Title: "The Deming Management Method"Reviewed by Robert F. Mulligan
Author: Mary Walton, with a forward by W. Edwards Deming
Publisher: Perigee/Putnam Publishing
Length: 262 pages
Reading time: 20 hours
Reading rating: 10 (1=very hard, 10=very easy)
Overall rating: 4 (1=average, 4=outstanding)
Special to the Asheville Citizen-Times
"The Deming Management Method" by Mary Walton is an outstanding introduction to the techniques and total philosophy behind the quality control revolution. It manages to combine a high level of technical detail with an extremely easy-reading, to-the-point writing style.
Walton successfully captures the flavor of Deming's legendary quality management seminars. She gives an excellent description of Deming's famous "red bead" exercise. Deming would recruit a team of seminar participants to produce white beads for a customer who will not accept red ones. Deming served as shop foreman.
White beads were produced by dipping a paddle with fifty holes in a tub of red and white beads. Some red beads were always be "produced." Deming demonstrated the procedure and insisted it be followed without variation. Deming would "produce" some red beads on his paddle, so the workers could see what they looked like.
Then the workers would each produce a daily "run" of beads. Along the way, Deming praised the workers when they produced fewer red beads, and reminded them their job was in jeopardy when they produced more. Absolutely everything about the exercise was beyond the workers' control. After four days, white bead production was always so low he would close down the line.
Deming designed the red bead exercise to combine all the worst features of American industrial management. It was a caricature, and management responded because they saw themselves and the way they treated their workers in the exercise.
In Deming's view, everyone has something to contribute to improving the quality of production. Often, on the basis of lowest bid, a purchasing department buys cheap, low-quality tools workers can't make a quality product with. In the red bead exercise, no innovation was allowed.
Slogans, exhortations, and production targets receive special scorn from Deming. These annoyances persuade employees management isn't serious about producing something worthwhile. They also demonstrate disrespect for worker's intelligence. What should a worker conclude when the firm provides substandard, lowest bidder, materials and tools, and then hires a battery of "corporate cheerleaders" to exhort them to produce high-quality output? They think management is screwed in the head. And they're right.
"The Deming Management Method" is an outstanding book. One of its strengths is the detail in which it introduces statistical techniques of quality control and integrates them into a presentation of Deming's philosophy of total quality management. Everyone in business should read this book, especially managers.
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.