What Dr. W. Edwards Deming Can Still Teach Us Today

This week's Wiki-Wednesday topic is an excerpt from th Wikipedi page on Dr. W. Edwards Deming, the American statistician that taught post WWII Japan to manage quality, but wasn't discovered in the U.S. until the very end of his career. Not many business strategies would survive that kind of test of time, but his does.

Here is the very first piece of the Wikipedia article we featured:

"In the 1970s, Dr. Deming's philosophy was summarized by some of his Japanese proponents with the following 'a'-versus-'b' comparison:

(a) When people and organizations focus primarily on quality, defined by the following ratio,
text{Quality} = frac{text{Results of work efforts}}{text{Total costs}}
quality tends to increase and costs fall over time.
(b) However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time."
If you read that statement again, keeping in mind the way that procurement organizations are measured, are viewed by their company, and often view themselves, something interesting jumps out - focusing on cost is not the way to go. Now to be fair, the focus Dr. Deming is talking about is a direct focus by management and workers in a largely manufacturing environment.
That being said, I think there is an opportunity for procurement to bring this idea into project kick off meetings. Here it is: simply ask your stakeholders how they quantifiably measure quality for the product or service being sourced. More and more, the idea of managing risk is popping up as an area where procurement needs to step up and expand their reach and qualifications. But risk is not just supply unavailability, it is supply quality as well. And if you can't measure it, you can't attain it.
I am currently reading one of the biographies on Dr. Deming, The Deming Management Method by Mary Walton. I promise that you will be hearing more about it from me in the coming weeks and months because it is worth hearing. But the idea of measuring and focusing on quality feels like an approach to risk management that involves the entire team early in the process and hopefully results in a better outcome.
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