Doug Garnett wrote a blog post titled W. Edwards Deming: The Legacy He Deserves Is Not The One He’s Usually Given  (October 23, 2021).

« It is wrong to suppose that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it – a costly myth. (The New Economics) It leaves me speechless that we can find memes all over the internet claiming he said exactly the opposite. »

« “In my mind, if you run your company on visible figures alone, you will have neither company nor figures, given a little time. The most important figures are unknown and unknowable… One unknowable figure, for example, is the multiplying effect of a happy customer who brings repeat or new business into the company. Another one is the multiplying effect of an unhappy customer who warns his friends, and even some of his enemies, about his experience. Another unknowable figure is the multiplying effect that comes from an employee group that is able to make a contribution to the company as a team. They see their jobs as important.” (Essential, page 170) »

« “The consumer is the most important end of the production line. If you don’t have a consumer, someone who will buy your product or use your service, you might as well shut down, close up… Why? The next quarterly dividend is not as important as existence of the company 5, 10, or 20 years from now. One requirement for innovation is faith that there will be a future.”  (Essential p108) »

« Of course, Deming was highly focused on quality. Even his discussions of factory specific issues can be a bit surprising: “Quality can not be delegated. A company with a manager of quality by any name is stuck in the mire.” (Essential p43) “Measures of productivity do not lead to improvement in productivity.” (Out of Crisis p15) »

« And, then there’s the idea of performance reviews… Deming called the merit system or annual appraisal the “Destroyer of People.” (Essential p27)… “The idea of a merit rating is alluring… The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise.” (Out of Crisis, p102) “Merit rating rewards people that do well in the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system.” (Out of Crisis, p102) »

« And, in a tease forward into complexity, he wrote at length about business as a system … How do you destroy a system? Very simple. Take the flow diagram [and isolate the different activities]. Each activity now is an individual profit center. Not working for the company as a whole but as an individual profit center. Every component now becomes competitive with the others. Each of them now does his best to make a mark for himself. Can you blame him? It’s his only hope for survival under that system. Result — the system is destroyed. Causing loss of unknown magnitude. (Essential Deming, page 157) »

« Deming, trained as a statistician, knew that management by metrics was a disaster… He considered management by objective (MBO) and management by numbers to be forces of destruction observing about all 7 forces of destruction that “These forces create fear, self-defense, competition, and humiliation.” (Essential, p87) »

« Among his 14 points for improving management he recommends eliminating abuse of metrics: (Out of Crisis, page 24) “11a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.” »


The Deming quotes in the article come from the W. Edwards Deming Institute website and the following books:

The Essential Deming:  Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality “edited by Joyce Nilsson Orsini, PhD. It is a very interesting way into Deming’s work.”

Out of The Crisis

The New Economics

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