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About Dr. W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming was an adviser, consultant, author, and teacher to some of the most influential businessmen, corporations, and scientific pioneers of business process reengineering. He has been described as a national folk hero in Japan, where he was directly responsible for inspiring and guiding the spectacular rise of Japanese industry after World War II, as well as the original management science guru, and founder of the third wave of the Industrial Revolution. His extensive list of published works includes nearly 200 papers, articles, and books.

Born in 1900, Deming was trained as a physicist, attending the University of Wyoming and the University of Colorado before receiving his PhD at Yale University in 1928. He became a student of Walter Shewhart (who led the quality control effort during the war and developed Statistical Quality Control) while working at Bell Telephone Laboratories.

In 1946, Dr. Deming led the formation of the American Society for Quality Control and became a professor of statistics in the Graduate School of Business Administration at New York University.

In 1947, he was recruited to help Japan prepare for the 1951 Census. Three years later, in 1950, he gave the first in a dozen sets of lectures, starting with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), including Ichiro Ishikawa, the JUSE president.

The Japanese established the Deming Prize in 1951 for individual contributions in statistical theory and for companies applying statistics.

During the period of his legendary turnaround activities in Japan, in which he trained 20,000 engineers in rudimentary statistical methods within 10 years, Deming pursued a similar mission in the United States. However, it took the Americans much longer to pay attention to his teachings.

In 1980, Deming was “discovered” in America in an NBC television program entitled, “If Japan Can … Why Can't We?”

In 1982, he published Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position, and in 1986, he published the first edition of Out of the Crisis.

Dr. Deming joined the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University in 1988 at the invitation of Professor John Whitney. This center was created to honor Dr. Deming’s achievements following his death in 1993.In rare moments when he was not pursuing his mission to improve the management of international corporations, Deming polished his skills as an organist and music composer. His version of the national anthem, which addresses people’s inability to hit all the notes, serves as a metaphor for one of his points for management: don’t blame the singers (workers) if the song is written poorly (the system is the problem); instead, rewrite the music (fix the system). In life and in art, Deming simply wanted to make it easier for people to sing.

Deming Cup 2013

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Creating Operational Excellence

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Lessons learned from the Deming Cup Winners

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Columbia Business School
Uris Hall, 3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
212 854 1122
deming@columbia.edu