Building quality into every level of a company is critical to their long-term success. This has also become the pursuit behind everything the organization does.

From interacting with customers to assembling products and serving the customer, quality plays a key role in organizational success.

Creating a company philosophy isn’t an easy feat. According to Josh Spiro from Inc., “it’s what differentiates you from everyone else.” In his words:

“A company’s philosophy is a distillation of its culture or ambiance into a group of core values that inform all aspects of its business practices.”

Several people have their own approach to business, but Dr. William Edward Deming’s business philosophy is striking because of its underlying impact in this century.

More importantly, his principles can be applied anywhere, from small businesses to large multinational companies. The 14 principles have become a basis for the transformation of industry.

We’ll consider Deming’s 14-Point Philosophy and how it can totally improve ‘quality’ in every aspect of the organization.

1. Create “Constancy of Purpose” Towards Quality Improvement

Competition is always lurking around in every market and industry. That’s why creating “Constancy of Purpose” towards quality is the key to unlocking your organization’s edge in the marketplace.

Deming could see the impact of this philosophy from a mile away — not as a short-term commitment or a luxury, but as a long-lasting philosophy that would drive business success and survival.

When it comes to Deming’s 14 points, “Constancy of Purpose” deals primarily with planning for long-term delivery of quality.

Developing short-term solutions to pressing organizational issues would only have a short-term effect. Deming noted that a more strategic approach is required.

Trying to do the same things better is a good step, but organizations need to innovate, conduct market research, and continually improve product concept, design, and value.

Above all, Deming urged businesses to pay more attention to the end user. Every decision, product, and activities should be geared towards making the end user happy and loyal.

As long as the customer’s need is prioritized, the business will always survive irrespective of the competition. After all, without customers, the business will fail sooner or later.

2. Embrace the New Philosophy

It’s easy to promise customers quality products and services. Doing it is the challenging part. That’s why, apart from the developing “Constancy of purpose,” the organization must brace up to embrace the new philosophy which entails smart leadership.

We’re in modern times. Therefore, traditional management practices may not be as effective as they used to be. In this era, both the management and staff should be inspired and incentivized to support quality improvement.

They ‘MUST” not be forced to do so.

If the staff members willingly embrace quality in their job, the results would be phenomenal and they’ll be excited about it.

Deming’s 14 points support a foundation of building a culture of quality in the organization — while naturally persuading every staff member to buy into the idea.

Bank CEO, Peter Aceto in his book Weology introduced a new term “Weology” which is a powerful way for teams to embrace a new philosophy towards work. In his words:

“Weology centers around the concept that teams thrive when everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee puts “we before me.”

Source: Weology

Deming predicted that transitioning from a traditional method which requires old systems to a leadership focus which requires carrying every staff along, would result in a significant change in the way we do business.

His prediction dated back in 1982 when there were fewer large organizations. But it turns out that his analysis is taking shape in today’s business dealings.

Businesses should fan their vision of quality and continually work towards delivering quality products and services. It doesn’t matter the economic pressure or government policies, embracing a new philosophy that places ‘quality’ over ‘creativity’ is essential.

When changes or decisions are made on the basis of the competitive pressure, most times, it only leads to low-quality service.

Sadly, it doesn’t put the customer first which is the main focus. Deming encourages organizations to focus on quality management and make it a priority. This, in turn, would lead to the fulfillment of customer needs.

Deming recommended taking practical steps to make this a reality by instituting proper training for staff, effective supervision, full management support, consistency, and putting plans in place for management continuity.

3. Don’t Inspect, But Build Quality In

There were a few things that businesses do that completely cripples their efforts. One of such is the idea of after-the-fact quality control. It may have worked for a few businesses at the time, but times are changing.

Wiley’s Statistical Quality Control Report is a great resource to study.

Deming encouraged businesses to take a different approach every time and not rely on inspections to get quality. He noted that inspections no matter how detailed and systematic can miss defects.

There’s more. Inspections can be costly to implement and they’re not designed to improve quality since they’re 100% focused on detecting poor quality — instead of improving it.

