Deming’s Principles of Training and Leadership

Edwards Deming

Edwards Deming


Today let’s have a short discussion on training and leadership as it pertains to the W. Edwards Deming training and leadership model. The aim of leadership is simply to improve the performance of man and machine. If done correctly the results will be improved quality, increased production and instill pride of ownership.


I’m particularly fond of the Deming model because leaders recognize that the system not the worker is responsible for most defects. Thus a leader’s main responsibility is to improve the process.

Improving the process means creating stability (through repeatable robust procedures) and control not perfection. Without even knowing you, your product or your company I can guess the following. Your goal is zero defects, 100 percent on time delivery and inventory levels that are defined by one word “less”. Who doesn’t want this holy grail of performance?

The problem is most companies’ processes are in a state of reactive chaos thus they never really know where they stand in regard to performance. A manufacturer’s production strategy is much different at beginning of a fiscal period than at the end. Every employee knows when its end of month, end of quarter or year end. Why is there so much variation?

Deming would call this chaos caused by dependence on short term goals. If the process is out of control than how can leaders maintain proper linkage and flow required to manage and control production. Training in these environments is typically extensive.The problem is that the training assumes there are robust and repeatable processes in place.

Deming used statistics to control, maintain and improve processes. It’s next to impossible to find your upper and lower control limits when processes are out of control. Could you imagine running 110 hurdles with the distance between each hurdle changing each race? One could make the case the distance and number of hurdles are the same therefore the runner should just adjust. In the hurdle example it’s obvious the process is causing failure but what about on the shop floor.

Uneven workloads are similar to moving hurdles. No work at beginning of week then overtime and rush at the end. The workers are made to adjust similar to the runner in the hurdling example. Leaders today must focus on stabilizing the process and reduce the dependence on short term monetary goals.

Simply mandating numerical goals won’t improve your processes it just exacerbates Deming’s second deadly disease the emphasis on short term profits.

What has your experience been in regard to training and leadership? Do you have any thoughts or best practices to share?

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