Secret to Improving Business Performance: The 14 Points of Quality


Face it, there are times when anyone can forget lessons learned from the past. For example, if someone mentions the name W. Edwards Deming to you, you might remember him. How many of you actually remember to use his helpful points to improve your current business performance?

W. Edwards Deming, a mathematician and statistician, knew how organizations could improve their processes–and was willing to lead by example. He saw the need for transformation, and many organizations actually capitalized on his lessons. Build on his ideas to get more production from the people around you. The following list of his points comes from “Deming Management at Work” by Mary Walton.

The Fourteen Points, 1-7

1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service

Be sure that everybody knows why they need to deliver to the highest standards. What does it mean to the business to improve your goods and services? Everyone should know why they come to work and what they are really there to do.

2.  Adopt the new philosophy

Good enough is no longer good enough. The new philosophy holds all levels of your organization to a higher performance standard. Global competition is fierce. Remember, somebody else is telling your customers they can do your job better than you. Prove your competitors wrong.

3. Cease dependence on mass inspection

You can check your products repeatedly, but the key is building quality into your processes so you don’t have defects in the first place. Figure out the best ways to control your processes from the beginning to the end.

4. End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone

This is for the business owners and procurement managers out there. Use quality and value to decide on your suppliers. The goal is to partner with a high-quality vendor who provides excellent value in the long run. Remember the expression “penny wise and pound foolish,” and resist the temptation.

5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service

In the immortal words of the 1970’s band Heatwave, “Always and Forever” seek to reduce waste and improve quality. The pursuit of these objectives will never end. Once you find one innovation, look for the next.

6. Institute training

Develop a strong game plan with clear and concise instructions for workers to do their jobs in the best way possible. Leave no room for misunderstanding.

Points 7-14

7. Institute leadership

Build an environment where leaders help people do what they do best. Leaders lend their support and create the best systems for their workforce to excel.

8. Drive out fear

Fear is expensive. Fear keeps bright people from addressing opportunities they see every day. Missed opportunities cost money. Create an atmosphere where people can think and ask honest questions without fear of punishment.

9. Break down barriers between staff areas

Remember that people produce to their particular incentives. Teams will not truly optimize their combined resources if their goals contradict. Think of sales teams who have conflicts with operations because one group is focused on sales while the other group is focused on costs. A stronger goal would be for both sides to focus on income, so they will be motivated to help each other.

10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce

Slogans are fun, but they don’t help anybody think, learn, or produce. The Detroit Lions ownership have been telling their fans they will “Restore the Roar” all of my life. The state of Michigan is still waiting for them to win their second division title since 1983.

11. Eliminate numerical quotas

Deming said it best. “A person, to hold a job, meets a quota at any cost, without regard to damage to his company.” In view of this reality, be mindful of the incentives you create for your teams.

12. Remove barriers to pride of workmanship

Workers come to work every day, and they want to do a great job. Give them the tools and the support they need to do the job. If they have been trained properly, then they should have the freedom to make responsible decisions.

13. Institute a vigorous program of education and retraining

Everybody in the organization needs to stay on top of the current methods. Employees should understand the hard skills of analysis and the soft skills of team building. Both sides are important for the company to thrive in the current business climate.

14. Take action to accomplish the transformation

The transformation must be led by top management. Your leader must lead. There was a classic line during a critical point in the movie Airplane. “It’s his ship now. His command. He’s in charge. He’s the boss. Head Man…Top Dog…Big Cheese…The Head Honcho! You get the point. The top management must lead the change and take strong action. The change is doomed to fail if this doesn’t happen.

More Info

If you are still not satisfied with the author’s interpretation of Deming’s 14 points, please find the book Deming Management at Work by Mary Walton. Her book details examples of a variety of private and public organizations that applied these principles and reaped the benefits. Many groups have succeeded because they put these ideas into action. I know you can do it!