Deming’s 14 Points provide a roadmap to transform American Business and increase productivity and competitive position. 

Without W. Edwards Deming, modern quality improvement might not exist. If you have never heard of Dr. Deming or his 14 Points for Management, welcome aboard. If you have, get ready to reacquaint yourself.  

Overview: What are Deming’s 14 Points? 

1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to 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 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 use 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.

11a. Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.

11b. Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.

12a. 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.

12b. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, 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, W. Edwards. Out of The Crisis (MIT Press) (pp. 23-24), 1982

3 benefits of Deming’s 14 Points 

Let’s take a deeper look at a few of Deming’s (WED) 14 points. 

Point 1. Create constancy of purpose

“Doing your best is not good enough. You have to know what to do. Then do your best.” — WED

The essence of constancy of purpose is a laser focus on the customer and their requirements. It is important that leaders and management set a long-term strategy. Their strategy execution must guarantee that the rest of the company understands what to do to make it happen. 

Point 3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.

“Inspection is too late. The quality, good or bad, is already in the product.” — WED

Inspections are costly (inspection systems, rework, or scrap costs) and often ineffective. You cannot inspect quality into a process.

The alternative to inspection is process monitoring and improvement. Instead of inspecting the process outcome, you should focus on monitoring the critical process measures that lead to a quality outcome. 

If you use statistical process control to provide feedback on critical process components (equipment, materials, methods) you will know when the process is (or isn’t) working the way it should to produce a good quality outcome. 

Points 11a/b. Eliminate work standards (quotas) and Eliminate Management by Objective (MBO)

“Management by numerical goal is an attempt to manage without knowledge of what to do.” — WED

Arbitrary goals without consideration of what the process can produce is a recipe for worker frustration and fear. 

Have you ever gotten a numerical goal and had the manager say “Just do it”? Chances are your manager will get exactly what they asked for — but not in a good way! Workers might end up cutting corners on quality or gaming the metrics to give the manager what they want.  

Don’t manage by numerical goals alone. There is no substitute for knowledge of the process, what it can achieve, and how well it is processing.  

Why are Deming’s 14 Points important to understand? 

Deming saw the 14 points as directions for transforming American Industry. 

Management is not about serial problem-solving

Are you tired of fire-fighting? If you want to get out of fire-fighting mode, then your management has to make a fundamental change to the way they run their business. Moving from problem-solving to process improvement can be daunting. Deming’s 14 principles provide your managers with a new way of managing that has been shown to work. 

Deming’s 14 points apply to any organization regardless of size, product, or service

The best part is that Demings’s 14 points can be practiced in any organization where managers with open minds want to improve productivity and competitive position.

Deming’s 14 points will provide a strategic path for management to implement process improvement.

As management discusses the applicability of the ideas behind Deming’s 14 points, they can agree on the best ways of building customer focus, reducing variation, and fostering continual improvement throughout your organization.

An industry example of Deming’s 14 Points 

Here is an example of 11a/b. Eliminate quotas and MBO in action!

It is commonly thought that sales commissions drive salespeople to sell more. 

Consider Jim McIngvale (aka Mattress Mack), owner of Houston-based Gallery Furniture. While Gallery was successful, Mack never had a closing rate above 50% — only about half his customers purchased something. Then Mack decided to eliminate sales commissions (quotas/objectives) and pay a salary equal to last year’s commissions:

  1. Some of the highest producing (in the old system) salespeople left.
  2. Customer satisfaction became the goal — not getting the most sales.
  3. Competition among salespeople was replaced by cooperation and teamwork.
  4. Morale improved, and the salespeople who had done poorly in the old system now had more sales than ever.

The result was a steady increase in sales — above 60% closing rate, a more satisfied workforce, and a strong increase in customer satisfaction and salespeople morale. 

3 best practices when thinking about Deming’s 14 Points 

The theory behind Deming’s 14 Points may not always be intuitive. The right action to take may seem elusive at first.  

As Dr. Deming used to say, “Experience by itself teaches nothing… Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning.” If you want to learn to apply Deming’s 14 Principles, start with three key steps.

1. Read Deming’s book, “Out of the Crisis”

(Or watch the Deming Library Video of. Deming’s 14 points.) Get your theory straight from the man himself. If you’ve never seen Dr. Deming speak, really, you owe it to yourself!

2. Understand that Deming’s 14 points are a system

It’s not helpful to pick and choose which of Deming’s 14 points you want to implement. Recognize that your organization is going to have to address all of them if you want the transformation to be a success.

3. Hire a good Deming Management Consultant

Dr. Deming often said “New knowledge must come from the outside.” A consultant can facilitate management as they work to understand what Deming’s 14 Points mean to their work. The outside consultant can effectively challenge the management to change.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Deming’s 14 Points

What are your top five favorite Deming quotes that support Deming’s 14 Points?

  1. “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”
  2. “Learning is not compulsory…neither is survival.”
  3. “If you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing.”
  4. “It is not enough to just do your best or work hard; You must know what to work on.”
  5. “The most important figures needed for management of any organization are unknown and unknowable.”

What other management concept is Dr. Deming known for besides Deming’s 14 Points?

Dr. Deming’s follow up to “Out of the Crisis” is called “The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education.” In this book, he introduces and discusses his System of Profound Knowledge

Final thoughts on Deming’s 14 Points 

The study of Deming’s 14 Points is important if you want your business to move out of fire-fighting mode and into process improvement. They reinforce that quality is more than statistical process control. It is key to provide consistency of purpose, ensure well-designed and monitored processes, and foster pride of work for the people running the processes.

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