WILLIAM EDWARDS DEMING Biography - Famous Scientists


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William Edwards Deming was born in Sioux City, Iowa, in the middle of the USA.         
His senior year's mathematics teacher at high school encouraged him to go to           
university, in spite of his parents' slender resources. Eventually he received a       
Ph.D at the Yale university, in the field of Theoretical Physics. Among many           
jobs that were offered to him after university, Deming chose to carry out               
laboratory research in the Department of Agriculture. He worked there for ten           
years, on the development of nitrate fertilizers. At the time, the yields in           
agriculture had made big progress thanks to a new science, modern Statistics. In       
addition , Deming used to give lectures of Statistics at the institute founded         
by the Department of Agriculture for training agricultural engineers.                   
In 1939, Deming joined the Bureau of the Census in Washington. His knowledge of         
Statistics was helpful in the development of a new kind of survey, based on             
sampling. The statistical techniques of the Census were adopted worldwide. In           
1946 he retired from the Administration and became consultant in Statistical           
Studies and Professor of Statistics at New York University.                             
During the Second World War, Deming stayed in Washington and used his knowledge         
for the service of the arms industry. Jointly with his friend Walter A. Shewhart,       
a statistician, a member of the technical staff of the Bell Telephone                   
Laboratories, he organized management seminars at the Stanford University with         
the aim of improving productivity and the quality of military equipment. This           
project was the outcome of studies they had been making together since 1938.           
Their conclusions were radically opposed to the Taylor's management principles.         
Several thousands of engineers and managers from arm factories made the trip to         
Stanford and attended the seminars. The project had a limited impact because the       
senior executives did not commit themselves. Productivity did not improve ;             
quality did not improve ; but Japan was defeated.                                       
In 1947, Deming was sent to Tokyo as advisor to Allied Forces Headquarters on           
the application of his sampling techniques. His stay gave him the opportunity of       
meeting some Japanese managers who had good relations with the Keidanren, the           
large employer's union. They were interested in his management theories which           
they heard about before the war. They invited him to give lectures and seminars         
in Japan. Having learnt from his experience in Stanford, he accepted under the         
condition that general managers attend his lectures. The first lecture was held         
in July 1950. The Japanese industry adopted the Deming management theories             
immediately and ten years later Japanese products started to flood into America.       
The American consumers made no mistake : they were better and cheaper. It's a           
turning point in world history.                                                         
Deming seminar, Tokyo1950                                                               
Until 1980, Deming's theories had been prohibited in American companies because         
their leaders had remained unquestioning followers of Taylor's management               
principles. But an American journalist, Clare Crawford-Mason, made Deming known         
by the general public thanks to a TV programme called "If Japan can, why can't         
we ?". The American CEO's could not ignore him anymore. At the request of many         
senior managers, Deming started to give four day seminars open to the public           
where he explained his ideas in front of several hundred people. From 1981 to           
1993, he gave 250 seminars. It has been stated that 120.000 people attended             
these seminars, an amazing number ! He also gave many lectures in American             
companies which had adopted his management philosophy. Under his influence, the         
management style has profoundly changed for a few years in the United States,           
even if much progress has still to be done.                                             
The Deming's teaching deals with management, not only with quality. Contrary to         
a generally accepted idea, his goal was not to improve the present style of             
management by adding a new component, but to transform management practices from       
top to bottom. The primitive meaning of the verb "manage" is "put a house in           
order and let the occupants live together in harmony". In a company, according         
to Deming, managing means having the processes under control, coordinating the         
operations and preparing the future. He said that management does not concern           
only production and service companies but also public administration and               
education. Since his first seminars in Japan, many universities have been               
teaching management as a science. The Deming Prize is the highest award that a         
company can obtain for its excellence in management.                                   
In English speaking countries, most people are well aware of management                 
practices, even in small companies. On the contrary many people in Latin               
countries restrict management to supervision. It is fortunate that French people       
adopted the English word some decades ago, because some words they had used             
previously were misleading.                                                             
Deming says that the prevailing style of management leads the worlwide economy         
to a dead end, because the emphasis put on competition and leadership by money         
causes huge financial losses, poverty and unemployment. The style of management         
he recommends stresses knowledge, which he considers the most important resource       
a company has. He promotes the idea that companies should develop knowledge in a       
climate of cooperation. This is the goal of the famous Deming's 14 Points.             
Finally it is important to to see that the Deming's style of management is             
extremely favourable 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 behavioural problems in everyday life.       
Incidentally, the 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.                                                                   
In July 1950, Deming addressed the 24 leaders of the Keidanren in his historic         
lecture, and said : "to some extent, my way brings democracy in industry".             
Thousands of examples attest that this new management approach is outstandingly         
helpful to dialogue and achievement of common goals.