William Edwards Deming (1900-1993) was an American statistician and physicist, as well as a pioneer in the field of quality management. In the 1940’s he developed the process-oriented perspective of business activities, which were later introduced into various tutorials on quality management.
However, for many years Deming’s discoveries received very little attention in the U.S. Not so in Japan. There his insights were of great interest to leading industry managers. Why? The explanation given is that in the U.S. a maximization of production volume was the primary focus of industry following the worldwide reduction of production capacity following WWII.
This was possible to do without problem in the un-damaged USA. War-torn Japan, however, had limited resources for production, which pulled the optimization of processes into the foreground.
Deming’s story is initially a comparison between the U.S. and Japan. Yet the reasons why Japan’s industries became so process-oriented surely provide insight as to how Germany became to be so process-focused as well.
Listen to the first 3.5 minutes of Steve Jobs: