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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 10-Mar-06


Friday 10-Mar-06

Discovering Deming

My daughter is currently working on an M.Sc. in International Management and researches widely for her coursework -- for example in her first piece on marketing she went out as far as Marx and Lao Tsu.

Recently, she came home from the library in high excitement after researching for an Asian Management essay. "Dad! There's this great stuff by a guy called Deming!" she said (she does talk in exclamations when she's excited). I smiled and reached up for my Deming books. She does have an uncanny knack of finding the good stuff. As a bibliophilic business consultant myself I've got literally thousands of books across hundreds of topics and it's lovely to see her following in the old man's tracks.

W. Edwards Deming was an original business 'guru' who taught the Japanese about quality after the second world war. He had a very forthright method of persuasion, combining expert use of statistics and direct assertion. When consulting into a company he would only take the engagement if he had the attention and commitment of the top team. He never retired and worked well into his nineties after having been rediscovered by the West around 1980. Beyond fundamental methods for creating and assuring quality, he had '14 points for management' that still are relevant today and yet poorly understood in many companies that should know better.

In the way that things oscillate, Deming seems to have become less popular, but his truths, gained in a lifelong search for true understanding, will return as the seekers of the next generation, like my daughter, rediscover his genius.

Your comments

Perhaps a more significant point is that in the Post World War 2 period, Japanese Industry was able to purge and rid itself of the old fashioned managers that had stifled production previously. Many of the pupils were young men, not yet 'poisoned' or discouraged by the previous ways.

Other External factors, like the democratization of Japan, dismantled Zaibatsu (conglomerates), a open mass media and unionism, assisted this transformation and revolution

Interestingly, many other parts of Asia, this did NOT happen, largely for those external factors. Tigers like Korea and Taiwan were hampered by dictatorships, and Hong Kong and Singapore are really just trading cities, with lots of money and infrastructure, but not really as renowned 'quality' (more like 'marketing').

Beyond those tigers, well, you have the third world sweatshops with importation of foreign production processes, expatriates and equipment. Without those external factors changing, I doubt much else would change.

Anyhow, this is post is perhaps more about quality rather than 'Asian Management'. I'd like to see what more she researches on it though.

-- Colin

Dave replies:
I also heard that the Japanese, being defeated, were desperate to grab anything American so they could become stronger again. Another factor is the cultural willingness to copy and use 'what works'. Not so much of the old NIH in some areas. The dictatorships elsewhere serve to amplify the Japanese example.

My daughter's web is at Go look at for her current college notes and essays (all of which have received distinctions).

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