William Edwards Deming: A Titan of Project Management Essay

William Edwards Deming (1900-1993) was born in Iowa and raised in Wyoming by a father who worked as a farmer and a mother who served as a music teacher (Karwatka). Deming was their first child. For some time, his family occupied “a tar paper shack about the size of a railroad freight car” (Karwatka). Deming had to work as a janitor whilst attending college. A bright individual brought up in a poor home, he earned a degree in engineering from the University of Wyoming before receiving a doctorate from Yale University (Karwatka).

He studied mathematical physics at Yale before getting a job at the Department of Agriculture where he carried out laboratory research (Karwatka; “William Edwards Deming”). He trained agricultural engineers in statistics on behalf of the Department of Agriculture (“William Edwards Deming”). In 1939, Deming joined the Census Bureau in Washington, D. C. (“William Edwards Deming”). It was through this job that he “developed the idea of inspection by sampling, the basis of his later work in quality control” (Karwatka).

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His statistical technique was soon adopted worldwide. In 1949, Deming left his job to join New York University as a professor and consultant in statistical studies (“William Edwards Deming”). Also during the 1940s, Deming advised the United States government that it was possible to improve the process of producing American arms and ammunition used for World War II. In particular, he advised the government to maintain the quality of American arms and ammunition and meet production schedules without unnecessarily inspecting each item.

Thus, the government learned to use Deming’s statistical sampling method to identify almost all defects without wastage of time and resources (Karwatka). Following World War II, Deming advised the government to encourage the manufacturing industry to use his statistical techniques for quality control. However, he found that there was little interest in improvement of production processes at the time. As the competitors of the United States were seriously damaged, there was little incentive for manufacturing companies to improve. Next, Deming turned his attention to Japan (Karwatka).

Karwatka describes his impact on Japanese manufacturing industry thus: …Deming did find encouragement in Japan. The American occupational forces assigned him to serve as a quality advisor to Japanese industrialists. Deming conducted a series of seminars in 1950 that launched his close relationship with that country’s quality control professionals. Japan eventually became known as a country of high-quality manufacturers. Japanese industrialists credited Deming with pointing them in the right direction and named their top industrial award, the Deming Prize, after him. (Karwatka)

Deming did not have enough influence on the American manufacturing industry until 1980, when NBC aired a television program explaining his impact on the Japanese industry. The program was entitled, ‘If Japan Can, Why Can’t We? ’ NBC received countless requests for the transcript of the program as soon as it was aired. More importantly, this event got Deming to begin working for the American manufacturing industry for the first time at the age of 80. He wrote books, conducted seminars, and served as a management consultant for manufacturers in the United States from that point on.

In the year 1986, Deming was awarded the National Medal of Technology. He continued working as a quality consultant until his death in 1993 (Karwatka). Deming’s Contributions to Program Management Focused on the improvement of quality of all processes, projects and programs, Deming advised manufacturers to “use quality control throughout the entire production process, eliminating the need for end-of-the-line inspections” (Karwatka). However, he did not only consider it necessary to control the quality of processes involved in projects.

He believed that it was equally essential to enhance the quality of relationships among those who work together to complete projects. Thus, Deming advised manufacturing companies to nurture cooperation instead of competition (Karwatka). In fact, he believed that cooperation is “the key to industrial success” (Karwatka). After all, the quality of relationships among staff members working on a project determines the quality of the outcome. Thus, all literature produced on teamwork today is inspired by Deming’s management teachings.

What is more, Deming desired for all team members involved in a project or program to be satisfied with their work. He wrote, “‘Why is it that productivity increases as quality improves? ’ Less rework… Not so much waste. Quality to the production worker means that his performance satisfies him, provides to him pride of workmanship” (Deming, Out 1). As the production worker or another staff member involved in a project cannot feel satisfied on the job unless he or she is able to meet deadlines, Deming described ways to meet project deadlines thus: Failure to meet the deadline will hold up or derail a project. To meet the deadline, I make an outline of content and steps. A range of dates or of hours would be better than rigidity, to allow for variation in the time required for any step. A plan that allows some leeway not only provides some peace of mind, but would permit review and last-minute revisions, which might well enhance greatly the value of the project. (Deming, New 224) Deming’s contributions to project management further include his statistical control charts, developed for the analysis of processes (Voehl 40).

A control chart serves as “a continuing guide to constant improvement” (Voehl 40). According to Deming, it saves staff members involved in project management from having to chase down the causes of problems later on (Voehl 40). Thus, he also recommends the use of statistics for guiding all steps of a project. He writes, “Any step may need guidance of statistical methodology for economy, speed, and protection from faulty conclusions from failure to test and measure the effects of interactions” (Moen and Clifford 7).

