Quality Management 2.0 Blog

Quality 101: Deming's 7 Deadly Diseases of Management

Posted by Ashley Osgood on Dec 29, 2011 @ 09:56 AM

W. Edwards Deming "14 Points" express Deming's philosophy of management: specifically, they break down the need for a working understanding of basic quality management system statistical principles. In addition to Deming's 14 points, he also outlined Seven Deadly Diseases, which describe the most serious barriers that management potentially faces within an organization. Outlined below are his Seven Deadly Diseases of Management, as well as an explanation of each.

1. Lack of constancy of purpose to plan quality management planproduct and service that will have a market and keep the company in business, and provide jobs.

As long as the focus is on short term thinking, management will fail to plan adequately. Without good long term planning, worker efforts will be irrelevant: Total Quality Management (TQM) cannot be a fad, as long-term forward progress should always be the ultimate goal for any organization.

2. Emphasis on short-term profits.

Short-term thinking - the opposite of constancy of purpose - in order to stay in business, fed by fear of the push from bankers and owners for dividends. Boosting short-term profits is easier, at it typically involves the cutting of any expense related to the long term: training, quality assurance management, maintenance, etc.

3. Personal review systems, or evaluation of performance, merit rating, annual review, etc. for people in management, the effects of which are devastating.

Management by objective, on a go / no-go basis, without a method for accomplishment of the objective, is the same thing as management by fear. The essential problem with merit systems is that they reward results rather than process improvement - results will almost always have a lot of system luck mixed in. Some managers want to reward people who cooperate more or who seem to have better attitudes, and will insist that they can recognize the people who are most cooperative and have the highest work ethic. Instead, managers should understand that the best way to develop cooperation is by focusing on the nature of work environment, not monetary rewards.

quality management hjob hopping4. Mobility of Management: Job-Hopping

The simplest and yet one of the most deadly of quality systems management diseases, management mobility (or when top management changes organizations every 3-4 years) means continuous improvement efforts will be broken and disjointed as new leaders come on board. With changes in leadership, there is a change in management philosophy. Managers who have an eye on the next promotion want results - now - to gain the next rung on the ladder.


5. Use of visible figures only for management, with little or no consideration of figures that are unknown or unknowable. Some facts are simply unknowable. Knowing this, Deming insisted that leaders must still make decisions and manage a situation. This leads to a basic dilemma - 

  • How do you know what would have happened if you had kept on your prior course?
  • How do you put a dollar value on the customer loyalty won through quality improvement efforts?

You can't, because these numbers are unknowable - and this must be taken into consideration.

high quality managment costs

6. Excessive Medical Costs. For the economy as a whole, health care as a percentage of overall expenditures has steadily risen for decades, which gradually pushes numerous businesses into a state of crisis. Potentially the only remedy for this disease would be a political system attempting to reform health care.

7. Excessive costs of liability. W. Edwards Deming blamed America's lawyers in part for the problems of American business. The US has more lawyers per capita than any other country in the world, and they spend much of their professional time finding people to sue. Like health care costs in #6, Deming believed the remedy to this disease will probably have to come from the government.

Source: W. Edwards Deming's Fourteen Points and Seven Deadly Diseases of Management

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Topics: Quality Management Systems, Quality Assurance Management, Quality 101

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