Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

W. Edwards Deming, fully William Edwards Deming

American Statistician, Business Innovator, Professor, Author, Lecturer and Consultant

"Learning is not compulsory. Neither is survival."

"A goal without a method is cruel."

"A system cannot understand itself."

"A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves in the Western world, components become selfish, competitive. We cannot afford the destructive effect of competition."

"All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride."

"A manager of people needs to understand that all people are different. This is not ranking people. He needs to understand that the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system that he works in, the responsibility of management."

"Any manager can do well in an expanding market."

"A system is a network of interdependent components that work together to try to accomplish the aim of the system. A system must have an aim. Without the aim, there is no system."

"Defects are not free. Somebody makes them, and gets paid for making them."

"Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service."

"Choice of aim is clearly a matter of clarification of values, especially on the choice between possible options."

"Competition should not be for a share of the market-but to expand the market."

"Confusing common causes with special causes will only make things worse."

"Does experience help? NO! Not if we are doing the wrong things."

"Experience by itself teaches nothing... Without theory, experience has no meaning. Without theory, one has no questions to ask. Hence, without theory, there is no learning."

"Eliminate numerical quotas, including Management by Objectives."

"For Quality: Stamp out fires, automate, computerize, M.B.O., install merit pay, rank people, best efforts, zero defects. WRONG!!!! Missing ingredient: profound knowledge."

"Foremost is the principle that the purpose of consumer research is to understand the customer's needs and wishes, and thus design product and service that will provide better living for him in the future. A second principle is that no one can guess the future loss of business from a dissatisfied customer."

"Hold everybody accountable? Ridiculous!"

"I think that people here expect miracles. American management thinks that they can just copy from Japan—but they don't know what to copy!"

"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing."

"If you stay in this world, you will never learn another one."

"If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing."

"Information is not knowledge. Let’s not confuse the two."

"In God we trust; all others bring data."

"In Europe and in America, people are now more interested in the cost of quality and in systems of quality-audit. But in Japan, we are keeping very strong interest to improve quality by use of methods which you started....when we improve quality we also improve productivity, just as you told us in 1950 would happen."

"Innovation comes from the producer - not from the customer."

"It does not happen all at once. There is no instant pudding."

"It is important that an aim never be defined in terms of activity or methods. It must always relate directly to how life is better for everyone. . . . The aim of the system must be clear to everyone in the system. The aim must include plans for the future. The aim is a value judgment."

"It is leadership's responsibility to give detailed specifications. Train people until they are in statistical control (until they are achieving as much as they can within the limits of the system you are using). Create teams that develop an esprit. Make personal self-improvement a company goal."

"It is not enough to do your best; you must know what to do, and THEN do your best."

"It's management's job to know."

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."

"Knowledge is theory. We should be thankful if action of management is based on theory. Knowledge has temporal spread. Information is not knowledge. The world is drowning in information but is slow in acquisition of knowledge. There is no substitute for knowledge."

"Let us ask our suppliers to come and help us to solve our problems."

"Management’s job. It is management’s job to direct the efforts of all components toward the aim of the system. The first step is clarification: everyone in the organization must understand the aim of the system, and how to direct his efforts toward it. Everyone must understand the damage and loss to the whole organization from a team that seeks to become a selfish, independent, profit centre."

"Our customers should take joy in our products and services."

"Part of America's industrial problems is the aim of its corporate managers. Most American executives think they are in the business to make money, rather than products or service...The Japanese corporate credo, on the other hand, is that a company should become the world's most efficient provider of whatever product and service it offers. Once it becomes the world leader and continues to offer good products, profits follow."

"Lack of knowledge – that is the problem."

"Management by results is confusing special causes with common causes."

"Management does not know what a system is."

"People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-esteem, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning."

"Profit in business comes from repeat customers, customers that boast about your project or service, and that bring friends with them."

"People work in the system. Management creates the system."

"Quality is everyone's responsibility."

"Quality starts in the boardroom."

"Rational behavior requires theory. Reactive behavior requires only reflex action."

"Quality is everything. It is the basis for the joy of work. It is the reason anyone wants your product. It will keep you in business, which is your objective."

"Teamwork should be based on knowledge, design, redesign and redesign. Constant improvement is everyone's responsibility. Most causes of low quality and productivity are system design problems."

"That's all window dressing. That's not fundamental. That's not getting at change and the transformation that must take place. Sure we have to solve problems. Certainly stamp out the fire. Stamp out the fire and get nowhere. Stamp out the fires puts us back to where we were in the first place. Taking action on the basis of results without theory of knowledge, without theory of variation, without knowledge about a system. Anything goes wrong, do something about it, overreacting; acting without knowledge, the effect is to make things worse. With the best of intentions and best efforts, managing by results is, in effect, exactly the same, as Dr. Myron Tribus put it, while driving your automobile, keeping your eye on the rear view mirror, what would happen? And that's what management by results is, keeping your eye on results."