Dr. Deming ’s Admonitions
An Excerpt from Heart and Mind
by Robert E. Podolsky
in 1950 Dr. W. Edwards Deming transformed the world of industry. He did this by teaching the Japanese how to succeed in making products that would outsell those of all other nations. At that time “made in Japan” meant “cheap shoddy imitation” to most people around the world. Five years later Dr. Deming’s advice had made Japanese industry a force to be reckoned with in the world marketplace. Today, fifty years later, the Japanese credit Deming’s advice with their clearly dominant position in the world of manufacturing. How ironic it is that American auto manufacturers had laughed at Dr. Deming when he offered to teach them the wisdom of what he called “statistical quality control”.
Although revered in Japan Dr. Deming remained little known in the U.S. until recently. Now some American industrialists are scurrying to learn and apply what he taught the Japanese in 1950. If it were not for the work of a few dedicated authors, Dr. Deming’s work might still be unknown in the U.S. today. In the five to ten years before his death in 1993 Dr. Deming formulated an American version of his advice to the Japanese. It contains all the valuable information to which the Japanese were privy as well as some advice specific to the needs of American industry. In this formulation, as reported in Mary Walton ‘s excellent book, the advice consists of fourteen “points”, seven “deadly diseases”, and four “obstacles” for American industry to be concerned about. For convenience sake we refer to this body of knowledge collectively as Dr. Deming’s twenty-five “Admonitions”.
It is my contention that these Admonitions are not just a convenient set of guidelines for the improvement of industry; but rather they constitute, together with the Japanese experience in applying them, the living proof of the validity of a broader set of principles from which the Admonitions can be logically derived. This broader set of principles, which I call the Bill of Ethics, may have the power to do for all humankind what the Admonitions have done for Japanese industry. If this premise proves correct it could spell the difference between human extinction and the long-range success of the human species.
In the pages that follow I intend first to describe briefly the Admonitions and their significance. Then I will turn our attention to the Bill of Ethics and briefly talk about its origins and structure; and identify the parts of it that are directly applicable to the derivation of the Admonitions. Next I will derive a simplified form of the admonitions that is logically equivalent to the original form, but simpler to deal with as a logical entity. Then I will set forth a reasonable credibility argument to the effect that each and every useful part of the Admonitions is demonstrably derivable from no more than six parts of the Bill of Ethics and possibly from as few as two. I find this credibility argument so compelling that I shall leave it to others to set forth a more rigorous proof thereof. Naturally, I also invite opinions to the contrary. Finally I intend to address the “So what?” concerning this derivation and discuss the reasons I think that its general acceptance could be an important turning point for humanity.
The Significance of Dr. Deming’s Admonitions
Each year the Japanese government awards The Deming Prize to businesses and individuals who have made outstanding achievements in applying Dr. Deming’s Admonitions. In years when no significant advances have been made no prize is awarded. The Deming Prize is arguably the most sought after award in Japan . Everyone who works in Japan knows about it and strives to receive its award. Its recipients are given the highest respect the Japanese can confer. While American students are saluting the flag Japanese children learn to recite the Admonitions.
In part this preoccupation of the Japanese is a celebration of their success on the battlefield of commerce; a vindication, if you will, of the ignominy of their defeat in W.W.II. But more than that, it is a celebration of the day-to-day experience of working in an environment that protects, nurtures, and appreciates them. It is emotionally rewarding to work for a company that takes the admonitions seriously. Point number seven is “Institute Leadership – Help people to do a better job”. Point number eight is “Drive out fear”. Point number eleven is “Eliminate numerical quotas”. Number twelve is “Remove barriers to pride of workmanship”. The third Deadly Disease is merit ratings and annual performance reviews. The Japanese have eliminated them. In the resulting environment workers experience a bond with the company and work as if they owned it. This includes making numerous suggestions for improvement of every feature of the work experience. Experimentation is commonplace in this environment because workers and managers are not afraid to make mistakes in their joint search for a better way. They become partners rather than adversaries.
If American unions really cared about the well being of their members they would demand that the workplace be Demingized. If they got their way the unions would have to disband because their adversarial stance would be a barrier to the effective application of the Admonitions. Japanese factories in the United States are run in this same way. They are never unionized. Who needs a union to speak for them when they can speak for themselves and be heard by sympathetic ears? The Demingized work environment, also known as the Total Quality work environment, is a joy to be a part of compared with traditional authoritarian workplaces. Workers in this setting generally feel valued, appreciated for their ideas and opinions, rewarded for their efforts, and inherently belonging to their society. Accordingly they feel safe and happy most of the time.
