Does Deming’s 95/5 Discount the Individual?

W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still the most talked about and controversial of W. Edwards Deming thinking is what I reference as the 95/5 rule – that 95% of the performance of an organization is down to the system and not the individual.  It isn’t a rule and, as I have stated in previous posts, it is not empirical.  Dr. Joseph Juran though the number was 85/15 and based on Dr. Deming’s experience the number was thought to be 95/5.

So, does this mean that the individual is not important?  NO!

The design and thinking about the management of work is so poor in service organizations that the individual is rendered completely irrelevant.  The individual worker gets entrapping technology forced upon them.  The work is functionally separated where the worker can never finish a piece of work and the result is no accountability.  Improving the system restores the individual.

Dr. Deming’s central theme is restoration of the individual.  Fear, competition, manipulation and performance appraisals that result in ratings organizations have undermined the individual.

W. Edwards Deming believed some really simple things for workers:

  • Joy in Work
  • Cooperation
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Systems Thinking
  • Self-Esteem
  • Never-ending Learning

He implored us to adopt new thinking for a new economic age.  When do we get to see this happen?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at LinkedIn at

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