Deming’s 14 Points

We’ve previously looked at the Deming Cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act) for continuous improvement proposed by W. Edwards Deming. Deming also offered 14 principles for the transformation of American business.

Deming’s 14 Points can apply at any level within any organization – from a small organization to a large company, or even a business unit within an organization. It is important to note that these points don’t just provide a prescriptive method of transforming a business, they also send a strong signal to everyone, employees and investors. The clear message is that the business intends to be around for the long-term, that investors money will be secure, and that employees jobs will be protected.

These 14 points are not something that should be embarked on lightly. Transforming a business requires massive effort, massive commitment, and the determination to break through significant resistance.

Below, you’ll find a brief summary of the 14 points:

  1. Replace short-term reaction-ism with long-term planning, that is, create a consistency of purpose within the organization. The aim is to compete successfully in the market, thus providing long-term jobs for employees and returns for investors.
  2. “Adopt the new philosophy”. It should be management who leads the change and takes responsibility for it rather than simply expecting workers to do so.
  3. Eliminate the need for quality inspections. This is done by building quality into the production process in the first place. The logic here being that if quality variation is eliminated there is no need to for inspections.
  4. Move towards a single supplier for any single item. Build a long-term relationship based on trust and mutual benefit. Less suppliers mean less variation. This is just as important, if not more so, than the often false economy of getting the best price.
  5. Commit to continuous improvement. This will result in a cycle of continuously decreasing costs.
  6. Institute on the job training. If everyone is trained in a uniform manner this will reduce variation.
  7. Institute leadership – this is very different from management or supervision.
  8. Drive out and eliminate fear. In the long-run, managing employees using fear is counterproductive as it prevents employees actions being aligned to the best interests of the organization.
  9. Break down the barriers between departments. All departments must work as a team and foresee potential problems. Each department must consider itself as working for each other department rather than working for its line management.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets – harassing your employees to produce more is counter productive and leads to conflict.
  11. Eliminate quotas and management by objectives and instead replace with leadership. The drive to hit quotas will result in lower quality products.
  12. Remove the barriers that rob employees of pride in their work. This applies to both technicians and management. Again, this point refers to the removal of quotas and instead focusing on quality both at an individual level and a management level.
  13. Institutionalize education and self-improvement programs.
  14. The transformation is everyone’s job, from the top to the bottom.

To bring cohesion to these points let’s put them in context by mentioning variation. From Deming’s perspective variation was the scourge of business – the more variation (time delays, supply chain variations/delays, price variations, work practice variations between employees) the more waste, and therefore the more unnecessary costs being drained from the business.

These ideas were first published in Deming’s book Out of the Crisis, which is over 600 pages in length and elaborates on these points in more detail. Additionally, most of the ideas central to Total Quality Management (TQM) are covered in the book. Check it out if you’d like to explore these ideas further.