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Deming Still the King

Editor's note: In anticipation of our 25th anniversary issue, one reader writes:

During the 1990s and continuing through today, I think the most important theories that have had the greatest effect on the quality industry came from and still come from W. Edwards Deming's system of profound knowledge. Deming did not create a methodology like ISO 9001, Six Sigma or lean. What he did was more important and has formed the basis for those and other quality methodologies that followed.

In the year 2016, practitioners may no longer attribute those theories to Deming, but I believe that they will continue to be the foundation of future successes in the field of quality improvement. Can you imagine a quality methodology that does not rely on the interactions of a system? Can you imagine learning and improving using collected data if you do not understand variation? Can we really motivate people with a carrot and a stick, and have them be creative, entrepreneurial and trusting of their organization?

I look forward to new ideas and new methodologies in the future, and I believe that Deming's foundational theories will continue to be important if our goal in quality is not only to improve products and services for our customers, but also to continue to improve the world for all of us.

--Adrian Bass


Applying Old Wisdom

Excellent article ("Management and the Bhagavad Gita," M. P. Bhattathiri, www.qualitydigest.com/qualityinsider). I have long held that the best wisdom is the oldest, and that people discount it because it is old, thinking that something new must be better. If they would only apply the wisdom as it was intended, there would be no need to look for "new" wisdom.

--Roy Green

These same principles are found in the Bible, and I don't see you publishing an article about what the Bible says about vision, leadership, motivation, excellence in work, goal achievement, meaningful work, decision making and planning.

--Frances Shaw

Although I respect Mr. Bhattathiri's desire to help people succeed and his devotion to help integrate the material and the spiritual, I believe that a more robust exposure to the spiritual underpinnings of the West may help our cause in engaging a balanced approach to continuous improvement in both the East and the West.

As a long-term student and participant of both Eastern and Western spiritual and business cultures, I find that the best opportunity for success lies in understanding the spiritual or philosophical and belief drivers of a specific culture, and applying that knowledge to create a balanced approach to business, social and personal success.

--Michael Rall


Seven Deadly Sins

"Why Deming Was Such a Curmudgeon" (Davis Balestracci, "Real World SPC," October 2006) was a great analysis of how most high-level managers think today. It seems that in many companies it is not appropriate to statistically analyze or question decisions. We work with the Software Engineering Institute's capability maturity model integration (CMMI), which has at the organizational level a process area dedicated to decision analysis. This evokes all kinds of difficulties in most organizations since their upper management is not willing to review and analyze why decisions were right or wrong. How can we ever know if we made the best and right decisions if we don't analyze them and determine the root cause of quality issues?

--Gail Borotto


Quashing Motivation

I've just finished reading H. James Harrington's "Inspiring Motivation" ("Performance Improvement," September 2006). I agree that the six needs for individuals are important, but they are only partially responsible for motivation. There is one factor that will cancel or reduce the effect of the six needs being met in a corporate environment. That factor is management's failure to meet the expectations that it has created or communicated to the workforce.

--Kay Sever


Stinky-Fish Thinking

The article "Can Lean Save the Automotive Industry?" ("News Digest," September 2006) was informative and useful, but the headline is absurd. The automotive industry cannot be saved by methods deployed at the mid-management to front-line level anymore than the Titanic could have been saved by its passengers. A fish stinks at the head. When senior executives and board members get serious about becoming competitive by treating their employees and suppliers as partners and focusing on customers, they will have a chance. Donald Peterson proved this when, with the help of Deming, he saved Ford in 1981. In spite of the record profits and quality (measured in defects per 100 vehicles) that caught up with Toyota and Honda, he was soon pushed out by greed for short-term performance.

--Bill Osburn