Iterative Customer Focus

Guest post by John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

On Statistical Techniques in Industry as a Natural Resource by W. Edwards Deming (1952)

In the new way, management introduces, through consumer research, a 4th step, and runs through the 4 steps is a cycle, over and over

New Way
  1. Design the product (with appropriate tests).
  2. Make it; test it in the production line and in the laboratory.
  3. Put it on the market.
  4. Test it in service; through market research, find out what the user thinks of it, and why the non-user has not bought it.
  5. Re-design the product, in the light of consumer reactions to quality and price.

Continue around and around the cycle.

This iterative idea that puts the customer at the center of focus is often stated today. Even today though the practices of many companies don’t demonstrate a priority for iterative learning based on customer experiences and a concern for why non-users have not become users.

I have written about importance of customer focus to Deming’s ideas in several previous blog posts, including: Customer Focus with a Deming Perspective, User Gemba and the most important customer focus is on the end users.

Like many of Deming’s ideas the idea of iterative customer focus can seem too simple to be very powerful. But in fact that idea is extremely powerful. Those familiar with agile software development can see the idea of delivering working software quickly and iterating based on actual customer use illustrated in Dr. Deming’s “new way” iterative cycle shown in his paper published in 1952.

The importance of learning about non-users is something that still today is often overlooked.

Another quote from the article:

graphic with the quote "Standardization does not mean that we all wear the same color and weave of cloth, eat standard sandwiches, or live in standard rooms with standard furnishings. Homes of infinite variety of design are built with a few types of bricks, and with lumber of standard sizes, and with water and heating pipes and fittings of standard dimensions."

The W. Edwards Deming Institute makes this paper, and many more, available on our website. As you would expect from a non-profit focused on promoting the application of his ideas, these articles are freely available with no barriers to downloading them.

Related: Statistical Techniques Allow Management to do a Better JobSpeech by Dr. Deming to Japanese Business Leaders in 1950Some Statistical Logic in the Management of Quality by W. Edward Deming

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