W. Edwards Deming was a statistician from Iowa who has been attributed to revolutionizing Japanese industry in the second half of the 20th century. How did this happen?
After World War II, General MacArthur was given responsibility to rebuild Japan's manufacturing industry. Deming worked as a census consultant to the Japanese government, where he taught the theories and fundamentals of statistical process control to Japanese business leaders. He visited Japan for many years to consult and later to witness economic growth that he had predicted as a result of application of these techniques learned from Walter Shewart at Bell Laboratories.
Entrepreneur.com's take on why Out of the Crisis "mattered", and why it still matters today:
Why it mattered: Deming introduced statistical methods for quality measurement and improvement in post-war Japan, guiding its rise to manufacturing superstardom. In the 1970s, U.S. business leaders worried about Japanese inroads asked Deming for help, beginning the quality revolution here.
Deming's teachings challenged American business practice at almost every point. Among his most revolutionary ideas were the notions that poor management--not slacker workers--was responsible for most quality problems, and the way to boost quality was to carefully measure defects and the effects of changing processes.
Why it still matters: Although much low-hanging, quality-management fruit has been picked, increasingly rigorous applications of Deming's theories--notably the approach called Six Sigma--can still provide significant advantage over less disciplined competitors.
Deming's famous 14 points of management address matters far-removed from the statistical methods he's most remembered for. Among other things, he strongly advocated a customer focus, using market demands to define the standards of good quality, long before it was popular.
Deming's concepts might not only be applied to business - they might also be applied to educational reform as well, according to this recent article in the Fordham University online newsletter.