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Edwards Deming and the Deming Prize
Hi, this is Mike Negami, Lean Sigma Black Belt.
In order to understand a subject well and deeply, it’s very valuable to study its history. Therefore, I’ve started a new series, “Kaizen Hero Biographies” to introduce great people who contribute to World Kaizen. The first memorable Kaizen Hero is the Father of Quality Management in Japan – Edwards Deming.
If you’re in the manufacturing industry, you may have heard of the “Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award”, which was established in 1988 in the US. There is another similar award, called “The Deming Prize”, which was established in 1951 in Japan.
Deming saved Japanese manufacturing industry.
Dr. Deming was an American statistician and consultant. In 1947, just after World War II, he came to Japan for the first time to assist with the Japanese Census at the US Army’s request.
At that time, Japanese products were a byword for inferior products. Top Japanese executives were desperate for any help toward a mile-wide gap from American companies. Therefore, those executives asked Dr. Deming, who is also an expert in quality control, for a seminar. It was said that Dr. Deming had a bit of anxiety.
At that time, American products were number one in the world by a longshot. American company executives were not interested in the importance of quality control, which Dr. Deming was teaching, at all.
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Dr. Deming was not well-known. It was not because his teaching had no value, but because it was too advanced, so it had been ignored. He was also disappointed by the American companies.
In that circumstance, when he was asked to hold the seminar in Japan, he was anxious that he might be misunderstood and ignored again. However, that concern was gone very soon. After the seminar, diligent Japanese company executives came to him. He taught them not only quality control but also quality management methods. For him, this was the first experience of group of people who eagerly listened to his teaching.
Deming’s Seminar in Tokyo in 1950
Another thing that surprised him was that even blue-collar regular Japanese laborers had high mathematics skills that were needed to do his methodology. Also it’s been said that he was overwhelmed by the fact that all employees, from executives to front line workers, had the same goal.
He and the Japanese people nurtured their friendship and he visited Japan almost every year. Afterward, Japan achieved rapid economic growth and even exceeded the US’s manufacturing companies.
Deming’s Great Contribution in the US
His dramatic story continued. At the late 1970’s, American companies, which fell behind the Japanese companies, visited and studied Japanese businesses. When they visited factories, also many Japanese talked about Dr. Deming. They found that an unheard-of statistician from the US had become the quality control guru of Japan.
After that, a documentary TV show about him, “If Japan Can Why Can’t We”, was broadcast in 1980 in the US and he came into the spotlight.
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Dr. Deming started having nation-wide seminars at 80 years old while in a wheelchair. He continued seminars until the year he passed away, and published his last book that same year. He was 93 years old.
Because of his contribution, statistical quality control methods have spread in the US. That was the foundation for Six Sigma to be born. That means because of him, I have a job as a Black Belt in the US.
It’s said that he was always polite and lived modestly. There were quite a lot of royalties from his book sales in Japan, but he declined to receive the royalties. Then, the Deming Prize was established funded by those royalties. He was a genuine person. His teaching can apply to service and non-manufacturing industries too. I hope that the day will come soon when people who are not in the manufacturing industry also appreciate his contributions.
Today was the first “Kaizen Hero Biographies” and I talked about Dr. Edwards Deming.
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