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The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality

W. Edwards Deming, Joyce Orsini, Diana Deming Cahill · 2 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
The name W. Edwards Deming is synonymous with the most insightful views, ideas, and commentary on management and quality control. Referred to as "the high prophet of quality" by the New York Times, Deming was instrumental in the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II and influenced many of the world's most innovative managers in the ensuing decades. His original ideas led directly to the creation of relationships with suppliers and a plethora of quality initiatives.Now, with The Essential Deming, Fordham University professor and Deming expert Joyce Orsini draws on a wealth of previously unavailable material to present the legendary thinker's most important management principles in one indispensable volume.The book is filled with articles, papers, lectures, and notes touching on a wide range of topics, but which focus on Deming's overriding message: quality and operations are all about systems, not individual performance; the system has to be designed so that the worker can perform well.The Essential Deming reveals Deming's unique insight about:How poor management infects an entire organization The critical importance of management on producing quality products and services Improving management in any company The effective management of people--the manager's single most important task How to educate workers into critical thinkers Ways to preserve statistical integrity while dealing with real-world problems Fully authorized by the Deming estate and published in cooperation with The W. Edwards Deming Institute, The Essential Deming is the first book to distill Deming's life's worth of thinking and writing into a single source. Orsini provides expert commentary throughout, delivering a powerful, practical guide to superior management. With The Essential Deming, you have the rationale, insight, and best practices you need to transform your organization."To move from the wilderness of news into the paths of history, we must distinguish true turning points from mistaken ones. W. Edwards Deming has seen the future and it works. He is a turning point of business history made flesh." -- U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT"I engaged Dr. Deming to assist Ford in planning, developing, and implementing the plans to accomplish major improvement in the way people worked together and in the quality of our products. . . . Ford achieved major success in this effort, and I consider Ed Deming to have been a key element in our progress." -- DONALD E. PETERSEN, former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company"It can be said of very few that they changed the way the world thinks, but Dr. Deming is among them. . . . The legacy of Dr. Deming's genius, already immense, grows even larger with this new collection of his thoughts." -- DONALD M. BERWICK , Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress"Toyota Motor Corporation was awarded a Deming Prize in 1965. This laid the foundations for the present growth of our company. I do believe the ideas and theories of Dr. Deming emphasizing the importance of quality control are very useful for people of all ages." -- TATSURO TOYODA, Senior Advisor, Toyota Motor Corporation"Few rival W. Edwards Deming for impact on management in the twentieth century. Indeed, Deming and Drucker, to my mind, stand apart for the breadth and depth of their vision for management as a profession that truly might help realize the possibility of people working together at their best. . . . The publication of this expansive edition of Deming in Deming's own words is a seminal event." -- PETER M. SENGE, MIT and the Society for Organizational Learning
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The Essential Deming[1] is probably the gold standard for now, though it can be a little dry. It's one of those "suggested readings" in basically any safety or process management higher education curricula.

Not really 100% about Deming but very relevant, I would recommend Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards" [2] as a supplement to understand some of the implications of what happens when Deming's ideas are implemented without understanding the human condition.

Otherwise, Deming wrote and published plenty of his own work that is worth reading.



As a huge Ed Deming fan, I'd recommend these books:

- The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality:

- The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education:

- The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer:

Deming is really a great thinking in the area of product development and agile methodologies.

> Deming is really a great thinking in the area of product development and agile methodologies.

“Agile methodologies” are basically Deming/Lean approaches reinvented with more reliance on subjectivity and just-so stories and less attention on coherent theory, measurement, statistical analysis, engineering rigor, etc.

The Agile Manifesto does bring some Lean ideas to software development. But "agile methodologies" are by themselves a subversion of the ideas on the Manifesto, and the most deployed ones are completely antagonistic to Lean.
> But “agile methodologies” are by themselves a subversion of the ideas on the Manifesto

I think that varies quite a bit from methodology to methodology; certainly, the ideas of the Manifesto operate a higher level than methodologies, so the idea that a canned methodology is a solution rather than a starting point is contrary to the Manifesto, but aside from the potential that the methodology will be treated that way many of them are in other respects consistent with and actively supportive of the ideals of the manifesto.

It's interesting to read what other field's version of agile is and what we can learn from it and improve our own processes. Another over I enjoy is John Boyd who in essence created agile for killing people.
Online Deming resources:
Deming's 'The New Economics' is a great book. Just ignore the part about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. The rest is solid gold.
Another great perspective is This American Life's episode on the NUMMI plant[1]. Coming full circle from Deming back to GM.


I also highly recommend listening to this entertaining episode.

To answer what someone else asked in the thread, the reason other plants trying to copy NUMMI failed is that the GM managers could only copy the things they saw of the Toyota system. The lines on the floor, the equipment, etc. They did not and could not (in time) copy the mentality and attitude of the workers and management, to believe that quality was paramount and that stopping the line was ok in the name of improvement.

The attitude sank everything, and is hugely revealing. All the best tech in the world will not save you from the wrong attitude.

