The Opinion Page
News and comments about the issues facing today's SCM and Inventory Management professionals.
In the field of sports, overly-eager reporters and assorted talking heads tend to quickly label the latest flash-in-the-pan as "The Greatest Ever". "This guy is a phenom." "He is the Second Coming", and other superlatives are frequently used to describe an individual whose accomplishments are too often short-lived. Rare indeed are the Bobby Orrs, the Wayne Gretzkys, the Jim Browns, the Johnny Unitases, and the Mickey Mantles of this world, who truly deserve the moniker "Superstar".
I was fortunate, early in my career, to have worked with a modest superstar of operations and supply chain management. His name was David Chapman. Mr. Chapman (I could never call him David - he deserved too much respect) was a truly unsung visionary. Working with North America's largest retailer, Mr. Chapman envisioned, created, and implemented some of the most progressive SCM and Inventory Management systems known to retailing. He was ahead of Wal-Mart. The only constraint that he faced was that of available information technology. Mr. Chapman, without knowing it, shaped many of my attitudes to SCM and Inventory Management: virtually anything is possible if you expand your mind and embrace creative energy.
A more famous Superstar in OM circles was William Edwards Deming. Like Mr. Chapman, he dared to buck the trends and the conventional wisdoms which infected North American business leadership in the post-WWII era, and which still torment Western economies today. If all you have ever heard of Deming is a stray comment or two at a cocktail party (something like "wasn't he that weird statistician with the red beads?"), you owe it to yourself to get to know him.
I very much recommend a book written by Mary Walton in 1986 called "The Deming Management Method". It is an easy read, but very insightful. She covers many of the important points in his teachings, without getting bogged down in the minutae (a very easy thing to do when it comes to Deming).
Mr. Deming lived from October 14, 1900 to December 20, 1993. He was an American statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and consultant. He worked in the post-War years with Japanese businesses to improve product quality through various methods including statistical process control and the concept of continuous improvement. Considered a hero in Japan, his genius was considerably overlooked in the USA until late is his life.
One of his enduring contributions to Quality Management were his Fourteen Points. These were a set of principles which outlined the foundation of his philosophy. (There were not always 14 points - in the 1970's, there were only 10!)
In my forthcoming posts, I will discuss some of the 14 points, and how they might relate to our businesses and lives today.
"Export anything to a friendly country, except American management."
W. Edwards Deming
John Skelton is the Principal Consultant and founder of Strategic Inventory Management.