Total quality management – was Deming right?

Dr. W. Edward Deming authored Total Quality Management, which espoused a group approach to management. Applying his concepts meant that management would encourage employees to join in the process of continuous improvement. His methods helped Japan recover following WWII. In fact, he is still revered there as a business hero.

In recent years I had a manager say that the processes were really designed to create a situation in which auto workers would cut their own jobs in the drive for the more economical and efficient robotic assembly lines. So, as I see it, there is a real lack of understanding where Deming is concerned even though his processes, in my opinion, are quoted almost wholesale in ISO 9001.

In a blog I recently read Deming on Safety, Part 7, Point 7, the author points out that Deming enjoined business to overhaul the supervision of management as well as production workers. He goes on to add that the function and supervision of safety should also be overhauled in the same way using Deming’s philosophy. My feeling on this is that if you aren’t using Deming’s philosophy, you should be considering it very strongly. I for one see it in virtually every aspect of our training.

We speak regularly on the need to do a better job of implementing a safety culture. The author sees this as misguided “Safety should be a non-negotiable criterion that embeds everything that we do.”

I tend to agree. Just as Deming sought to improve quality and consistency in production, we should seek the same improvements on what I call our turf. The author and I agree that quality and consistency should be intertwined with safety. In fact, I see them all as the same item. Just as we should be seeking ways to improve safety, we should be also showing it to improve processes and the company’s bottom line.

I think safety functions are best suited to line supervision and managers. These are the people who by walking the talk, shall make it a part of everyday operations. Operations leadership should best understand how destructive a breakdown in safety is to the company’s profit, credibility, and reputation. We must be cultivating this along with efforts from HR. Training for operations leaders should include these things in companies that afford leadership development training, and where they do not, we should be inserting this type of training into our schedules.

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