Deming recommended that building quality into every business process is a far better decision to make. Even though detecting faults in products and services could prevent harm to a business, that shouldn’t be the ultimate focus. It only provides a short-term fix to a long-term issue.

The most viable step is to change processes and aim for ‘quality’ from the get-go. This would provide a better result in the future.

Deming insists we use statistical controls on processes and not on the end results. His concept may not go well with founders and executives who don’t take pride in numbers. But it works because numbers don’t lie.

Generating valid statistics can be a daunting task for most people, but don’t worry. There are software tools that you can use to simplify the seemingly-complex task.

In the end, improving processes to detect and eliminate errors is the ideal way to assure quality. It’s less costly and easier to embrace by the staff, instead of devising means to eliminate errors after they occur.

4. Stop the Practice of Awarding Business on the Basis of Price Tag

Are there businesses that still approve lowest tender contracts? You bet there are.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t work well when you’re mostly involved with other businesses for the gains and not for the relationship. Why not minimize total cost by establishing that rapport with a supplier.

Yes, a supplier for one item, whom you have a long-term relationship with can earn your loyalty and trust.

Always remember that price and quality are like two Siamese twin that can’t be separated. Don’t try to beat down the price of items purchased and neglect quality and service can turn off good suppliers out of your business.

When you deal with a single supplier, you’re helping them to innovate and develop a systemic process in the production process.

When you connect with more than one supplier, you should request for an additional variation of the product or service. You can qualify a supplier as a reliable source for accessories in a manufacturing process.

It might even be ideal to discard manuals that were used as guidelines by unprofessional examiners to rate suppliers.

Better yet, a business could request evidence of active involvement of management from the suppliers, encouraging them to apply IEE concepts. More importantly, special care should be given to the methodology employed to drive growth.

In relying on a single supplier for any one item, keep these points in mind:

  • Treat suppliers as your partners in your pursuit for quality. Encourage, inspire, and incentivize them to focus on improving their own quality — there’s no need competing for your business based on cost alone.
  • Consistency yields quality — with less variation in the input, the less variation you’ll see in the output.
  • Analyze the total cost for quality, not just the initial cost the suppliers presented.
  • To ensure that suppliers meet your quality standard, use quality and credible statistics.

5. Keep Improving Processes

The processes involved in production and service can be complex, but it’s important constantly improve because that’s one of the best ways to ensure quality and productivity, as well as decreasing costs.

Constant improvement in test and analysis methods and spending adequate time with the customers to understand how they use and misuse a product.

Customer Manufacturing Group improved processes of a leading financial services company by assigning team leaders for each process and chose an appropriate documentation technique for each process map.

The results: When the national economy and the industry tanked, having efficient processes that work in the organization helped the company thrive.

There were times when companies, especially in the United States often worry about meeting the product specifications. Japanese companies, on the other hand, were more concerned about uniformity. The latter companies sought for ways to reduce variation about the nominal value.

It became obvious to continual improvement can be achieved in many forms. For example, striving for improvement in the manufacturing process could infer that work must be done with a set of suppliers to improve their processes.

The same concept that applies when Deming encouraged businesses to not rely on inspections to achieve quality, taking a traditional methodology to quality improvement may no longer work.

6. Initiate the Right Training

We may view training as being costly but when you weigh-in the long-term impact on the employee’s productivity and attitudes to their jobs, you can only embrace it.

When it comes to the cost of getting the right On-The-Job training, founders and entrepreneurs could find themselves analyzing the benefits. Sure, there’s the expense of enrolling people on courses, there’s also the productive time lost when they get back to work.

Choosing the right training is important — because the competition might already be ahead of you. Only the right training can get employees’ zeal and inclination to work maintained. The wrong training might as well affect their productivity.

Deming’s emphasis is on-the-job training. The ultimate objective is geared towards quality improvement — which, in turn, means getting consistent and predictable results as well as reducing variation.

Essentially, an organization doesn’t want one or two persons to learn new skills and processes. Knowledge must be evenly distributed among the staff to avoid putting the business at risk.

Deming admonishes functional managers to educate their staff and to encourage them to see how they can contribute to the process rather than just giving them specific tasks to do.

