I’ve noticed over recent years there is a slow loss of memory of those who preceded us in various disciplines. I often ask people to raise their hands if they know people such as Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and invariably these days, hardly anyone remembers.

So, let me remind us all of those who preceded us and on whose shoulders we all stand.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Dr. W. Edwards Deming was a prominent figure in the field of quality management and is widely recognised for his substantial contributions to the post-World War II industrial revival of Japan. His work history, rise to fame, and key achievements reflect a deep commitment to improving organisational efficiency and quality.

Early Career and Work History

Born in 1900 in Sioux City, Iowa, Deming was an accomplished statistician, professor, and author. He began his career in the early 1920s, working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then the Census Bureau. His expertise in statistical analysis and quality control techniques formed the foundation of his later work.

Contribution to Quality Management

Deming’s approach to quality management emphasised statistical control methods. In the 1940s, he was involved in wartime production and helped develop techniques for quality control of munitions and other materials critical to the war effort.

Rise to Fame in Japan

After World War II, Deming’s work took a pivotal turn when he was invited to Japan by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). In 1950, he conducted a series of lectures on statistical quality control methods and management practices. His teachings focused on improving production, embracing new learning, and understanding the market and customer needs.

His impact in Japan was profound. Deming’s methods helped transform Japan’s manufacturing industry, turning it into a world leader in quality and efficiency. This transformation was starkly evident in the global success of Japanese automotive and electronics industries in the subsequent decades.

Deming’s Philosophy and the Deming Prize

Deming’s philosophy was holistic, focusing not just on technical aspects of quality but also on leadership and management practices. He believed in the importance of a systemic approach to problem-solving and continuous improvement, later epitomised in his famous Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle.

In honour of his contributions, the JUSE established the Deming Prize in 1951, an annual award for businesses that demonstrate excellence in quality management.

Key Achievements and Legacy

Deming’s most significant achievements include:

1. The 14 Points for Management:

A set of management practices promoting quality, productivity, and competitive position.

2. System of Profound Knowledge:

A management philosophy that includes appreciation for a system, knowledge about variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology.

3. Impact on the Total Quality Management (TQM) Movement:

His principles were fundamental in shaping the TQM movement, which focuses on long-term success through customer satisfaction.

In the United States, Deming’s ideas gained substantial traction in the 1980s, particularly in the automotive industry, as American companies sought to compete with Japanese manufacturers.


Dr. W. Edwards Deming passed away in 1993, but his legacy continues. His methodologies and principles remain integral to quality management practices worldwide, and his impact on the global manufacturing landscape is indelible. Deming’s work not only revolutionised industries but also left a lasting mark on how organisations view quality, efficiency, and management.

More Information

This article was written by George Lee Sye, author of Australia’s best selling lean six sigma body of knowledge – Process Mastery with Lean Six Sigma. For more information CLICK HERE where you’ll discover why this is one of the most important text books in the business improvement world today.


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