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Book details of 'Four Days with Dr. Deming : A Strategy for Modern Methods of Management'

Cover of Four Days with Dr. Deming : A Strategy for Modern Methods of Management
TitleFour Days with Dr. Deming : A Strategy for Modern Methods of Management
Author(s)William J. Latzko, David M. Saunders
PublishedMarch 1995
PublisherPrentice Hall PTR
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Reviewer Rob Slade wrote:
W.Edwards Deming was a student, and professor, of statistics. Prior to, and during, the Second World War he worked in statistical sampling methods for business. In 1950, and following, he advised Japanese engineering and industrial firms on statistical process control and management cycles. In 1981, and until his death in 1993, he presented four-day seminars on management and the pursuit of quality in the production of goods and services. Sponsored by George Washington University, these seminars, are said to have drawn 20,000 participants yearly. This book is an attempt, not so much to explain Dr. Deming' thinking (six of his own books are listed in the bibliography), but to give the flavour of the seminars. To this end, the authors interleaf snippets of Dr. Deming's own words, their explanations, the cogitations of a "composite" participant, and the tables and graphics which would be shown as overheads. The result is both entertaining and readable, but it is very easy to lose track of what is going on. This isn't necessarily a bad feature. Judging by the book, Deming was using examples from statistics to get across other ideas. Much of the material has nothing to do with statistics. The really common thread that runs through all of it is that of counter-intuition. Performance appraisals do not enhance performance; they inhibit it. "Incentive pay" reduces incentive and motivation. America did not learn anything about management in the post-war boom, it merely developed superstitions, akin to the "random reinforcement" experiments of B. F. Skinner in operant conditioning. Deming's seminars, and the book, should provide good food for thought, but they don't, in the end, provide answers. A repeated phrase throughout is the call for "Profound Knowledge". Profound knowledge is broadly based; profound knowledge is cognizant of all effects. Profound knowledge understands systems and processes (and all components) deeply. The four aspects of profound knowledge, as described, recall the four divisions of classical philosophy. Unfortunately neither Deming nor the authors indicate how to get profound knowledge, nor even how to define it operationally. I'm not really surprised. The ancients knew profound knowledge and despaired of being able to inculcate it in students. They called it "wisdom". copyright Robert M. Slade, 1995

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