In reality, on-the-job training can come in different forms and style. The employee onboarding process is an important training which can help the employees to understand the process involved in hiring them, and how they can leverage that insight to improve quality in their jobs.

The management or top executives also need to be trained. Even though they’re not responsible for the tasks and processes, and all the details involved in an employee’s role, understanding what people do can be helpful.

Armed with this knowledge, the management can better decisions and eliminate bottlenecks to quality.

7. Institute Leadership

Strategic leadership is an integral part of total quality in an organization. The earlier the management institutes leadership, the better for the entire system.

Deming noted that if managers and supervisors pay more attention to leadership rather than the traditional way of managing people and resources that imposes tasks on people, they should aim to understand, collaborate, and employ a coaching approach to management because it works.

Even though supervision can’t be eliminated in business (it’s still necessary), collaborating with people and fostering their efforts towards delivering quality work is more effective than taking punitive action when you fail to see the outcomes you expected.

A smart team leader doesn’t impose a task on his or her staff. He listens to them and ensures they play key roles in your quality management processes.

They’re able to contribute, ask questions, brainstorm with other team members, and pinpoint bottlenecks you may not have noticed.

Look at it this way: If your staff/team is meeting its potential, how do you think they won’t meet targets and quotes? That’s what a leader is there for — to encourage his team to achieve goals while nurturing their own potentials.

You act on their ideas as well and let them know you’re happy they spoke up during the meeting. You’re a leader that motivates your team to do their best work, you understand, you’re an action taker.

8. Eliminate Fear

An organization’s tendency to avoid failure dampens, hinders, and inhibits the employee’s ability to pursue goal-oriented activities.

Fear-based outcomes, in most cases, cripples every good decision that’s been made by the management. It causes individuals to hoard their best ideas and attitudes towards their job. Worse, fear can hinder organizational effectiveness and performance.

Most people think that fear motivates, but it does the opposite. It nourishes competition within and outside the organization, erodes joy and dignity of labor, discourages innovation, slows down communication, and propels short-term thinking. (J. Gerald Suarez, introduction p. xii, of Driving Fear Out of The Workplace).

Deming argued that fear isn’t a persuasive factor for effective work, but a deteriorating effect that pulls down thoughts and intuitions. It’s true that no employee can do his best work unless he feels at home and confident.

The management should develop a culture that encourages employees to express their ideas and ask questions, without any form of fear. Impaired performance and adulterated figures are mostly the results of fear. Better job performance is a by-product of confidence.

9. Break down Barriers between Departments

Teamwork equals better work. There’s no alternative to working as a team especially with shared interests. Working as individuals often lead to half-baked outputs that aren’t verified; after all, only one person’s thought went through the process.

Whether you’re a part of a small or large company with many departments, make sure they don’t work in isolation. Deming encourages the sales department to collaborate with the customer care department.

Product designers should get closer to the production team. Production should also work with marketing personnel and customer care attendants. They can share thoughts together and develop an effective system that fosters quality. That’s how the organization can reach its full potential.

Even though the product designer may not have complete knowledge about sales, his insights as a designer can be priceless for the salesperson.

  • Does the product require specific features?
  • How do the current features meet customer needs?

Given that your sales team always communicates with the customers all day, every other day, don’t you think that product designers spend some time talking to the sales team before they even add new features to an existing product or start working on new product design?

Meanwhile, the production doesn’t have to be left out at all. What problems does the production team foresee in the new design?

When departments work together, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint possible problems and eliminate them before they ever occur. That’s exactly what Deming proposes.

Deming urges departments to recognize, communicate with, and serve the end user without reservations. That’s how to help the organization to soar in the midst of severe competition.

10. Eliminate Slogans

How do slogans affect the end user? This is a question that most businesses needs to answer. Especially when they think that slogans sound so good.

“Customers are Kings” is a good example. It’s a catchy slogan, but what does it stand for? Do customers even believe it?

What about customers who have had terrible experiences with businesses in the past, are they still Kings?

When it comes to the employees, these slogans mean nothing to them. It doesn’t speak ‘value’ to the workers in your internal value chance.

To better drive ‘quality’ into your product and service, eliminate stimulating slogans from the workplace. Such slogans are perceived negatively by customers and employees — they see it as being patronizing. Quality and production problems aren’t caused by an individual employee. The system itself is usually the factor.

