Quality Process Improvement and The Edwards Deming Principles

When it comes to Quality Process Improvement, one of the most commonly cited bodies of work is that of Dr. W. Edwards Deming who came up with the Deming principles of management. They are 14 principles in total and following them is supposed to significantly improve a business’s process. Thus healthcare organizations that want to undertake quality process improvement implement the 14 Deming principles. These principles are listed below

Deming’s 14 Points Principles
of Quality Process Improvement

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier.
  5. Improve constantly and forever every process for planning, production and, service.
  6. Institute training on the job.
  7. Adopt and institute leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas.
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations and, targets for the workforce.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship, and eliminate the annual rating or merit system.
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation.

Source: The W. Edwards Deming Institute

Below we are going to discuss a selection of these principles and how they can be applied in the healthcare organization for maximum impact

Adopt and Institute leadership

In order for there to be a successful quality process improvement, there has to be an effective leadership that can lead a team to success. Leadership has always been a  buzzword but it doesn’t make it any less important. Whoever is chosen to lead a team has to have certain qualities. Deming understood the relevance of this and that’s why he included it as one of his fourteen principles. He could have easily just mentioned “the team” but he mentioned having the right leadership separately because of relevant to the success of a process improvement plan. A good team leader for quality process improvement should have the following qualities


A quality improvement plan can be dragged out and could take a long time for results to actually show. It is also a continuous process and team members might start to lose interest or become bored. A good leader should always have and show enthusiasm for the projects at hand and spread that enthusiasm through motivation and words of affirmation.


Speaking of enthusiasm and words of affirmation, a good team leader must empower the team to produce to the best of their ability. The team needs to feel empowered and feel heard so they can come up with more ideas, embark on their projects with confidence and take initiative on several projects.


A good team leader must be able to understand the scope of the project and stir the team accordingly. The scope of the project could vary and could require a varying level of importance, the team leader should be able to understand this and communicate it to the team members.


Speaking of communication, a good team leader needs to have clarity. Clarity of thought, clarity of vision and clarity of mission. The team leader has to understand fully and in great depth the projects of the team and the mission and vision of the team. The team leader also needs to understand how the quality process improvement initiatives of the team affect the organization as a whole.


A good team leader should be creative and should also be open to creativity from the team members. Coming up with creative and innovative ways to solve issues is one of the qualities of a successful team. A good team leader should always encourage creativity among the team members and applause innovative thinking.

Evaluation and Measurement

What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get improved. A good team leader should have some kind of system to measure and evaluate the team members. Those doing well should be applauded and those performing below par should be given tools or assistance to help them step up their game. A good team leader must have this skill of being able to recognize good talent. When a team leader understands the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, the project and task allocation become more efficient.

Adopt the new philosophy

We live in a time of rapid change and rapid innovation and so it makes this Deming principle even more relevant than before. The ability to adopt a new philosophy or technology or system of doing things could literally make the difference between a successful quality process improvement and a failed one. Companies should have a mindset of adopting new philosophies and new technologies and merging them with their existing processes. This doesn’t mean that adoption should be done blindly, rather that the mindset and willingness should exist. There should be flexibility and not rigidity.