Dr. Deming's Seven Deadly Diseases of Western Management

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short term profits (Overreaction to short term variation is harmful to long term success. With such focus on relatively unimportant short term results focus on constancy of purpose is next to impossible.)
  3. Evaluation of performance, merit rating or annual review (see: Performance Without Appraisal: What to do Instead of Performance Appraisals by Peter Scholtes).
  4. Mobility of top management (too much turnover causes numerous problems)
  5. Running a company on visible figures alone (many important factors are "unknown and unknowable." This is an obvious statement that runs counter to what some incorrectly claim Deming taught - that you can only manage what you measure. Deming did not believe this and if fact saw it as a deadly disease of management)
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive legal damage awards swelled by lawyers working on contingency fees

As with Deming's other thoughts, his list of deadly diseases was continually modified as he learned more. This list of diseases was specifically focused on the USA (medical costs and legal contingency fees can most obviously be seen as American problems.

Little progress has been made on any of these diseases (I think great progress has been made based on applying many of Deming's ideas but in looking just at these deadly diseases I don't think we are doing much better overall). So I believe all are still accurately seen as deadly diseases.

Related Terms:

John Hunter's additions - March 2007

8) Excessive executive compensation - since Deming's death this problems has grown into a disease that weakens companies and the ability of America to compete globally. See Excessive Executive Pay and posts tagged executive pay on my blog.

9) A dysfunctional intellectual property system - See: Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation and The Patent System Needs to be Significantly Improved. Essentially the problem is we have an outdated intellectual property system that is greatly harming the ability to innovate. Instead of encouraging innovation patents now seem to be used to extort innovators. In the intellectual property area copyright extension for previously created works is the most obvious exceedingly bad practice, but there are plenty of others - a system encouraging patent trolls for example.

The entire basis for copyright is to provide a monopoly to the creator in order to make it worth their while to create the material. Once they have made the decision to create it based on the existing law there is no public reason to extend that copyright (obviously it is in the special interest of the copyright holder). The founding fathers clearly understood this law was depriving society to benefit an individual. They decided to take from society in order to encourage people to invest in crafting these works: providing a temporary right at the expense of the public was the best systemic solution. Even if you were to make the claim that an extension is needed (to encourage more investment) that should only cover newly created works. Innovation is critical and the current intellectual property system is very harmful.