Video of Dr. W. Edwards Deming: Deadly Diseases of Western Management

By John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

YouTube video

Dr. Deming added 2 diseases to the lists after this video. He was always learning and updating his thoughts and recommendations. As we have stated earlier, this blog attempts to continue that practice by examining Dr. Deming’s ideas and also looking at how those ideas have evolved as they have been applied.

List of the 7 deadly diseases of western management (the last 2 were added after this video):

  • Lack of constancy of purpose
  • Emphasis on short term profits
  • Annual rating of performance “it is purely a lottery”
  • Mobility of management
  • Use of visible figures only
  • Excessive medical costs
  • Excessive legal damage awards swelled by lawyers working on contingency fees

I believe the practice of management has improved to make a bit of progress on a few of these diseases; but the diseases remain significant problems. They also have become larger problems internationally since this video, as other countries have adopted bad practices.

Where do you think we are today on dealing with these diseases of management? Have we made good progress on eliminating any of these diseases? Have any gotten worse? Are there new diseases you would add to this list (diseases that have become deadly since Dr. Deming added the last 2 diseases to the list.)? I wrote a blog post discussing 2 new deadly diseases that I have seen.

Some of Dr. Deming’s quotes from the video

  • On Management by Objective, Dr. Deming says “someone in Germany called it management by fear (which is still better).” Dr. Deming is saying this because often management by objective boiled down to a supervisor telling employees what their numerical targets were, and woe to them if those numerical goals were not met during that period.
  • On unknown and unknowable figures: “what is the multiplying effect of a happy customer? How much business does a happy customer bring in to you?”
  • “schools of business have done their work, they are not teaching transformation, they’re teaching use of visible figures, creative accounting, how to maximize the price of the companies stock”
  • “American industry is up against competition with the Japanese that have not these deadly diseases”
  • “When you think of all the under-use, abuse and misuse of the people of this country, this may be the world’s most underdeveloped nation. Number 1… for under-development; our people not used, mismanaged, misused and abused and underused by management.”

A related Dr. Deming quote: “A goal without a method is nonsense.” Without a method to improve, a goal is dangerous.

Related: Performance Without Appraisal: What to do Instead of Performance Appraisals by Peter ScholtesManage what you can’t measure

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