W. Edwards Deming is considered the father of total quality management (TQM), yet he reacts almost angrily to the term. "Don't ask me about it. I don't use it. It's not in my vocabulary," he said in a recent interview.
The statistician, who earned a doctorate at Yale University in 1928, is credited with helping Japanese industry make dramatic gains after World War II ("at their request," he stresses). Dr. Deming talks mostly about good management, rarely using the word quality.
"TQM is simply excellence," says Louis Lataif, dean of Boston University's school of management and a Deming disciple. "Excellence is not going to go out of fashion."
Dr. Lataif describes five facets of the system, all of which could apply to a school as easily as to a business:
Customer focus. Customers didn't know to ask for a microwave oven before it was invented, he notes. Successful companies direct their efforts to meet consumers' needs.
Management by facts. Deming and other statisticians developed methods to regularly test the output of a system, whether it is an factory assembly line or a sales force, to …