The Wisdom of W. Edwards Deming

I first heard about W. Edwards Deming in 1982 during the broadcast of the NBC White Paper, If Japan Can, Why Can’t We? I was a young mother of three, who had not formally studied quality concepts, but I recognized the wisdom in Deming’s ideas and his work.

My mother always encouraged me to do my best – seeking quality and excellence must be hardwired into my psyche and just the way I see the world. After reading Deming’s Out of Crisis and The New Economics, I was hooked on understanding how systems, processes, and his Theory of Profound Knowledge could change the world.

While many others have contributed to my quest for excellence—Tom Peters, Joseph Juran, Jim Collins, Eli Goldratt—just to name a few, I always begin with Deming when I teach others about quality. His concepts and teaching provide a solid foundation for understanding how to build cultures of excellence.

Maybe it is because I found his thoughts in a critical period of my own learning, or maybe it is just because Deming looked past machines and infrastructure to people. Deming’s Fourteen Points for Management charges leaders to value the people who do the work and create a culture of excellence where everyone can do their best work.

Dr. Deming rarely took the easy road, but he always looked for the right road that would lead to excellence. I learned from his teaching that:

There are no short cuts to excellence.

So, here are my Deming Top Ten:

  1. Quality is everyone’s responsibility.
  2. The transformation will come from leadership.
  3. If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one.
  4. If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.
  5. It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and then do your best.
  6. It does not happen all at once. There is no instant pudding.
  7. If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.
  8. Rational behavior requires theory. Reactive behavior requires only reflex action.
  9. You should not ask questions without knowledge.
  10. Quality is something you work at. It is a learning process.

What is your favorite Deming thought?

Want to learn more about Dr. Deming? Visit the Deming Institute

And always—

Be kind. Be brave. Be you.