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Edward Deming: On a personal level Print E-mail

Thursday, 04 April 2013 00:00

Written by Bob Lloyd

Deming: A Personal Quality Plan

William Edward Deming, the doyen of quality management, sought to achieve his aim of zero defects by engineering quality into all aspects of industry and business.  Instead of measuring the quality after the defects have been discovered, he argued that we should make sure those defects don't get into the products and processes in the first place.

Although he was focused on management and production processes, his lessons can be applied on the personal level as well.  Deming's fourteen points give us the basis of a personal programme of self-improvement. We can apply his principles to our personal effectiveness, the quality of our output, our productivity, and our attitudes.

Just as the focus for Deming was internal, looking at the process as the source of defects, rather than simply focusing on the competition, we too can look internally, at our own processes, our work habits, the way we handle relationships, the quality of our own outputs, our willingness to change the way we work.

We can make a commitment constantly to improve ourselves and that means adopting a constructive self-critical stance, willing to review our actions and attitudes in the direction of the change we want.  Each criticism should be directed to constructive change which we will carefully consider.

We identify the skills and training we need to be more effective and act to obtain them, but in addition, we look at the skills we can obtain and improve on the job.  Whenever someone does something better than we do, we learn from them and avoid feeling a sense of fear or embarrassment.  Although we may work with colleagues who do not share out commitment to self-improvement, we are still able to learn from them and share what we know.

When we supervise others, instead of concentrating only on the quantity of output, we try to shift the focus to the quality.  Higher quality leads to fewer defects and less diversion of resources.  We can therefore secure higher productivity through higher quality.

Just as department boundaries can provide barriers to communication, we can also have internal walls in our thinking.  We can try to be more willing to think outside the box, to take novel viewpoints, to invite divergent views, to encourage constructive argument.  The creativity released when these boundaries are challenged can by highly productive, even for a single individual.

By having an increased pride in our own work, we encourage others to do the same.  Our commitment to zero defects will be infectious, and quality will be appreciated.

But of course, there is the inconvenient real world in which business and production targets loom large, where quality is reduced to "good enough" to meet a business plan, and where short term profitability is paramount.  There will always be those who stress expediency but as Deming has shown, this is not sustainable and nor is it efficient.

On a personal level, we can apply Deming's principles to good effect, increasing our own efficiency, our own output quality, our own pride in our work and our job satisfaction as we see our effectiveness improve.  In the end, the fourteenth of Deming's principles is the most important.  He said that the transformation of business effectiveness should be the responsibility of everyone.  We can make a start with ourselves.



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