11. Eliminate Management by Objectives

Although having numerical targets is important, good leadership shouldn’t be supplemented in any way. Not by setting a quota or the like.

Deming observed that high production targets affect quality. If you work in the production, for example, and you get paid per piece, it’s likely that you’ll finish as many pieces as possible because of the money you stand to get. You up your game to work faster, but are you working towards quality or to meet the standard?

That’s why Deming urges managers to focus on processes. A well-designed process can bring the results we want. If it doesn’t, then the process needs to be improved upon.

When there’s good leadership, the employees are proud of their work. They’re determined to perform well. This is the job of the management to create an enabling environment in which they can do so.

Truly, numbers are still important. But rather than using it as a benchmark to measure people who execute the work with quotas, the management should use the numbers as a means of measuring the process.

Some people argued that numbers can motivate employees, particularly in the marketing and sales departments, but Management by Objectives should be approached with the right mindset and tools.

Setting numerical targets will encourage people to take shortcuts that will negatively affect quality? The rule is to measure what you want to see. If you want to see ‘quality’ output at the end of the day, then measure the processes involved in the world.

All in all, you can still set a numerical goal but make sure your organization has the capacity to reach it. Without a clear plan and a strategy, numbers are worthless.

12. Permit Pride of Workmanship

It’s all over the news. We hear horror stories of employees who were underappreciated and undervalued. As a founder or top executive with the responsibility of dishing out instructions to others, you don’t want to be involved in this mess.

Once you start making your employees feel appreciated and proud of their workmanship, you’ll inspire them to do their best work ever. If they’re not appreciated, they’ll likely leave their job eventually.

Deming believed that if employees take pride in their work, this can have a multiplier effect on quality and process improvement. When you love your job, you do better and you’re excited about heading to work every day.

But when you’re being criticized and compared to others, you quit enjoying your work. You quickly switch attitudes in seconds. Do you see how powerful appreciation can be?

The management needs to understand that some workers are smarter than others. Some will perform better than their counterparts. Some will be more punctual than others. While it’s great to commend achievements, the rest of the team should never be put down, or feel they’re worthless.

Deming urged businesses to commend everyone (at different levels) as this can ultimately spur everyone working towards quality improvement happily.

13. Establish Learning and Self-Improvement

Self-improvement is a process which can improve self-esteem and productivity. But it doesn’t happen in a day.

The workplace doesn’t have to put the employee’s life on hold. Because your staff have dreams and aspire to be great in their own way. The self-improvement they plan to achieve can be nurtured at work.

Without self-improvement and continuous learning, the quality of life of workers both in and outside of the office can result in a downward spiral of negative energy. It drowns their efforts, and self-improvement seems like a gigantic mountain to surmount.

The good news is that businesses are beginning to institute learning and self-improvement programs as an integral part of the work system.

For example, most Fortune 500 companies are encouraging their employees to relax, exercise, take breaks, and establish a workflow routine that suits them.

Deming admonishes the management to advocate personal growth through continued education. When people are exposed to knowledge that is relevant to their jobs or life, their pursuit of happiness and skills improve. They’re also better equipped to take on challenges in the workplace.

14. The Transformation is Everyone’s Goal

The most powerful force in today’s business environment is the System. Dr. Deming argued that the people are there to sync with the established system. In other words, the ideal way to improve quality or productivity is to improve the system.

If the system is working, the people will work better.

On the other hand, Deming advocates getting closer to people who carry out the process if you’re looking for solutions to a specific problem.

According to Dr. Deming, the management can use business process notation such as flowchart to capture relevant processes before analyzing them.

Next, the managers and supervisors can help think through the process to see how it can improve the quality of outputs in the organization.

CONCLUSION

Although Deming doesn’t give advice on how to effect lasting change, his 14 points philosophies have helped large businesses to thrive, to say the least.

The good news is that new businesses and small businesses can implement his philosophies to improve total quality in their products, services, staff, and culture. Thus, meeting their customers’ needs and staying relevant in the future.

Deming's 14-Point Philosophy: A Recipe for Total Quality

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