edwards" (the maiden name of his mother, Pluma Irene Edwards). He was raised in Polk City, Iowa on his grandfather's chicken farm, then later in Powell, Wyoming. He was a direct descendant of John Deming, (1615–1705) an early Puritan settler and original patentee of the Connecticut Colony, and Honor Treat, the daughter of Richard Treat (1584–1669) an early New England settler, Deputy to the Connecticut Legislature and also a Patentee of the Royal Charter of Connecticut, 1662. His parents were well educated and emphasized the importance of education to their children. Pluma had studied in San Francisco and was a musician. William Albert had studied mathematics and law.
In 1917, Deming enrolled in the University of Wyoming at Laramie, graduating in 1921 with a Bachelors in electrical engineering. In 1925, he received a Masters from the University of Colorado, and in 1928, a Ph.D. from Yale University. Both graduate degrees were in mathematics and mathematical physics.
Deming married Agnes Bell in 1922. She died in 1930, a little more than a year after they had adopted a daughter, Dorothy. Deming made use of various private homes to help raise the infant, and then in 1932 following his marriage to Lola Elizabeth Shupe, with whom he coauthored several papers, he brought Dorothy back home to stay. He and Lola had two more children, Diana and Linda.
While studying at Yale Deming had an internship at Western Electric's Hawthorne Works in Cicero, Illinois. He later worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Census Department.
While working under General Douglas MacArthur as a census consultant to the Japanese government, he was asked to teach a short seminar on statistical process control methods to members of the Radio Corps, at the invitation of Sarasohn. During this visit he was contacted by JUSE, the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers, to talk directly to Japanese business leaders, not about Statistical Process Control, but about his theories of management. He returned to Japan for many years to consult.
Later, Deming became a professor at New York University while engaged as an independent consultant in Washington, D.C.
Deming loved music. He played the flute and drums and composed music throughout his life, including sacred choral compositions.
The Demings lived in Washington, D. C. in the house that they bought in 1936. Lola Deming died on June 25, 1986. Deming died in his sleep at the age of 93 in his Washington home from cancer on December 20, 1993.
Deming worked as a mathematical physicist at the United States Department of Agriculture (1927–1939), and was a statistical adviser for the United States Census Bureau (1939–1945) during which time he developed the sampling techniques that were used for the first time during the 1940 U.S. Census. He taught statistical process control (SPC) techniques to workers engaged in wartime production. He was a professor of statistics at New York University's graduate school of business administration (1946-1993), and he taught at Columbia University's graduate School of business (1988-1993). He was also a consultant for private business.
In 1927 Deming was introduced to Walter A. Shewhart of the Bell Telephone Laboratories by C.H. Kunsman of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Shewhart was the originator of the concepts of statistical control of processes and the related technical tool of the control chart, and as Deming began to move toward the application of statistical methods to industrial production and management he found great inspiration in Shewhart's work. Deming saw that these ideas could be applied not only to manufacturing processes but also to the processes by which enterprises are led and managed. Shewhart's idea of common and special causes of variation led directly to Deming's theory of management.
Deming edited a series of lectures delivered by Shewhart at USDA, Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control, into a book published in 1939. Deming remarked in a videotaped interview that one reason he learned so much from Shewhart was that, while brilliant, Shewhart had an "uncanny ability to make things difficult." Deming thus spent a great deal of time both copying Shewhart's ideas and devising ways to present them with his own twist.
In his book 1993 book, The New Economics for Industry, Government, and Education, Deming championed the work of Walter Shewhart, including statistical process control, operational definitions, and what Deming called the "Shewhart Cycle" which evolved into PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act).
After World War II, in 1947, Deming was was asked by the Department of the Army to assist in early planning for the 1951 Japanese Census. While he was there, his expertise in quality control techniques, combined with his involvement in Japanese society, led to his receiving an invitation by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE).
JUSE members had studied Shewhart's techniques, and as part of Japan's reconstruction efforts they sought an expert to teach statistical control. During June-August 1950, Deming trained hundreds of engineers, managers, and scholars in statistical process control (SPC) and concepts of quality. Deming's message to Japan's chief executives: improving quality will reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share. Perhaps the best known of these management lectures was delivered at the Mt. Hakone Conference Center in August of 1950, on what he called "Statistical Product Quality Administration."
The ideas Deming taught can be summarized as:
A number of Japanese manufacturers applied his techniques and experienced theretofore unheard of levels of quality and productivity. The improved quality combined with the lowered cost created new international demand for Japanese products. Many in Japan credit Deming as the inspiration for what has become known as the Japanese post-war economic miracle of 1950 to 1960, when Japan rose from the ashes of war to start on the road to becoming the second largest economy in the world.
Deming donated his royalties from the transcripts of his 1950 lectures to JUSE, so JUSE's board of directors established the Deming Prize (December 1950) to repay him for his friendship and kindness. The Deming Prize, especially the Deming Application Prize that is given to companies, has exerted an immeasurable influence directly or indirectly on the development of quality control and quality management in Japan.
