Considered by many as the “father of quality”, William Edwards Deming said that, for organisations to succeed, they need only two things: commitment, and an ability to open up to new thinking.
After a trip to Japan to observe how the Japanese’s attention to quality, systems and better management helped turn the economy around after the Second World War, the statistician penned Out of the Crisis in 1982 to help with the transformation of the Western/American management style prevalent in the 1970s-80s.
Deming identifies “deadly diseases”’ such as an emphasis on short-term thinking; merit ratings; management by the use of quantitative data only; and, significantly, the lack of constancy of purpose – something prevalent in safety today. As Deming argued: “Outputs cannot be considered without considering the goals they are designed to achieve.” Or as Simon Sinek states in his book (bit.ly/2Zl9OaR), we must “start with why” we are working on safety.
“Quality” is defined by Deming as a “concept that has many faces”, which is also true of safety. His measurement of quality is also relevant as being “the interaction between three different participants: the product itself; the user and how they use, install, and maintain the product; and their expectations”.
Deming offers 14 principles for leaders to significantly transform both the quality and the effectiveness of their business:
1. Create constancy of purpose towards the improvement of products and services, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Management must awaken to the challenge, 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
5. Improve constantly 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 do a better job
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively
9. Break down barriers between departments
10. Eliminate slogans and targets that ask the workforce for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships
11. Eliminate work quotas on the factory floor. Eliminate management by numbers and numerical goals
12. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship
13. Institute a vigorous programme of education and self-improvement
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation.
Deming’s principles provided a new way for managers to think about their roles and how their companies function. It’s not difficult to revise each principle to apply to safety.
A quarter of a century after they were proposed, Deming’s principles are as relevant today as they were in 1982. In a world where change is the new normal and business transformation is core to survival, these 14 points offer a clear framework for success. Also, Deming’s principles provide us with a robust roadmap for driving sustainable safety improvement.