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Articles & Press Releases > Article 108

W. Edwards Deming, 'Quality Guru',

Point #12: "Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship"

Have you ever worked at a job where you were kept from feeling proud of your work? Was it the work itself or something in the system that got in your way? As you think back to that job or situation, what do you believe could have changed it for you so that you could have felt good about the work you did? 

Would a particular person have needed to respond differently?

Would communications have needed to happen differently?

Would any physical items have needed to be repaired or replaced?

What else would have changed the situation for you?

Ed Deming's point #12 in his quest for quality is about removing the barriers that keep people from having pride in their work.

Deming found that when people are kept from feeling proud of their work, quality and profitability went down. In order to change this, he believed that companies first needed to identify the areas that kept people from feeling good about their work by interviewing the people themselves. When hired to consult with a company, Deming would go into a room with employees (without managers) and shut the door. Then he would get the employees talking about what got in the way of feeling proud of their work.

Since Deming worked primarily with manufacturing firms, first we'll review the types of issues he believed created barriers in manufacturing companies. Then we'll apply it to companies not involved in manufacturing.

What creates barriers to pride of workmanship?

For manufacturing companies:


  • Broken equipment
  • After reporting broken equipment, it takes weeks to get fixed
  • Making defective parts (because of equipment failure, etc.)
  • Bosses who want to get the quantity of work out, but not with good quality
  • Bosses who don't want to hear about problems
  • Situations when people don't receive clear communications regarding how to do the job
  • Incoming supplies are defective
  • Inspectors who find and report defects, but aren't sure how to correct the problem
  • Situations when people feel they are treated as a commodity



What creates barriers to pride of workmanship in other types of businesses?


  • Outdated tools, including software tools.
  • Computers that don't have enough hard drive space or RAM.
  • A difficult environment (i.e. unsupportive manager; contentious coworkers; disorganized or uninformed project managers)
  • Bosses or project managers don't want to hear about problems. (They have to learn about the problems some time, though, which is "later".  And "later", it is usually more difficult or more expensive to respond effectively.)
  • Lack of clear communications regarding how to do the job
  • Someone checking others' work (or the status of a project) recognizes problems/defects, but:
    • doesn't know how to fix it, or
    • knows how to fix it, but isn't heard when speaking up
  • When people are treated as a commodity (as in a "sweatshop" atmosphere)
  • The use of any kind of quality improvement groups where the employee-participants are not given the authority to make decisions and/or the participants' recommendations are ignored


Following what many Japanese companies did in their country to improve their quality and productivity, many companies in the U.S. established "Quality Control Circles". Deming called these programs in the U.S. "instant pudding" because he believed they were a smokescreen that managers used to pretend to be resolving problems. He believed the programs tended to fail because they didn't give the employee-participants any authority to make decisions, nor did management take action based on the group recommendations. This left employees more disillusioned than before they joined the Quality Control Circle.

Degrading an employee's pride of workmanship can also come from subjective sources. In Deming's book, "Out of the Crisis", he discussed hearing someone at a seminar tell about his own barrier to pride of workmanship. The man said, "One gets a good rating for fighting a fire. The result is visible; it can be quantified. But, if you do it right the first time, you are invisible. You satisfied the requirements. That is your job. Mess it up, and correct it later:  you become a hero."

What are some basic things that can be done in a business to ensure that people can have pride in their workmanship, and that nothing in the company stands in their way?


  • Keep equipment in good repair, and repair it timely. This goes for any type of equipment, hardware, or software.
  • Devise a system whereby employees can report trouble with a machine and materials in a way that delivers quick attention.
  • Train management how to communicate clearly with employees, in ways that lead to positive results.
  • Recognize people positively for when they "get in front" of problems before the problems occur (not just for fixing problems after they occur). 
  • Acknowledge good project management and excellent communication that makes a project successful.


How proud are your employees of their work?

How do you know?

What can you implement to ensure that pride in their work does not diminish?


©2012 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

Glory Borgeson, President
2012 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

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