The key to understanding the extraordinary power of Dr. Deming’s Admonitions is the recognition that they constitute more than a recipe for profitability. Success is more than making money. It involves optimizing as much as possible the quality of life of all involved. For a business it means attending conscientiously to the needs of the company’s suppliers, customers, employees, sales force, and advertisers: In short, everyone who comes in contact with the company; and not just the company’s owners. If you think this through, as I have, you recognize that the adoption of Dr. Deming’s Admonitions requires a company to become more aware of and more responsive to the personal wishes of all of these people. To accomplish this a company has to make a moral commitment to a higher standard of ethics than does the company that runs according to hierarchically authoritarian principles. In organizational development terms, the culture of the organization must become ethical. An organization’s culture is the model employed to standardize the relationship between a supervisor and a supervisee. We will have more to say about this later.
About the Bill of Ethics
Dr. Deming ‘s Admonitions can be derived from the Bill of Ethics, and prove that the Ethics is at least a logically equivalent statement. In fact I will show that the Ethics is a far more general and far-reaching statement; that Dr. Deming’s Admonitions constitute only a small subset of the logical consequences of the Ethics. Moreover, since it is generally agreed that a form of the Admonitions has beneficially transformed Japanese industry, it is a small step inductively to suspect that a similarly committed application of the Ethics might have a vastly greater set of benefits to offer the nation that took the Ethics as seriously as the Japanese took the Admonitions. For this reason it is important to understand the Ethics somewhat before going through the formal steps of the derivation.
For a complete description of the thinking that culminated in the Ethics one can read MAKE IT SO! and the text of the Bill of Ethics itself. More briefly, Gregory R. Sulliger and I wrote the Ethics as a result of a detailed study that we performed from 1985 to 1992. In this study we analyzed the problems that our species seems to face and looked for plausible solutions to them. Worldwide adoption of the Ethics or its logical equivalent is the only solution we have found so far that appears to be both necessary and sufficient to a thriving humanity. We don’t doubt that there are many other possible solutions, but we suspect that most of them will prove to be the logical equivalents of the Ethics. Such logical equivalents are to be highly valued, because individuals who will not take seriously the Ethics in its present form will take some of them seriously.
In 1992, when we set down the Bill of Ethics in its present form, we actually wrote three versions of it: The first is a proposed amendment to the Oregon state constitution; the second is a proposed amendment to the US constitution; and the third is a generic form that can be adopted as an amendment to the constitution or bylaws of any organization. It is this latter form that is included in this document. At that time we had heard of Dr. Deming’s work but were unfamiliar with its content. When we started reading the Admonitions we realized that Dr. Deming had caused significant portions of the Ethics to be put into practice on a massive scale in Japan. The success of the Japanese experiment was “proof” of the validity of our work. We put quotes around the word, “proof” in recognition of the fact that the Japanese experiment has not tested all of the logical consequences of the Ethics, only some of them. In fact it has not tested all the consequences of the Admonitions. One cannot know all the logical consequences of any statement with certainty.
Dr. Deming ‘s Admonitions have been demonstrated to be “true” by the great experiment of the Japanese. I have written this chapter to assert that the Admonitions are part of a greater “truth” that we have described in the Bill of Ethics. There are two parts to this statement. The first is that the Admonitions are logically contained in the Ethics. The second is to demonstrate the “truth” of the Ethics. The first is just an exercise in logic. The second can only be accomplished by experiment. The point to be made concerning this is that the Japanese experiment demonstrates the “truth” of the portion of the Ethics contained in the Admonitions. If this seems unclear consider the definition of “true” information. Information is said to be true if belief that it is true increases one’s ability to detect, predict, and initiate causal relationships between events in the observable universe. Information is said to be false if belief that it is true limits or reduces one’s ability to detect, predict, and initiate causal relationships between such events. If information is neither true nor false it is said to be trivial. Most valuable information is not true under all circumstances. If the description of those circumstances under which a statement is true are made part of the statement, the truth of that statement becomes very well defined. The statement, “Success will be attained by the company that properly applies the Admonitions”, has been proven true for many industrial companies in Japan . Early results from American companies attempting the same experiment indicate that the statement is probably true for American companies as well.
