Create Constancy of Purpose

By John Hunter, founder of

image of the book cover for Out of the Crisis

Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

W. Edwards Deming, Point 1 or the 14 points for management, page 23 of Out of the Crisis.

Problems of the future command first and foremost constancy of purpose and dedication to improvement of competitive position to keep the company alive and to provide jobs for their employees.

W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, page 25.

The 14 points were not meant to be a list of items to consider adopting. And they were not meant to be a checklist you seek to mark as complete.

They were meant to be specific items related to Deming’s management system to help people understand specific practices present in his management system. He noticed that creating a list of 14 points did result in people looking down the list and deciding which points they might want to try and not understanding they were all part of a functioning management system.

But Deming understood the points were all interrelated within his management system. So he evolved to using the System of Profound Knowledge to explain that management system. He adapted how he presented his ideas based on what he learned. He practiced continual improvement, he didn’t just preach it.

With the System of Profound Knowledge he emphasized the importance of viewing each of the four components as interrelated elements (which a huge amount of interaction between each of them).

So you should not try to think of the 14 points as disconnected from the others. They have meaning by themselves, but the real power of the ideas come as they work together to create a management system that excels.

You don’t want to achieve “constancy of purpose” in order to check that off the list of things you need to do. You need to create constancy of purpose in order for the management system to help the organization succeed. There isn’t a formula for what is acceptable achievement of constancy of purpose to mark it as complete. The point is included because without it the management system falters and results suffer.

For example, without constancy of purpose how can you push decision making out to everyone in the organization? If there isn’t shared understanding of what principles are suppose to drive decisions chaos will result. This is just one impact of failure to have constancy of purpose and the consequences such a failure has upon how the organization can succeed.

Constancy of purpose is about long term thinking and about thinking of the organization as a system. And it relates to creating organizations that push decision making to those at the gemba (those where the important is being done – where the individuals that know the most about the situation are).

Establishment of constancy of purpose means acceptance of obligations like the following:
a. Innovate. Allocate resources for long-term planning…
b. Put resources into: Research and Education
 c. Constantly improve design of product and service. This obligation never ceases…

W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, page 26.

A management system with constancy of purpose doesn’t fret about variation in quarterly profit. If the actions make sense when looking at the organization as a system over the long term but have costs today we accept the short term results. This might conflict with bonuses or performance appraisals. Well guess what, that is addressed in point 12, which encompasses eliminating such practices.

The purpose of creating constancy of purpose is to maximize the benefits to the organization of the other facets of Deming’s management system. It is not an end, it is the means to an end.

Lack of constancy of purpose is included in Deming’s 7 deadly diseases of Western management.

Related: Deming’s point 1 of 14: Create constancy of purpose… (Michel Baudin)Deming Chain Reaction (improve quality –> more jobs)The Aim for Any Organization Should be for Everybody to Gain: Customers, Employees, Stockholders…


Fear of takeover, along with emphasis on the quarterly dividend, defeats constancy of purpose.

W. Edwards Deming, Out of the Crisis, preface.

Establish constancy of purpose. People ask me, “How?” Well, I don’t know how. That’s up to the company. If it isn’t done, the company will be under handicap, and that handicap may have severe consequences.

Even when top management has announced constancy of purpose, it takes a little while for credibility to seep and soak around.

W. Edwards Deming, The Essential Deming, page 108 – From a presentation at a CEO seminar, “Quality, Productivity, and Competitive Position,” 1992.

Do all employees of your company know about this stated constancy of purpose (raison d’être), if you have formulated one?

W. Edwards Deming. Out of the Crisis, page 156.

Supervisors need to find ways to translate the constancy of purpose to the individual employee.

Dr. Paul Batalden and Dr. Loren Vorlicky quoted in Out of the Crisis, as included as part of the Adaptation of the 14 Points to Medical Service on page 201.

Our political system, which elects the senior management for our federal service, must understand above all else the importance of constancy of purpose and the importance of knowledge. Politically appointed managers must comprehend the 14 points and the deadly diseases and the obstacles. Only then may they place themselves in roles of leadership.

W. Edwards Deming. Out of the Crisis, page 119.

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