Re-Discovering W. Edwards Deming
It seems that someone is always rediscovering Deming. I gave a lean overview talk to a healthcare audience recently. I was asked afterward by an attendee, “Why didn't you mention Deming?” Deming certainly played a major role in influencing Japanese industry. The Toyota mindset certainly includes the “PDCA Cycle” (alternately called the Deming Cycle or the Shewhart Cycle), among either Deming teachings.
Not all of the Deming approach is part of core TPS thinking. In particular, Deming advocated a statistical sampling approach to quality inspection, while Toyota focuses on 100% inspection or eliminating the need for inspection through via the concepts of Poka Yoke and Jidoka. As much as I admire Deming and his philosophy, I agree with the Toyota innovation that it is better to prevent defects from occurring, or at least preventing defects from reaching the customer.
[Update 3/4/06 3 PM CST: Please read the clarifying comment below from the author of the Deming “Curious Cat Blog” My memory about Deming's take on inspection was fuzzy, at best. My apologies.]
Still, I consider the Deming Philosphy, particularly his 14 Points, to be key reading for any lean person or change agent. Think about your factory or organization – does quality suffer at peak periods, particularly end of quarter times?
This quote from the linked article discusses Deming's concept of “constancy of purpose.”
Constancy of purpose means that quality decisions are not situational. End of month quality is the same as beginning of month. It means that the long term benefit of the organization is not sacrificed to hit quarterly targets. It means having your eye on the competition, whether it is in your industry or coming from elsewhere, with plans to stay ahead. Constancy of purpose doesn't require the threat of a customer leaving to implement corrective actions based on root cause. It means that while your team may argue about how best to accomplish it, no one is confused about the commitment to deliver reliable quality.
Below are some Deming books that can start you down the path of understanding his philosophy:
“Out of the Crisis”, by Dr. Deming himself is the well known classic. But, a book written about Deming and his philosophy is a better starting point, including the books by Rafael Aguayo and Mary Walton.