Now consider the statement, “Success will be attained by the company that properly applies the Ethics. If our logic (yet to be stated) is correct, we know this statement to be true within the same limits for which the previous statement is true; because the Admonitions are contained in the Ethics. This fact makes the Ethics very credible. Based on this line of reasoning we pose the question: What if the statement, “Success will be attained by the organization, government, or species that properly applies the Ethics” is at least equally true? We suspect it is generally true. My goal is to see the relevant experiments performed. I will return to this line of reasoning in the “So What?” section concluding this chapter. Meanwhile, just consider: What if….. ?
Restating Dr. Demings Admonitions
Before attempting to derive Dr. Deming’s Admonitions I shall first examine them and restate them somewhat without changing their meaning. As described on page 34 of Mary Walton’s book they consist of fourteen “points” to be embodied by the successful business, seven “deadly diseases” to be cured and/or avoided, and four “obstacles” to be overcome. As presented they are:
1. Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service.
2. Adopt the new philosophy [the Admonitions]: Mistakes and negativism are unacceptable.
3. Cease dependence on mass inspection.
4. End the practice of awarding business on price tag alone.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service.
6. Institute training. Teach workers to do their jobs.
7. Institute leadership. Help people to do a better job.
8. Drive out fear.
9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.
11. Eliminate numerical quotas.
12. Remove barriers to pride of workmanship.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and retraining. Stress teamwork and statistical technique.
14. Take action to accomplish the transformation.
SEVEN DEADLY DISEASES
1. Lack of constancy of purpose.
2. Emphasis on short-term profits.
3. Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance.
4. Mobility of management.
5. Running a company on visible figures alone.
6. Excessive medical costs.
7. Excessive costs of warranty fueled by lawyers that work for contingency fees.
FOUR OBSTACLES [THAT THWART PRODUCTIVITY]
1. Neglect of long range planning.
2. Relying on technology to solve problems.
3. Seeking examples to follow, rather than developing solutions [to problems].
4. Excuses. The belief that, “Our problems are different…”
Now we shall examine and restate these twenty-five Admonitions to make them susceptible to derivation. For starters let’s look at Deadly Diseases (6) and (7). We note that these are not features of the company being admonished; nor are they societal features in which any one company can effect change. They are, if anything admonitions to our society at large, not to a company per se. A society that properly applied the Ethics might cure these “diseases”; but these two admonitions have no relevance to the individual company; so we delete them from further discussion. Now we have only twenty-three Admonitions with which to deal.
Note that Points (6) and (13) both deal with education. We can combine them into the Admonition: “Institute a vigorous program of education, training, and retraining. Teach workers to do their jobs. Stress teamwork and statistical technique”. Now there are twenty-one Admonitions with no loss of information.
Finally, we note that there are really only six independent Admonitions, two of which imply the remaining fifteen; as follows.
1. Adopt the new philosophy. Accept the Admonitions.
2. Take action. Accomplish the transformation [implied by the admonitions].
3. Commit to constantly and forever improve the product, the service, and the system that provides them.
4. Institute vigorous education, training, and retraining of workers to do their jobs. Stress teamwork and statistical technique.
5. Institute leadership.
a. Help people do a better job.
b. Encourage pride of workmanship.
c. Provide both opportunity and security, thereby reducing mobility of management.
d. Engage in long range planning.
e. Improve communication and cooperation between staff areas and between people.
6. Do what works; stop doing what doesn’t work.
a. Stop mass inspection.
b. Stop basing long-range decisions on short-term profits.
c. Stop trying to motivate workers with slogans, targets, and exhortations.
d. Stop relying on technology to solve problems.
e. Stop following examples; develop solutions.
f. Stop purchasing based on price tag alone.
g. Drive out fear; stop intimidating your personnel.
(1) Stop using numerical quotas as “motivation”.
(2) Stop using performance evaluations or reviews.
It is interesting to note that “Institute leadership” (number 5.) is a rather vague admonition. Admonitions (5.a.) through (5.e.) may be seen as a definition of sorts for the word “leadership”. Of course we see that if the company receiving the admonition already knows this definition, then (5.a.) through (5.e.) are redundant. They could be eliminated without loss.
Admonition number (6.) is really a common sense notion. Do what works. Don’t do what doesn’t work. As strange as it may seem, this is one of the most important of the Admonitions. In hierarchies generally, and in bureaucracies particularly, the decision to knowingly do what does not work is very common, even more so in government and non-profit bureaucracies than in industrial bureaucracies. Still it is common enough in industry to merit special attention.