In 1960, the Prime Minister of Japan (Nobusuke Kishi), acting on behalf of Emperor Hirohito, awarded Deming Japan’s Order of the Sacred Treasures, Second Class. The citation on the medal recognizes Deming's contributions to Japan’s industrial rebirth and its worldwide success.
Later, from his home in Washington, D.C., Deming continued running his own consultancy business in the United States, largely unknown and unrecognized in his country of origin and work. Finally, in 1980, he was featured prominently in an NBC documentary titled If Japan can... Why can't we? about the increasing industrial competition the United States was facing from Japan. As a result of the broadcast, demand for his services increased dramatically, and Deming continued consulting for industry throughout the world until his death at the age of 93.
Ford Motor Company was one of the first American corporations to seek help from Deming. In 1981, Ford recruited Deming to help jump-start its quality movement. Ford's sales were falling, and between 1979 and 1982 Ford had incurred $3 billion in losses. Deming questioned their company's culture and the way its managers operated. To Ford's surprise, Deming talked not about quality but about management. He told Ford that management actions were responsible for 85 percent of all problems in developing better cars. In a letter to Autoweek Magazine, Donald Petersen, then Ford Chairman said, "We are moving toward building a quality culture at Ford and the many changes that have been taking place here have their roots directly in Deming's teachings." By 1986, Ford had become the most profitable American auto company.
In 1982, Deming, as author, had his book published by the MIT Center for Advanced Engineering as Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position, which was renamed to Out of the Crisis in 1986. He argued that management's failure to plan for the future brings about loss of market, which brings about loss of jobs. Management must be judged not only by the quarterly dividend, but by innovative plans to stay in business, protect investment, ensure future dividends, and provide more jobs through improved product and service: "Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment."
Deming and his staff continued to advise businesses large and small. From 1985 through 1989, Deming served as a consultant to Vernay Laboratories, a rubber manufacturing firm in Yellow Springs, Ohio, with fewer than 1,000 employees. He held several week-long seminars for employees and suppliers of the small company where his infamous example "Workers on the Red Beads" spurred several major changes in Vernay's manufacturing processes.
Deming joined the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University in 1988. In 1990, during his last year, he founded the W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness at Columbia Business School to promote operational excellence in business through the development of research, best practices and strategic planning.
In 1993, he founded the W. Edwards Deming Institute in Washington, D.C., where the Deming Collection at the U.S. Library of Congress includes an extensive audiotape and videotape archive. The aim of the Institute is to foster understanding of the Deming System of Profound Knowledge to advance commerce, prosperity, and peace.
In 1993, Deming published his final book The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education, which included the System of Profound Knowledge and the 14 Points for Management. It also contained educational concepts involving group-based teaching without grades, as well as management without individual merit or performance reviews.
Deming's philosophy has been summarized as follows:
Deming is best known in the United States for his "Fourteen Points For The Transformation Of Management" and his system of thought he called the "System of Profound Knowledge." The system includes four components or "lenses" through which to view the world simultaneously:
Deming's "Profound Knowledge" is a system. This means that the four parts interact with one another. Real transformation will only start when there has been some progress in all parts. This system is the basis for the application of Deming's famous "14 Points for Management," which were first presented in his book Out of the Crisis.
Deming explained, "One need not be eminent in any part nor in all four parts in order to understand it and to apply it. The 14 points for management in industry, education, and government follow naturally as application of this outside knowledge, for transformation from the present style of Western management to one of optimization."
Although Deming did not use the term himself, his work is credited with launching the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement which promotes organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to customers.
Deming made a significant contribution to Japan's reputation for innovative, high-quality products, and for its economic power. He is regarded as having had more impact on Japanese manufacturing and business than any other individual not of Japanese heritage.
The Deming Prize was established in Japan in 1951. It is a global quality award that recognizes both individuals for their contributions to the field of Total Quality Management (TQM) and businesses that have successfully implemented TQM. It is the oldest and most widely recognized quality award in the world. Over the years it has grown, under the guidance of the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to where it is now also available to non-Japanese companies, albeit usually operating in Japan, and also to individuals recognized as having made major contributions to the advancement of quality. The awards ceremony is broadcast every year in Japan on national television.
When asked, toward the end of his life, how he would wish to be remembered in the U.S., Deming replied, "I probably won't even be remembered." After a pause, he added, "Well, maybe ... as someone who spent his life trying to keep America from committing suicide."
Despite being honored in Japan in 1951 with the establishment of the Deming Prize, Deming was only just beginning to win widespread recognition in the U.S. in the last years of his life. In 1987 he was awarded the National Medal of Technology: "For his forceful promotion of statistical methodology, for his contributions to sampling theory, and for his advocacy to corporations and nations of a general management philosophy that has resulted in improved product quality." In 1988, he received the Distinguished Career in Science award from the National Academy of Sciences. Deming received an honorary Ph.D. from Oregon State University.
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