Reviewed by Robert F. MulliganTitle: "Dr. Deming: The American Who Taught the Japanese about Quality"
Author: Rafael Aguayo, with a forward by W. Edwards Deming
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 287 pages
Reading time: 20 hours
Reading rating: 9 (1=very hard, 10=very easy)
Overall rating: 4 (1=average, 4=outstanding)
Special to the Asheville Citizen-Times
In "Dr. Deming," Rafael Aguayo provides an outstanding introduction to the total quality management philosophy of the late W. Edwards Deming. Aguayo provides a brief and painless introduction divided into twenty easy-reading chapters.
Just after World War II, Deming was invited by the Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) to give a series of lectures on management's role in providing quality, and the world has not been the same since. Deming donated his speaking fees back to the JUSE to establish the Deming Prize, the most prestigious award a business or individual can win in Japan.
More importantly, the Japanese managers took Deming's message to heart, which is briefly that if management does not lead, the organization is doomed. The assembly-line workforce may be blamed for bad management, but the true blame is always with management. For many years Deming was far better known in Japan, where he remains a national hero, than in the U.S.
In Deming's view, quality in providing a good or service - and the lack of it - is made in the boardroom, not on the assembly line. Deming started from a manufacturing environment which depended on inspecting all output. He argued inspection was too late. It was not foolproof against shipping defective pieces to customers.
He pointed out it was cheaper to design and redesign the process to avoid defects, while taking advantage of input from everyone who participates in the process, including suppliers, workers, and customers, making inspection superfluous.
One of Deming's favorite exhortations was to "drive out fear." Employees must not be afraid to speak up - they're giving free advice from someone who knows the firm's manufacturing process, as well as the personal strengths and weaknesses of the firm's workforce.
Workers should be encouraged to innovate and make suggestions for improving quality. In most cases, Deming observed, they are actively discouraged.
Deming observed many situations where dramatic gains in productivity were realized just by explaining to workers what was expected from them. Management had never bothered to tell workers exactly what they wanted them to do!
Typically, for every bad worker a firm hires, 10-20 good workers have been excluded from consideration for the same job. Management is the leading cause of low productivity. Deming said workers account for no more than five to ten percent.
"Dr. Deming" is a quick and painless introduction to the quality management philosophy. It packs an immense substance in relatively few pages and will whet the reader's appetite for more quality literature, like Deming's own monumental "Out of the Crisis."
Robert F. Mulligan is visiting assistant professor of economics, finance, and international business in the College of Business at Western Carolina University. His research interests are monetary and international economics and he is a fierce fan of the Asheville Smoke. For previously reviewed books, visit our web site at www.wcu.edu/cob/bookreviews.