I define the process of bureaucratization as the systematic elimination, destruction, or avoidance of corrective feedback. The noun, “bureaucracy” therefore means an organization of two or more people in which corrective feedback is systematically destroyed. As workers we withhold corrective feedback from our authoritarian “superiors” when we fear the consequences of being heard more than the consequences of remaining silent. Dr. Deming observed that the behaviors listed in (6.a.) through (6.g.) do not work. Given enough time they will destroy the motivation and morale, and hence the effectiveness, of any organization. Any thoughtful person who has spent more than a day in a bureaucratic work environment knows that the proof of this statement is visible in millions of instances (experiments) each day. The industry of Japan is proof that companies that de-bureaucratize in this sense are vastly more successful than those that don’t. Surely these statements conform to our stated definition of “truth and Falsehood”.
Do you accept the six revised “points”, including the corollaries of point (5.) and point (6.), as a full and adequate statement of Dr. Deming’s Admonitions; and agree that they are the logical equivalent of the original twenty-five points; and that they contain no more and no less information than the original twenty-five? If not please let us hear from you. If so let’s move on to a discussion of how the Ethics yields the same information…and more.
The Bill of Ethics Revisited
The Bill of Ethics defines an ethical act as one that increases creativity or any of its logical equivalents for someone without limiting or diminishing these resources for any person. Conversely, an act that limits or diminishes these resources for any person is unethical no matter who benefits from it. The various principles that follow this definition are logical consequences of the definition. In this sense it would be correct to say that all the principles and admonitions that can be derived from the Ethics are derivable from the definition alone. For the sake of clarity of exposition we will specify the derived principles that lead us to Deming’s Admonitions though we understand that while they are collectively sufficient to the derivation they may not all be necessary to it. The resulting redundancy is the result of the commonality of the source from which they derive. In other words the principles derived from the definition of the Ethics are not entirely independent of one another. I include them all here because they may be necessary to the readers understanding of the derivation, if not to the derivation itself. Accordingly I include six derived principles of the Ethics each of which, with one exception, has a relevant corollary.
They are as follows:
X. Section (1.1.) admonishes us to commit to the pursuit of ethical purposes by ethical means. Its corollary Section (3.01) requires us if so committed to maximize creativity and all of its discernible logical equivalents.
A. Section (3.03) advises us that any act that diminishes or limits another person’s creativity is unethical. The corollary (3.06) states that unethical means can never achieve ethical ends.
B. Section (3.07) notes that failure to take ethical action when we are able to do so is unethical. Its corollary (3.08) states that it is unethical to tolerate unethical behavior. Note that this principle derives most easily from Ethic (X.) above. Failure to take ethical action when we are able to do so would violate the commitment to maximize creativity.
C. Section (3.09) tells us that it is ethical to learn for only by doing so can we maximize our own awareness and access to objective truth; both of which are logical equivalents of creativity. The corollary (3.10) is that it is ethical to doubt; for doubt is the seed of which curiosity is the life force and new objective truth is the fruit. Again we see (X.) above leads to the necessity of (C.).
E. Section (4.1) states that the proper (ethical) role of laws, rules, regulations, and (by logical extension) standardized procedures is the empowerment of those persons who have made a moral commitment to live their lives as ethically as they can; who have in effect embraced the Ethics. This section does not have a relevant corollary. While this principle derives directly from the definitions of the Ethics we note that enforcement of any law, rule, or regulation that does not empower creativity must to some degree diminish it. This would violate Ethic (A.) above and would be unethical.
P. Section (4.2) states that it is the further proper (ethical) role of laws, rules, etc. to prohibit unethical behavior by most ethical means possible. Corollary to this Section (4.3) states that it is never the proper role of laws, rules, etc. to intrude, coerce, or interfere in the lives of anyone except as is truly necessary in order to accomplish the aims of Section (4.2) above…such intrusion even then to be that which is minimally required.
Referring to the above excerpts from the Ethics as Ethic X, Ethic A, Ethic B, Ethic C, Ethic E, and Ethic P we are now ready to actually perform the derivation of Dr. Deming ‘s Admonitions.
Let’s start with the first two Admonitions on the revised list. Assume we make the commitment of Ethic X and that we work for a company in which we have the opportunity to behave in accordance with the first two Admonitions. Can we now not adopt the new philosophy? If all the other Admonitions are derivable from the Ethics we have already adopted the new philosophy. On this one let’s wait and see. As for admonition (2), which tells us to take action and accomplish the transformation; clearly Ethic B specifically requires us to engage in ethical action whenever we can. Not to do so would be unethical.