I haven't listened to the podcast yet, so - why NUMMI we're not able to copy the Toyota production system - given that Toyota has sent them experienced advisors ?
They did actually. I can't remember why specifically they closed the plant in the end. But one of the overriding laws of global capitalism is that it's possible to do everything right but and still lose cause of a trade deal or an acquisition or a global recession or...
GM pulled out. GM already pulled out of that factory in 1982 and left the workers with nothing.

By the time Toyota came back with a JV agreement w/GM in 1984, the NUMMI factory was the only Toyota factory with unionized labour force. UAW Local 2244 embraced Toyota’s methods and processes. But when GM quit(again), Toyota had no need to be there anymore with a local unionized work force. How would that jive their non unionized labour force everywhere else?

GM quit. That’s what they did. They were quitters. As was Ford(quit in neighboring Milpitas a few years before GM). Toyota was brilliant. They did good to the workers they let go when they quit NUMMI. They did good by almost $280 million. Towards the end, NUMMI only rolled out Toyotas.

It’s all Tesla now. For a while Jobs ran his NEXT manufacturing from NUMMI facility before he was welcomed back to Apple. That place is legit magick.

By all accounts, NUMMI was a great place to work and with GM gone, Toyota did not need the UAW Local 2244. Why would they? It is also California’s insane regulations and strangling policies that drove the last auto manufacturer out. Until Tesla came into the picture.

And CA almost drove Tesla away recently during the covid year..who knows what the future holds.

NUMMI was a success, but that success was not replicated at other GM plants. NUMMI closed during the recession as GM discontinued brands like Pontiac due to severely reduced demand.

Today a large part of the land is a Tesla factory.

Yeah, they cover it pretty well in the podcast. By the numbers NUMMI did well however to achieve those figures they upended many traditional roles and couldn't get the leadership in GM to get on board.

There's a great little footnote at the end of the podcast about a small upstart company buying the plant with the vision of building electric cars in the future.

Seconded. It's such a good portrait. The way the workers talked about the change sticks with me years later.

Adding to the recommendations, I found Rother's Toyota Kata very valuable in understanding how to make Lean approaches work:

For applying it in software, I loved Mary Poppendieck's books, which are listed about half-way down the page here:

And for the math-inclined, Reinertsen's "Principles of Product Development Flow" is very insightful:

Thanks for Poppendieck and Reinertsen links.

As a fan of Drucker, Deming, Goldblatt... Today's "agile" has always confused me; I really don't understand when and why our profession jumped the shark.

I was part of the early "agile" community back before that name existed. Occasionally I'll talk with somebody from back then and ask them how they think things turned out. The general answer is, "Well this isn't what we intended, so I've moved on to other things." Which is basically my answer too.

My best guess as to how the shark-jumping happened:

The TL;DR version is that once it went mainstream, Agile was defined by the mainstream, which was not looking for excellence. Aided vigorously, of course, by the certification scam that is Scrum, where meaningless credentials were profitably bestowed by people who had little incentive to tighten things up. And one thing I've realize in ensuing years is that a key element was the culture of managerialism, which is inimical to anything that might make a manager look bad or diminish his empire.

re managerialism: I used to complain that we geeks got no respect. What I'd give to be ignored and neglected again.

I'm going to chew on your "second chasm" notion. Thanks.

Maybe it's just how things go. Fads, "selling out", poseurs, fashion, lost in translation, etc. Uncle Bob also references the rapid growth of our profession, where warm bodies are added faster than best practices can percolate.

To do list item: Maybe Everett's Diffusion of Innovations talks about this.

I've been getting a lot out of David Graeber's books, most recently The Democracy Project and Utopia of Rules. They're the first description of workplace democracy (collaboration, empowerment) which matches my own experiences. Back then, I was just kinda winging it (eg "What would Drucker do?"), because I really didn't have a lot other options.

Graeber considers the paradoxes better than most sages. eg How a movement begats its own destruction.

I keep thinking about that cliche of how anything taken to its logical extreme becomes it's own opposite, related to an abundance in one area causes a deficit in another.

Bringing us back to Goldblatt's Theory of Constraints. All balance is completely lost with all the players trying to hyper optimize their own little corner. Worse, "rationalists" weaponize fallacies like "beware the slippery slope!" to actively reject any kind of nuance, moderation, judgement, balance.

Thanks for listening. Trying to articulate my grievance helps me organize my thoughts.


Oh. One parting thought. I'm trying find a rhetorical basis for advocating moderation, proportional solutions. Something akin to rational altruism. I want a mashup of algorithms, game theory, and hedges (eg basket of investments, NPV) to guide decision making and governance. To make it okay to do 100 crazy ideas, because maybe 3 will hit the jackpot. To make it okay to try a variety of mitigations, because there is no one right-sized solution. Etc.

Ah, I haven't had a chance to read much Graeber. Although I appreciated his notion of bullshit jobs; it sums up a lot. And good luck with your quest! Feel free to drop me a line if you get anywhere.
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