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BIOGRAPHY 22.1 W. Edwards Deming (1900 -1993)

William Edwards Deming was born in Sioux City, Iowa, but grew up in Wyoming, where his father worked as a lawyer and land developer. He studied engineering at the University of Wyoming (B.S. 1921), then physics at the University of Colorado (M.S. 1924), and Yale (Ph.D. 1928). He held positions as a mathematical physicist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and studied with Ronald A. Fisher (Biography 13.1), then helped design the sampling techniques used by the Bureau of the Census. From 1946 on, Deming was a professor of statistics at New York University's Stern School of Business and, since 1986, a professor of management at Columbia. Throughout his long career, he was deeply concerned with the issue of quality control. He lectured on the subject at numerous universities around the world, advised industry, and consulted with governments-from Germany, Greece, and Turkey to China, India, and Mexico. Somehow, he still found time to write hundreds of articles and a number of major books, including Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position (1982) and Out of the Crisis (1986).

Deming's ideas are often encountered in the form of folksy rules such as those that are summarized in the Chapter 22 Preview. They are based on the premise that most product defects result from management shortcomings rather than careless workers, and that inspection after the fact is inferior to designing processes that produce better quality from the start. While he urged reliance on statistics to detect flaws in production processes, his broader management philosophy emphasized problem solving based on cooperation and treating workers not as adversaries, but as associates. Most influential, perhaps, has been his stay, in the 1950s, with the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers in Japan and with the High Commission in Germany. During his stay in Japan, Deming imparted his philosophy of management (which had been treated with disdain in the United States) to top Japanese executives (who received it with enthusiasm). Before long, Japanese products-long known as pure junk around the world-improved dramatically as Japanese industry developed the finest quality control system in the world. Deming has been showered with honors. Among others, he received decorations from the government of Japan, the U.S. President, the American Management Association, and the American Society of Quality Control. Since the 1980s, more and more U.S, corporations sought Deming's advice, including Ford, Dow Chemical, Procter & Gamble, AT&T, and The New York Times. In 1986, he was enshrined in the Engineering and Science Hall of Fame and ever since 1951, the Japanese government has awarded an annual Deming Prize to a company that his made significant contributions to quality. In 1989, the Florida Power and Light Company became the first U.S. firm ever to win that prize.

Sources:Adapted from Whose Who In America, various issues, and John Holusha, "W. Edwards Deming, Expert on Business Management Dies at 93," The New York Times, December 21, 1993, p. B7.


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