W. Edwards Deming Quotes

Quotes in systems thinking

The System of Profound Knowledge provides a lens. It provides a new map of theory by which to understand and optimize that we work in, and thus to make a contribution to the whole country.


A system must have an aim. Without an aim, there is no system.


I should estimate that in my experience most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to the proportions something like this:
94% belongs to the system (responsibility of management)
6% special


The greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people.


American management thinks that they can just copy from Japan—but they don’t know what to copy!


the system that people work in and the interaction with people may account for 90 or 95 percent of performance.


The idea of a merit rating is alluring. The sound of the words captivates the imagination: pay for what you get; get what you pay for; motivate people to do their best, for their own good.

The effect is exactly the opposite of what the words promise. Everyone propels himself forward, or tries to, for his own good, on his own life preserver. The organization is the loser.

The merit rating rewards people that conform to the system. It does not reward attempts to improve the system. Don’t rock the boat.


The consumer is the most important point on the production-line.


Deming’s First Theorem: “Nobody gives a hoot about profits.”
Deming’s Second Theorem: “We are being ruined by best efforts.”


A common disease that afflicts management and government administration the world over is the impression that “Our problems are different.” They are different, to be sure, but the principles that will help to improve quality of product and of service are universal in nature.