THE MAN WHO DISCOVERED QUALITY: The Management Genius of W. Edwards Deming by Andrea Gabor

THE MAN WHO DISCOVERED QUALITY: The Management Genius of W. Edwards Deming

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A prophet largely without honor in his own country until recent years, W. Edwards Deming has been considered a national treasure in Japan since the post-WW II occupation. And no wonder; his precepts on quality assurance played a key role in the island nation's emergence as a ranking industrial power. Gabor, a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report, offers an accessible, evenhanded appreciation that puts a remarkable man and his demanding, albeit increasingly influential, counsel into clear perspective. Deming (who turns 90 in October) does not promise rose gardens. Indeed, his canon, deeply rooted in statistical-sampling theory, is an exacting, never-ending proposition that, among over a dozen explicitly stated objectives, stresses constancy of purpose. Enterprises that embrace Deming's methods must learn to understand variation and how to control as well as reduce it. Such organizations are also obliged to make ongoing improvements in the way they produce their goods and/or deliver services. This approach, which puts a premium on customer interests, requires a genuine commitment from top executives, who must wholeheartedly enlist the cooperation of subordinates. The payoffs for designing (rather than inspecting) quality into a product or process can be considerable, ranging from lower costs and greater efficiency through an enhanced capacity to compete in the global marketplace. Gabor gained the confidence of her still busy subject and managers at many of his client companies in North America (e.g., Ford, Florida Power & Light, General Motors, Xerox, etc.). Accordingly, she is able to provide tellingly detailed case studies on how Deming's principles work (or fail to) in engineering departments, on shop floors, and along mahogany rows. Paradoxically, perhaps, Deming seems not always to practice what he preaches. By Gabor's account, at any rate, the apostle of harmony (though courtly in social settings) can be abrupt and abrasive with slow learners. A fine introduction to a consequential management gum and his deceptively simple doctrines.

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 1990
Publisher: Times Books