Deming's Point Five

Constantly and forever improve every process...

The fifth of Dr. W. Edwards Deming's 14 Points for Management reads, "Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and service."

♦ Find problems in the system.  Don't wait for things to go wrong.

♦ The quality desired starts with the intent, which is fixed by management.

♦ Mere allocation of huge sums of money for quality will not bring quality.  There is no substitute for knowledge.

♦ We in America worried about specifications.  Meet the specifications.  In contrast, the Japanese have worried about uniformity, working for less and less variation.  (John Betti, Ford Motor Company)

♦ Point 5 is perhaps the most glaring difference between the Deming management system and so-called Six Sigma.  Most Six Sigma DMAIC project charters include a problem statement.  Solving problems does not necessarily improve a process.  Improving processes prevents problems.

♦ Six Sigma also substitutes Cpk targets for specifications.  In many organizations, a Cpk of 1.33 is "good enough," just as meeting specification was once "good enough."

♦ Whoever said Six Sigma capability is an impressive level of process quality?  In the late 1980s, the first Ford Escort transmissions Mazda ever made came in at greater than Eleven Sigma capability!  One Ford quality engineer observed, "Our definition of quality is conformance to print, conformance to specification. Their definition of quality is every part alike."

♦ Thus, Six Sigma can prove to be a recipe for mediocrity.  Deming really meant what he said when he wrote, "Improve constantly and forever every process..."

Manager of a job shop:  "We make only about twenty-five at a time.  How can we use quality control?"

Dr. Lloyd Nelson:  "You are thinking the wrong way.  You are thinking about measuring waste and productivity at the end.  It is better to work on the processes..."

Is every job in a job shop done better than the one before?  Is there continual improvement in methods?  ...Is there continual improvement of materials, selection of new employees, of the skills of people at work on the job, and of repeated operations?


W.E. Deming, Out of the Crisis, MIT Center for Advanced Engineering Study, Cambridge, MA (1986), pp. 49-50.

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