Irritatingly superficial and discursive evangelism from a pair of lay preachers touting the quality gospel of W. Edwards Deming as the salvation of a backsliding US. Deming (who died at 93 in December) was a consequential prophet largely without honor in his own country until Dobyns and Crawford-Mason featured him in a 1980 NBC-TV documentary on the emphasis on quality in Japanese business management (Deming was considered a national treasure in Japan). At any rate, the authors became apostles, eventually writing a book about the master's teachings (Quality or Else, not reviewed). In April, moreover, the PBS television network is slated to air a program on Deming, which will be narrated by Dobyns and produced by Crawford-Mason. Viewers and others seeking profounder detail on the Deming canon (which is rooted in statistical-sampling theory) won't find it in the reverential text at hand. After opening with a paean to the all- encompassing virtues of quality assurance, the authors offer a once-over-lightly interpretation of the deceptively simple Deming credo, which sets a demanding 14-point agenda for corporate executives and other managers sincerely committed to renewing and transforming, not simply changing, their organizations. Using past competitions for the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award as a reference point, they go on to cite as object lessons the variant fates of two commercial enterprises that embraced Deming's precepts (constancy of purpose, continuous improvement, elimination of numerical quotes, etc.). These true believers close with a hit-or- miss survey of the socioeconomic benefits that can accrue from adoption of Deming's principles in business, education, government, health care, and even the media. Paradoxically, perhaps, if the authors had adhered to Deming's philosophy in their own work, it might well have been worth a look.
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