Dr. W. Edwards Deming was a renowned statistician, business consultant and academic celebrated for his role in supporting the recovery of the Japanese economy following the devastation of the second World War. His 14-point approach to business leadership directed business owners to think about quality improvement as a means of reducing waste and increasing productivity and sales. Deming's 14 points have become a standard pathway to quality control around the world and are equally relevant to small and large businesses.

Create Constancy of Purpose Toward Improvement

Design a plan for the long-term view, even in a rapidly changing business environment. Always look for ways of improving your business, and though you may still need to make some short-term decisions, these should be within a strategic vision that sets out plans for growth and prosperity. Establish key milestones in your development that can be used as opportunities to refresh your approach while remaining consistent to your overall aims and ambitions.

Adopt the New Philosophy

A business improvement plan that sits in a desk drawer will not help drive a business forward. Deming urges business owners to take responsibility for leading their companies through change. By acting on drives for improvement at a management level, Deming believed others within the company would follow. In this way, the new philosophy spreads throughout the business as others begin to see the possibilities it holds.

Cease Dependency on Inspection

Inspections only pick out faults once they have happened. They take up management time, hit the morale of the workforce and cost money without leading to a recognizable long-term improvement in quality. Deming's solution is to move toward fault prevention rather than fault detection so that quality gets built into the production process from the beginning.

Use Single Suppliers for Items

Constantly changing suppliers for particular items in your inventory or manufacturing process on the basis of price leads to inconsistency of quality and an increased fault rate. Select your suppliers instead on quality first, to deliver greater consistency. Work with your suppliers to build in agreed quality criteria so that they understand your demands fully.

Improve Constantly and Forever, and Deliver On-the-Job Training

There's always room for some improvement. Your workforce should be encouraged to look for new ways of working or innovations in your product line or service that will deliver better quality and greater consistency. Continuous improvement is a philosophy that should be encouraged in your workforce. Deming also believed that employees who improve their skills and performance while carrying out their duties are better able to see their own contribution in terms of the bigger company vision. Continuous professional development fosters greater team spirit, encourages staff to share good practice and can be applied across all occupational areas.

Institute Leadership and Drive Out Fear

Deming sees supervision as a passive activity, while leadership positions company managers as an important support mechanism for staff. By building leadership into your organization, managers develop a better understanding of the skills, needs, ambitions and motivations of the workforce they're responsible for. Eliminate fear of failure to drive innovation and progress; if workers feel inhibited in demonstrating new ideas, fresh thinking will be hard to come by. Communicate openly to emphasize how important new ideas are to company growth. Most importantly, do not castigate anyone for an idea that doesn't deliver results; accept its failure, learn and move on.

Break Down Barriers and Eliminate Gimmicky Slogans

The internal customer concept helps individual departments recognize their role in the manufacturing, production or service delivery process. This helps build genuine teamwork and collaboration among colleagues with common goals. Eliminating gimmicky slogans, exhortations and targets is another of Deming's points. He believed that clarity is more effective in motivating the workforce, so it is important to help your workforce figure out how to achieve their aims rather than just saying "work harder." Targets also artificially pin the responsibility for productivity on individuals when the real issue may lie with the process itself; an individual may then shoulder the blame for a fault over which he has no direct influence.

Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship

Production targets have a tendency to drive volume rather than quality, especially when they are established without identifying underlying difficulties or issues. Targets are not inherently bad, but they must be used within context with key milestones that chart progress. Any targets and milestones established must be realistic and measurable if they are to be effective and should support the overall production system to deliver both quality and an acceptable and profitable volume. For managers, it is good practice to allow individuals the right to flourish on their own. Unfairly comparing professionals sets up internal competition and rivalry that mitigates against teamwork and collaboration. Every professional should feel supported and valued and should equally respect colleagues for their unique roles and expertise.

Institute Education and Self-Improvement

Learning organizations are always developing and looking at ways to improve at all levels, from the highest management levels to the shop floor. An organization that supports education and self-improvement builds strength, adaptability and innovation capability to help it continuously strive for ever better quality, productivity and profitability.

Transformation is Everyone's Job

It is easy to pin responsibility for improvement on someone called a "quality manager" or for the chief executive to believe that only members of the senior team can implement change. An organization that is focused on following Deming's advice understands that the capacity to effect change is in everyone. A small, incremental change in behavior or process by an individual can have a noticeable effect further down the line. A workforce that truly understands the capacity of everyone to make a positive change, and is supported in doing so through effective leadership, will be well placed to cope with almost any eventuality.