What Did Deming Really Say?

There is a really great Quality Digest Article by Davis Balestracci entitled “What Did Deming Really Say?”

An extract is below.

The 1980 NBC television show, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” introduced the teachings of W. Edwards Deming to U.S. viewers and caused a quantum leap in awareness of the potential for quality improvement in industry.

Those of you familiar with Deming’s funnel rules (which shows that a process in control delivers the best results if left alone) will smile to realize that his rule No. 4—making, doing, or basing your next iteration based on the previous one—also known as a “random walk,” has been in operation for the last 30 years.

Jeff Liker, professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan, beautifully describes the random walks that have taken place within the time spans of Six Sigma and Lean. In a private correspondence with leadership expert Jim Clemmer, Liker writes:

“Originally Six Sigma was derived from Toyota Quality Management (TQM) by Motorola to achieve six sigma levels of quality, and then through Allied Signal and GE it morphed to projects by Black Belts based on statistics to become a cost-reduction program – every project needs a clear ROI. In other words, we denigrated the program from a leadership philosophy to a bunch of one-off projects to cut costs. It was a complete bastardization of the original, and it rarely led to lasting, sustainable change because the leadership and culture were missing.”

“A similar thing happened to Lean when it got reduced to a toolkit (e.g. value-stream mapping, KPI boards, cells, kanban).”

“Lean and Six Sigma in no way reflect the original thinking of excellent Japanese companies or their teachers like Deming.”

Clemmer also cites multiple studies from 1996–2007 concluding that about 18 to 24 months after these various quality systems are launched, 50–70 percent of them fail. Liker concurs and feels that the four key failure factors, in this order, are:

  1. Leadership lacking deep understanding and commitment
  2. Focus on tools and techniques without understanding the underlying cultural transformation required
  3. Superficial program instead of deep development of processes that surface problems solved by thinking people
  4. Isolated process improvements instead of creating integrated systems for exceptional customer value

Virtually everyone agrees that the No. 1 barrier to improvement is still top management’s inability to be visibly committed to quality. Is this the “elephant in the living room” or as Clemmer calls it, “the moose on the table”?

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4 thoughts on “What Did Deming Really Say?

  1. Pingback: Propos de K. Matsushita , fondateur de Panasonic | Valeur pérenne

  2. Pingback: How not to let Scrum / Kanban go down the drill like 6Sigma | Agile or Waterfall

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