Deming's Principles of Total Quality Management (TQM)

-- distilled from his works and 14 points by A. Mead MD --

Clarify your Concept

Define your mission/vision/goal -- aim for constant improvement in the product or service you offer your clients. You cannot do this without maintaining a high level of motivation and satisfaction in the people that comprise your organization -- consider that an aspect of your goal.

Realize your Concept

With clear vision and energetic motivation, make your concept a matter of daily practice:

  • have a long term, not short term profit orientation.
  • find, understand (the causes), and root out the 4 detriments (fear, jealousy, anger, revenge).
  • eliminate practices that undermine workers' self / mutual respect and motivation (production quotas, sloganeering, sexist / racist expressions, favoritism / nepotism).
  • foster all chances for pride of workmanship and sharing in the improvement process.

System & Process Management [the Core of TQM Practice]

Study and understand in ever greater depth the process of production or service that you are delivering. Deming's 85/15 rule: 85% of a worker's effectiveness is determined by the system he works within, only 15% by his own skill. To break down your system into meaningful blocks for analysis, consider your "internal customers" of processes.

  • Look at inputs from suppliers -- when you understand the importance of quality and timeliness in your inputs, you will stop buying on low-bid only.
  • Quantitative analysis of process -- use Statistical Process Control, monitoring of critical variables, charting. Monitor before and after changes. Use Plan/Do/Check/Act cycle repeatedly.
  • Monitor "outputs" throughout -- when doing this, you can cease or de-emphasize end-point inspections. Refine the entire process; make everyone responsible.

Constant Learning

  • Before hiring -- rigorous pre-employment screening.
  • Before working -- rigorous pre-work training.
  • Retrain on the job.
  • Management must constantly learn from entire team as well as clients and competitors.

Teams and Leaders

All levels of the organization must be involved, starting with full commitment at the top. Eliminate organizational and physical barriers to teamwork. Eliminate performance ratings. Emphasize stability and constancy of effort -- steady small gains rather than disruptive crash programs. Avoid unsettling changes without involving whole team. Involve suppliers, help them with Quality management. Involve your clients, get their feedback and ideas. Send your staff to both (suppliers and clients) to learn.

Reap the Rewards

Spread profits to workers as a team (but eliminate merit pay for short term performance). Enlist pride of workers in improving the system; empower people to take charge of work environment, safety issues, etc. Encourage pride of workmanship in delivering the product. Finally: spread what you have learned to the community.

Why this distillation? I.e. What's wrong with the 14 points as is?

Main Deming-related Web Sites:

More important research on Quality Management:

[the following 2 books are still interesting 'studies', but I'm more and more doubtful of their epistemologic validity -- i.e. we observe a given outcome, "long-term Success," find some common properties among the Successful, and attribute a causal connection; implying that if one behaves in certain ways, outcome will be materially improved. Perhaps; but ongoing study of complex system properties, methodologic pitfalls (survivorship bias), and the plethora of cognitive distortions we generate in our "storytelling," has caused me to doubt the theses of these books. I'm more inclined to the view that long-term Success equates to a fortunate stochastic series: right timing, right place, right product / idea, right co-workers. Most crucially, the luck to avoid disastrous (largely random) errors and externalities. Maybe Deming's TQM ideas can be seen as trying to minimize chances of major error ?]'s info on Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.

And another great study by Jim Collins and his team: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't

Permissions: this document is Copyright © A. Mead, 1996, 2016. It may be used for teaching purposes or reprinted in any medium if proper attribution is given. Links from other Quality Management or specific Deming-related sites are welcome.
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Note from the author: All of our efforts should aim for continuous quality improvement. It would violate all the principles on this page if I did not try to keep improving this page as well! My aim here is to summarize the core principles of Mr. Deming's teaching about quality management. If you believe I have distorted or omitted something important, or should phrase something differently, please let me know. For suggestions or comments, email me, Alexander Mead MD: email addr
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