Admonition (3) on the revised list tells us to commit to constant and perpetual improvement of the company’s product, service, and the system that provides them. This can be seen to be a direct consequence of Ethic X. To see this ask yourself, “How would we recognize an ‘improvement’ if we saw one. The obvious answer is that someone would have to benefit by it. We recognize a benefit by seeing an increase in creativity or one of its logical equivalents. In other words, Ethic X applied to the workplace requires exactly the same behavioral response as Admonition (3).
Admonition (4) tells us to institute education and training. This admonition can most easily be deduced from Ethic C. It is ethical to learn; therefore it is ethical to teach, educate, and train. If an employer has the means to provide this resource it would be unethical not to (from Ethic B). This makes the tacit assumption that the information being taught is true in the sense that we have discussed.
If Admonition (5), “Institute leadership” has previously been defined by paragraphs (5.a.) through (5.e.), then this admonition is derivable directly from Ethic XE “Ethics” X. Clearly the terms of paragraphs (5.a.) through (5.e.) are all ethical acts under most circumstances. If “leadership” has not been previously defined in this way we would arrive at the same list of requisite actions in response to Ethic E, which tells us to empower others in their pursuit of ethical goals by ethical means. By examining what it means to “empower” another person we quickly discover that actions (5.a.) through (5.e.) are all necessary conditions for empowerment, though possibly not sufficient in and of themselves.
Objective analysis of American and Japanese industries clearly tells us what works and what doesn’t work in industry. Mass inspection, basing of long term decisions on short term profits, motivation by slogan, fixing the system technically without fixing it organizationally, making excuses, purchasing based on price tag alone, failing to develop solutions while copying models, and all forms of motivation by intimidation don’t work! To require people to participate in a system that does these things would be unethical and would be prohibited in any company that adopted Ethics A and P. Hence Ethics A and P demand the behavior that results from following Admonition (6.).
Finally we return to the consideration of Admonition (1) We see now that by making the commitment to Ethic X we have in fact “adopted the new philosophy. Hence our derivation is complete and we have shown that Dr. Deming ‘s Admonitions are in fact contained in the Bill of Ethics.
As indicated earlier, we define bureaucracy as the systematic elimination, destruction, or avoidance of corrective feedback. In limiting corrective feedback we diminish people’s access to objective truth, which, in the possession of those who act ethically, is one of the logical equivalents of creativity. So any action, which contributes to the bureaucratization of an organization, is unethical. Yet bureaucracy is so widespread and pervasive of human culture as to be seen by the public at large as unavoidable, like “death and taxes”. In my view bureaucracy is the worst manifestation of the second Pernicious Fallacy in the world today. For this reason we applaud Dr. Deming and the legacy of his Admonitions as the greatest innovation in human culture since the “golden rule”. We also applaud the Japanese for having had the courage and the wisdom to attempt the application of the Admonitions on a massive scale.
You recall there were two of Dr. Deming’s Admonitions that dealt with excessive medical costs and excessive costs of warranty. We dismissed these as not relevant to the domain in which most corporate decisions could have any effect. Within that domain we see that the Admonitions form an ethical foundation adequate for most aspects of business. Why then do we imply that there is an advantage to be gained by replacing the Admonitions with the Ethics? If the leaders of a business cannot effect change in medical costs and costs or warranty, who can? Obviously we are addressing the needs of a bigger system here than those of a single business, or even the concatenation of all businesses. There are many organizations to which the Admonitions could not easily be applied; yet to which the Ethics might easily be adapted.
Unions, political parties, clerical groups, charities, research institutions, schools and universities comprise a few groups that are heavily bureaucratized and which would benefit enormously by being de-bureaucratized via the Ethics. Even more in need of such de-bureaucratization are governments and their departments, agencies, bureaus, legislatures, executives, cabinets, and minions in all their various forms. And finally, the most difficult undertaking, the military establishment and its traditionally entrenched hierarchic structures might conceivably be de-bureaucratized one day. A world in which most of these transitions has been achieved would be almost unrecognizable by today’s standards; almost inconceivable. Yet we ask ourselves, “If not in this way, how? If not now, when will peace and opportunity become universally available?”
 See BORG WARS, Chapter 3 by Robert E. Podolsky, Creative Consulting Services and PageFree Publishing, 2004.