In order for project managers to effectively apply statistical techniques to quality control, Deming created the PDSA Cycle, where P stands for Plan of change or improvement; D stands for Do, that is, carrying out the plan; S stands for Study of the outcomes; and A stands for Act, that is, to either adopt or abandon the change, if not to go through the cycle once more (Moen and Clifford 8). Deming’s PDSA Cycle promises to enhance the quality of processes involved in projects and programs (Moen and Clifford 8).

Still, his most important contribution to program management is his “14-point agenda for quality improvement,” which may be used by all organizational managers regardless of whether they are involved in project management, program management or financial management (Mahadevan 108). The first point of this agenda calls for senior management to develop and publish the mission and goals of the organization for all employees to thoroughly understand and commit to (Mahadevan 109).

In the context of program management, this point illustrates the importance of explaining program mission and goals to all organizational members involved in the program. As the second point, Deming’s agenda calls for all those who are involved in a project to learn the mission and goals of the project (Mahadevan 109). The third point requires managers to comprehend the importance of inspection or quality control, “for improvement of processors and reduction of cost” (Mahadevan 109). In his fourth point, Deming states that businesses should not be judged on the bases of their price tags (Mahadevan 109).

In other words, it is quality that makes all the difference. In the context of project management, Deming refers to the quality of all processes involved in a project that should determine the quality of the business as a whole. The fifth point in this agenda calls for continuous improvements to the processes involved in production or provision of services. The sixth and seventh points call for the institution of training in addition to leadership. Moreover, the seventh point asks organizations to teach leadership (Mahadevan 109).

In the context of program management, this is meant to empower all staff members involved in a program. Moreover, these points require them to sharpen their skills so as to further improve the quality of their projects or programs. The next five points of Deming’s agenda concern the workforce. They call for the establishment of an organizational culture where creativity and innovation are valued, fear is eliminated and trust is developed (Mahadevan 109). In project management, such an organizational culture is expected to serve as a powerful job motivator.

Furthermore, if staff members involved in a project are encouraged to be creative, the organization can expect to see unexpected improvements in the quality of its projects. Deming also advises organizations to focus on improvement by eliminating impracticable managerial strategies such as Management By Objective. Program managers and others are additionally advised to support their staff members or employees in increasing their knowledge and improving themselves. Finally, the fourteenth point advises organizations to take action with Deming’s agenda (Mahadevan 109).

Even program managers should incorporate this agenda into their strategies. The Impact of Deming’s Contributions The philosophy of management propounded by Deming did not only help to turn Japan into a superpower after World War II, but also continues to shape the modern-day business, reliant on technologies calling for continuous quality improvements (“William Edwards Deming ; TQM”). According to Arnold Parker, researcher at Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, Deming has “clearly had a profound and lasting impact on HR” (“William Edwards Deming ; TQM”).

Referring to Deming as “the ‘father’ of the quality movement,” Parker further states that the 14-point agenda continues to be used (“William Edwards Deming ; TQM”). The following excerpt from a report entitled “William Edwards Deming ; TQM” describes Parker’s view of the current impact of this agenda: Within HR, it is leading to a greater emphasis on analytics, the widespread adoption of International Organization for Standardization guidelines, and in some cases, mandatory training for vendors. “As time passes, the forces that lead to change will be harder to trace to Deming or any other single cause,” Packer says. But his impact will, nevertheless, remain profound. ” (“William Edwards Deming & TQM”) Today, of course, the field of organizational behavior continues to grow with an increasing number of management theorists. At the time that Deming had introduced his business philosophy, there were few known standards for organizations to develop their managerial strategies around. So, Deming developed his “System of Profound Knowledge” as a comprehensive managerial theory (“Deming, William Edwards”). He served organizations such as Ford and General Motors as a management consultant to show how his theories can be applied.

This helped the biggest corporations of America, including the Ford Motor Company, to develop sound philosophies using Deming’s theoretical framework (“Deming, William Edwards”). It is further known that “Deming, along with Joseph Juran, launched the Total Quality Management (TQM) movement in corporate America” (“Deming, William Edwards”). Seeing that corporate America played the most vital role in establishing the economy of the United States as one of the healthiest in the world, the impact of Deming’s philosophy has been immense.

What is more, as the following excerpt from his biography reads, Deming’s philosophies have had a positive impact on entire societies that have adopted them so as to improve their businesses: …[I]t is important to see that Deming’s style of management is extremely favorable to social cohesion. Violence is part and parcel of the traditional style of management. Psychologists know that violence on the job – even if it is just symbolic – brings about behavioral problems in everyday life.

