6 Deming’s 14 Points

Chapter Table of Contents

Figure 6.1: W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) applied statistical process control during World War II to help the US mobilize its war time production. After the war, Deming tried to get US companies to continue to use these ideas, but he found little response. US Manufacturers were facing soaring demand from consumers after the war, and felt little need to think about efficiency and quality. In 1950 JUSE (the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers), on the other hand, invited Deming to Japan to help the Japanese apply these ideas in the rebuilding of Japanese production.

Japan credits Deming for playing a major role in the success of Japanese manufacturing products, especially in Japanese improvements in quality and efficiency. The most prestigious award for quality improvement awarded in Japan (by JUSE) is called the Deming Prize.

Several anecdotes illustrate what Deming was like.

  • He composed an easily sung version of the Star Spangled Banner .
  • When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said “I probably won’t even be remembered,” but added “Well, maybe … as someone who tried to keep America from committing suicide.”
  • Deming’s first lectures in Japan in 1950 were transcribed and made into a book by JUSE. He donated the royalties to JUSE.

In 1980, NBC aired a documentary titled “If Japan Can … Why Can’t We?” that described Japanese progress in efficiency and quality in the automobile and electronics industries, and that also explained why the Japanese credited Deming with much of their success. As Deming said, his phone rang off the hook.

Deming’s 14 Points

What did Dr. Deming teach the Japanese? In his book Out of Crisis[1], published in 1986,  Dr. Deming summarized his teaching in 14 points:

  1. Create constancy of purpose towards improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive, stay in business, and to provide jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for a change.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
  8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company.
  9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in that may be encountered with the product or service.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
  11. a. Eliminate works standards (quotas) on the factory floor, instead substitute leadership. b. Eliminate management by objective and management by numbers, instead substitute leadership.
  12. a. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship the responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.   b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

Deming’s Focus on People

Regarding “drive out fear,” Deming elaborated:

No one can put his best performance unless he feels secure. Se comes from the Latin, meaning without, cure means fear or care. Secure means without fear, not afraid to express ideas, not afraid to ask questions. Fear takes on many faces. A common denominator of fear in any form, anywhere, is loss from impaired performance and padded figures.

In point 10, Deming says that the primary cause of poor work is not lack of effort by workers.

Eliminate targets, slogans, exhortations, posters, for the work force that urge them to increase productivity. ‘Your work is your self-portrait. Would you sign it?’ No – not when you give me defective canvas to work with, paint not suited to the job, brushes worn out, so that I can not call it my work. Posters and slogans like these never helped anyone to do a better job.

Deming was famous for insisting on measurements, but he also thought numbers should not be used to judge workers.

Goals are necessary for you and for me, but numerical goals set for other people, without a road map to reach the goal, have effects opposite to the effects sought.

Deming emphasized repeatedly the need to remove barriers that prevent good work.

Give the work force a chance to work with pride, and the 3 per cent that apparently don’t care will erode itself by peer pressure.

Deming is often quoted as saying “Measure, measure, measure,” but he stressed using that feedback to improve the process, not to judge the performance of employees. Denove and Power[2] describe the work of J.D. Power and Associates in performing customer satisfaction surveys for many companies. Denove and Power stress that companies that listen to the voice of the customer from these surveys (and other input) are more profitable, but they lament that some companies use the surveys to judge particular stores, particularly to incentivize the managers of stores by making their salaries dependent on the customer satisfaction score. They point out the natural effect of such a strategy: employees in the stores will seek to manipulate the customer satisfaction ratings, even to the extent of begging customers to give good reviews.

By focusing corporate attention on customer satisfaction scores, did we somehow let a very powerful genie out of the bottle? As we’ve said many times throughout this book, our goals is to emphasize some crucial truths: listening to the needs of your customers and creating advocates by striving to deliver upon those needs are paramount to long-term profitability. We never meant for companies to take their eyes off these basic truths by focusing their attention exclusively on the scorecard.

The lesson here is that no single quantitative measure, or even a group of such measures, can replace good judgment.

Fundamentally, Deming believed in people.

People require in their careers, more than money, ever-broadening opportunities to add something to society, materially and otherwise.


Choose one of Deming’s 14 Points to discuss. What struck you about that point? What is an example where you’ve seen that point either followed or not followed?  Your instructor may ask you to submit this exercise.

  1. Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the crisis. Cambridge, Mass: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study.
  2. Denove, C., & Iv, J. D. P. (2017). Satisfaction: How Every Great Company Listens to the Voice of the Customer. Place of publication not identified: Skillsoft.


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Introduction to Industrial Engineering Copyright © 2020 by Bonnie Boardman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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