Deming's 14 Points for Better Quality

They might seem obvious but……

Dr. W. Edwards Deming is given much credit by Japanese industrial companies for helping them convert from WW II military production to a fast-paced, high quality product orientation in both consumer (think automobiles and electronics) and industrial segments (think robots and machine tools).  

Because the U.S. mainland was physically untouched by the war and there were plenty of consumers with sizable savings and pent-up demand, American manufacturers went all out for volume.  Quality was not Job #1 in the early post-war years. They came to regret this decision.

Deming’s fame spread and he was in high demand as a speaker and teacher to thousands of executives and managers, initially on Statistical

Process Control (SPC) and, later, on more general management and leadership issues. The Japanese were and are so appreciative of his work that each year there is intense competition for the Deming Prize for Quality. 


Deming’s 14 Points for Management

As Deming worked with both Japanese and U.S. companies, he saw that SPC was just one tool of many required for a company to run profitably over the long haul.  He developed a lecture and article on this macro approach to achieving quality titled “14 Points for Management.”   Subtitled  “There is no such thing as instant pudding,”   his admonitions are just as relevant to the business person today as they were twenty or forty years ago. The following is a condensation of Deming’s article (his words are in quotes).The 14 Points are the basis for transformation of American business and industry.” he writes. “Adoption of and action on the 14 Points are a signal that the management intends to stay in business and aims to protect investors and jobs.”

Point 1 – “Top management must create a constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aims to become fiercely competitive, to stay in business, and provide jobs.”  Sufficient resources must be allocated for long-term planning and implementation of new processes, for new equipment and materials, for on-going training and re-training of personnel, and for the right products and services that meet the needs of your customers better than the next guy.

Point 2 – “Adopt the new philosophy.  American industry can no longer live with here-to-fore commonly accepted levels of mistakes, defects, materials not suited to the job, equipment out of order, personnel not thoroughly knowing their jobs, and ineffective supervision. We live in a new economic age.”

Point 3 – “Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.”  Eliminate mass inspection by designing and building quality into parts and processes in the first place. Company purchasing personnel and outside vendors must thoroughly understand and adhere to rigorous statistical process control (SPC) methodology.

Point 4 – “End the practice of awarding business solely on the basis of lowest price tag.”  The number of suppliers must be continually winnowed down to those relatively few who constantly demonstrate they can and do meet new, ever-higher, total quality and ever-lower total cost standards. Only the very best vendors will survive. 

Point 5 –“Improve constantly and forever the new system of production and service to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.”  Management must provide the training and resources needed to make corrections.

Point 6 – Institute continuous training. Training at ALL levels must be done both in the classroom AND in the field or on the shop floor.  Employees must be given the tools to recognize problems as they begin to emerge or, better, before they hatch and be able to make necessary corrections.

Point 7 – “Institute front-line leadership” – The “system” is usually the culprit when errors occur, not the front-liners. Supervisors must train their teams to spot problems early and, if they can’t fix them, to get the help that can. Supervisors must have the time to do this and not be loaded down with unproductive meetings and mountains of paperwork.   Profits are made on the production and sales floors, not in cubicles or offices.

Point 8 – “Drive out fear, so that everyone can work more effectively and efficiently.  Too many workers do not understand what the job is, how to do it right the first time, what happens if there are problems, and how to seek help. Workers don’t report things that are out of order or don’t make sense, fearing repercussions. This fear must stop and it is management’s duty to open communications and change negative working conditions.” 

Point 9 – Break down barriers between departments, units, and divisions.  People from inter-dependent functions stay buried in their individual “silos” when they should be communicating regularly.   Managers must get into the field or onto the production floor to see first-hand what is going on.  (The Japanese call this “going to the Gemba.”  You might use the term MBWA – “Management By Walking Around.”)     Bonuses and raises should be constructed to foster cooperation rather than competition.

Point 10 – Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for such achievements as zero defects and very high levels of productivity.   Such exhortations can create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low productivity belong to the “system” (which includes management) and thus are beyond the power of the work force to change.

Point 11 – Eliminate quotas and management by objectives (MBO).    (What would Dr. Peter Drucker, a staunch advocate of MBO have to say?)   Focus on creating work environments that allow people to do their best, enjoy their work, and keep them with the company. Allow all to be winners, not just a few at the top.

Points 12, 13, and 14 – Are similar to each other and some previous ones and focus on building work environments that encourage cooperation,  innovation,  and pride in work well done. 

Deming, like most consultants, researchers, and experienced managers places the vast majority of responsibility for developing effective working systems on the shoulders of ownership and top management.  If you are filling one or both of these roles and want to increase your capabilities, you might benefit tremendously by getting and doing a deep dive into the following book on Deming and his work authored by a long-time associate and biographer. Good reading.

The Essential Deming:  Leadership Lessons from the Father of Quality,  edited by Joyce Nilsson  Orsini, Ph.D.,  McGraw-Hill Publisher, 2013.

Charles Waldo, Ph.D. is Professor of Marketing (ret.) at Anderson University’s Falls School of Business.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..