Impact of Demingā€™s Teachings on Post World War II Japan and on the US


Deming provided his teachings to a number of managers in his four day standard seminar. He perceived quality to be a philosophy that should be employed in the activities of management rather than exercising it as a specific process or a set of guidelines. His notions and ideas are fairly captured in his “14 Points of Management”. It is important to note that these points are interdependent and are not arranged in any specific manner. The notion behind the points was to allow the managers to fully comprehend the underlying system and thus, adopt a newer way of thinking. Deming’s teachings have currently been adopted in most of the production processes of different companies. This paper argues and establishes the fact that his teachings helped catapult the Japanese economy in the Post World War II period as the United States of America companies lagged behind in adopting the points in their operations.

Deming’s First Works with the Japanese

Deming – Japan relationship initiated at the beginning of 1947 when he was sought by the then General MacArthur’s Supreme Command of Allied Powers to give professional advice on different sampling techniques models for a major census operation that was to take place in Japan in 1951 (Austenfeld, 2001). The census was to be used by the Japanese to assess the effects the war had on its economy, especially on housing component in order to ascertain the number of new housing units that were required for its people. It is noted that in most cases, he used to take personal tours to Japan to learn about its people first. He was keen to make friends with numerous people working for Japanese statistical departments (Austenfeld, 2001).

Deming’s Impact on Japan’s Economy

The most popular impact of Deming’s teachings was substantiated in the post World War II period. This was the time when Japan was so desperate to initiate its underlying economic and industrial recovery process. He was invited to Japan in the early 1950’s to teach Japanese leading industrial companies on his newly formulated management approaches and statistical techniques. He is mostly known for teaching the Japanese the concepts of statistical quality control (SQC) (Austenfeld, 2001). He managed to teach them the techniques associated with control charts in the course of an oft-repeated course for a substantial number of years in Japan. The approaches assumed stability given that it was promoted by both the Supreme Allied Command and the Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). Even before his return to Japan, the General had made significant strides to find ways needed to improve the quality of the production processes in the country (Austenfeld, 2001). For instance, the Civil Communication Section had been tasked with the responsibility of restarting the communication equipment relating to manufacturing companies in the country. As a result of the efforts, a seminar on this issue was set up to identify senior industry leaders, who were expected to pass the knowledge to junior employees within their respective firms (Austenfeld, 2001).

JUSE is noted as the first initiator of Deming’s teachings given that it worked hard to arrange seminars that were aimed at giving lecture to all Japanese research workers, managers and engineers who had shown enough interest in quality control methodologies (Mandel, 2012). Japanese business groups also took interest in Deming’s teachings and thus, invited him to private meetings where he assured several managers of the need to adopt control charts for correlation of data (Austenfeld, 2001).

There were several reasons for the way the Japanese accommodated and even celebrated Deming’s teachings despite the fact that he was a foreigner. First, it is noted that there was a confluence factor related to the Japanese intensive need to find the ways to improve their exports and downplay the negative publicity given to “made in Japan” commodities (Mandel, 2012). Second, the reception of the teachings was accredited to the stable relationship depicted by both Deming and the then the President of JUSE (Cox, 2008). Third, it can also be attributed to the very respect Deming offered the Japanese culture despite their self esteem having been curtailed and infringed by the war. Through the series of his teachings, Deming also offered to give lessons to top executives on assuming personal accountability and responsibility for the level of quality undertaken in production processes. Clearly, it was not enough for him to teach on the statistical tools of quality improvement but it was also necessary to develop an environment required for their utilization (Cox, 2008).

The Japanese benefitted greatly from Deming’s teachings on the importance of perceiving improvements, product designs and also manufacturing processes as a never-ending production processes (Cox, 2008). From his teachings, the Japanese managed to comprehend the fact that much of the modern competition is focused on management catapulting the level at which necessary improvements are performed. This was basically associated with the effective means of learning that helped them understand the best possible ways of cutting down on wastes. Most importantly, in the course of his teachings, Deming advised the Japanese that a supplier was a partner of the business (Cox, 2008). Thus, relationships with them were to be formulated with regards to the aspects of cooperation and trust. This meant that adversarial focused relationships resulted in the waste of time and resources hence affecting the overall quality of production process. Both the suppliers and the customers were involved in the general production system.

Cool Welcome of Deming’s Teachings in the United States of America

In the period starting after the World War II, most of American based industries did not worry much about the notion of foreign competition. In fact, most of these companies were not exposed to any form of competition at an international platform given that the larger part of the industrial world was already shuttered and irreparable at that time (Dowd, 2006). This meant that the industries operating within the United States of America economy were prospering due to immense level of resources as well as an improved market demand for their products, which came as a result of the four decades after the aforementioned war. In consequence, the US industrial sector did not perceive the need to adopt Deming’s teachings largely because it had already assumed the world’s leading position in economics (Dowd, 2006). For instance, the US based car dealers of the time competed against each other in the aspect of style rather than reliability. Thus, the economy’s immediate need was reduced to producing more products at the expense of their quality. Unlike Japan where training was focused on how to improve product quality, American management training seminars and business schools were focused largely on learning about the ways to improve the level of output rather than its quality (Mandel, 2012). In essence, in the course of early 1960s the global competitive picture started to assume another route; that of the quality improvement processes; however the United States of America was slow to perceive this paradigm shift in production (Dowd, 2006).

Four decades had passed before the industrial sector of the United States of America realized the need for quality improvement. In fact, the awakening of the sector became effective when the National Broadcasting Corporation aired a program with the title; “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” The program consisted of a number of series. There were features of robotics and advanced technology however; the last of the segments had the most impact. It featured Deming’s teachings and the way they were used successfully to improve production systems in Japan (Dowd, 2006). After the documentary, Deming’s teachings were soon demand by most of American companies. For instance, he was contracted by Ford Motor Company where he assisted with enormous turnover. A perfect example of the firm’s model that adopted Deming’s model of quality production is the Ford Taurus Program, which emphasized the priority of market research before the development of cars could begin. The program pioneered a relatively newer way of executing tasks and was later used as the company’s benchmarking system (Dowd, 2006).


It can be seen that Deming’s teachings gained lots of popularity in Japan despite the fact that he was an American. He helped the Japanese economy grow by introducing and teaching larger industries’ leaders on such statistical approaches as control charts. He was more focused on enlightening the Japanese on the aspect of quality rather than production output. The production processes in Japan improved overtime and this credited to their willingness to adopt and practice the teachings. However, his teachings were not replicated in the United States of America largely because the economy had already assumed the top leading position after the war. There was also little or no competition among firms. In fact, it was evident that car automakers in America competed against each other in the aspect of style rather than reliability. America had spent four decades before accepting the need for adopting the teachings. It was the NBC’s program “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We” that helped mark a start of Deming’s revolutionary teachings.

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