Incidentally, Deming’s style of management contributes to improving human relations in society by softening the climate of violence and fear that is raging in companies. (“William Edwards Deming”) Thus, Deming’s contributions to management theory must not only be considered the backbone of the field of organizational behavior, but also civil society. As his business philosophies have been widely accepted, they have expanded human knowledge, leading to general quality improvement in all societies that have adopted them. Undoubtedly, Deming was a genius.

A Critical Analysis of Deming’s Contributions. Thanks to Deming, it is a known fact today that quality rather than price is king in the business world. As a matter of fact, there is so much competition between businesses – all seeking to maximize their profits – that it is quality alone that determines the fate of a company. Deming must have been a prophet to foresee this, as total quality management is understood by nearly all organizations in the world today. No business manager can pass out of management school without learning about TQM. Of course, Deming must also be thanked for introducing TQM to project managers.

As Deming’s approach to quality improvement and control is statistical, one of the ways that project managers may enhance quality and cut costs is by way of activity based costing. As its name implies, activity based costing relates the costs facing the enterprise to its various activities or processes involved in different projects (Cooper). It is but commonsensical that companies may work on cutting their costs once they know what is driving these costs. By improving their processes in order to cut costs, businesses may realize greater profits than before.

Additionally, by identifying high costing activities needed to produce certain goods or serve certain customers, companies may decide to focus instead on low costing products or customers. Thus, the activity based costing system may lead the business that implements it to improve upon its marketing mix or positioning of its products. In fact, organizations may improve their overall operations through this system. After all, when costs are attached to all processes or activities in a project, management may not only measure but also plan improvement (O’Guin 76).

Regardless of whether the activity based costing system is employed, Deming’s philosophy applied to project management must yield results similar to those of the abovementioned system of costing. As quality of processes is improved, costs are reduced. Then again, as Deming’s philosophy also improves the quality of relationships between team members working on a project, the outcomes of its application are expected to surpass improvements realized through activity based costing alone. Deming compels project managers to reflect on strategies for team building.

Effective team building is meant to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of the team, raise productivity and increase efficiency, improve interaction among team members, reduce levels of stress in the workplace, increase trust among team members and strengthen their support systems within the organization, and also to develop good relations among different groups within the organization (“Team Building Ideas”). In point of fact, team building is an “ongoing process” helping to evolve a group of employees into a “cohesive unit” (“Guide to Managing Human Resources”).

Team members have mutual expectations for the completion of group tasks. Moreover, they support and rely on one another whilst showing tolerance and respect for individual differences (“Guide to Managing Human Resources”). It is difficult to quantity the outcomes of effective team building, just as it is impossible to measure the impact of Deming’s overall contributions to the world at large. If team building is taken as a project, however, it may be possible to quantify outcomes of various improvement procedures. Each member of a technology support team, for example, must be skilled at both customer relations and product service.

Furthermore, all individuals working together to meet an objective must be able to effectively work together. If they do not fulfill their individual portions of expectations in relation to their teams, they would be better off working by themselves. All the same, organizations are made up of people that must learn to work together productively, whether they call themselves individualists or collectivists. In order to be a successful part of a team, an individual has to make adjustments in his or her attitudes (whether or not these are prejudices) toward other members of the team in addition to the group as a whole.

Because individual differences are a reality, Robinson writes that personality profiling is necessary to create highly effective teams. After all, one member of the technology support staff may be highly knowledgeable about the product but unable to handle customer relations. Although Deming’s theory of quality management is focused on measuring quality improvements in technological or production processes, it is possible to quantity quality improvements in teams as well. However, teams must be given sufficient time to prove themselves.

Changes may not be produce immediate results. Regardless, this knowledge must add value to Deming’s theory, which does not consider quantification of quality improvements in the workforce at all. Conclusion Deming’s theory is flexible enough to be expanded by organizational theorists around the world. The theory is still in use, and would never be outdated. A world where quality ceases to matter is unimaginable at this time. More importantly, the sky is the limit as far as development of new ideas for quality improvement is concerned.

So, business managers and theorists are free to develop new ideas for various subjects of importance described by Deming. For example, project managers may develop their own strategies to meet deadlines. After all, quality improvement is about growth. Moreover, with Deming’s focus on education through his famous fourteen points, it is impossible to imagine that the genius did not intend for others to expand on his theory. Hence, Deming lives on, and the entire global economy is grateful to him.


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