Deming Cup 2021

Press Release 9/20/21 

NEW YORK — Columbia Business School’s W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity, and Competitiveness announced that Mary Barra, chair and CEO of General Motors, and Ken Frazier, Merck’s executive chairman of the board, will receive its 2021 Deming Cup for Operational Excellence at a virtual ceremony on October 19.

Awarded annually since 2010, the Deming Cup recognizes leaders for operational excellence and for fostering a culture of continuous improvement within their organizations. The 2021 award honors Barra and Frazier, both representing Fortune 100 corporations, for their efficiency-fueled, employee-empowering, and excellence-oriented leadership positioning their companies for long-term, sustainable success.

The co-chairs for the award’s 40-member judging committee, comprising eminent figures in industry and academia, were Terry Lundgren, founder of TJL Advisors and retired chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., and Sam Palmisano, chairman of the Center for Global Enterprise and former chairman, president, and CEO of IBM.

In his congratulations to Barra and Frazier, Professor Nelson Fraiman, director of the Deming Center, commended them for “being driven by the ethos of continuous improvement,” reinforcing his “strong belief that operational excellence is a key cornerstone of success. By honoring Mary and Ken, we not only salute the spirit of W. Edwards Deming, but we also celebrate his legacy as we pass it on to our students, the next generation of industry leaders.”

Leading General Motors, the Detroit-based global automaker, as CEO since 2014, and chair since 2016, Barra has focused on improving its customer experience and strengthening its core vehicle and services business, while also working to lead the transformation of personal mobility through advanced technologies like connectivity, electrification, and autonomous driving. With her unwavering commitment to transparency and empowerment, Barra has transformed GMs culture into one of accountability and excellence. Driven by her bold Zero, Zero, Zero vision, GM has committed to becoming carbon neutral across its operations by 2040; envisioning a world with zero crashes to save lives; zero emissions, so future generations can inherit a healthier planet; and zero congestion, so customers get back a precious commodity—time.

Upon receiving news of the award, Barra graciously thanked the committee. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of the entire global General Motors team. The Deming Cup represents a commitment to fostering cultures of continuous improvement, and the General Motors team has consistently demonstrated that when we work together, we can overcome adversity and achieve remarkable results,” she said.

As CEO of Merck, the global biopharmaceutical company, since 2011, becoming executive chairman of the board in 2021, Frazier fostered a culture of accountability and a governance methodology driven by data that was rigorously reviewed and highly transparent.  He prioritized simplification by streamlining processes to achieve impressive resource-allocation efficiencies and championed the scientific discipline that was fundamental to the research and development ethos across the company. Through his principled leadership, Frazier further entrenched the company's core values of scientific excellence, business integrity, and patient focus.

“At Merck, we share one common vision: to save and improve lives for everyone, everywhere. The Deming Cup recognizes the importance of our dedication to that vision and our efforts to continue making the world a healthier place. I am privileged and honored to accept this award on behalf of all my Merck colleagues whose operational excellence is being celebrated, and grateful to the Deming Center at Columbia Business School for the prestigious recognition,” he said, cordially accepting the honor of the award.

Founded in 1993 at Columbia Business School, The W. Edwards Deming Center promotes operational excellence in academia and business by sponsoring applied research and curriculum creation, disseminating best practices, and providing professional development opportunities for practitioners. Previous winners of the Deming Cup include*: David Abney, chairman and CEO of UPS; Juan Ramón Alaix, CEO of Zoetis; Douglas Baker, chairman and CEO of Ecolab; David Cote, chairman and CEO of Honeywell; Kenneth Chenault, chairman and CEO of American Express Company; Toby Cosgrove, president and CEO of Cleveland Clinic; Janet DiFiore, chief judge of the State of New York; Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health; Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE;  Brent James, chief quality officer of Intermountain Healthcare; H. Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO of SC Johnson & Son, Inc.; Hubert Joly, executive chairman of Best Buy; Ellen Kullman, chairman and CEO of DuPont; Terry Lundgren, chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc.; Sergio Marchionne, chairman and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo; Samuel Palmisano, chairman and CEO of IBM; Paolo Rocca, chairman and CEO of  Tenaris S.A.;  Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International; Kevin Sowers, president of the Johns Hopkins Health System; Ratan Tata, chairman of Tata Sons; Craig Thompson, president and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering; and Stef Wertheimer, founder of ISCAR, Ltd.

*Titles of awardees are for the year they won the Deming Cup.

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