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Deming's 7 Deadly Quality Diseases

Often, when we talk about implementing IT Service Management we refer to one of the Founding Fathers of the Quality Management movement, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. Most people focus on the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act. Perhaps lesser known but just as important is the fact that Dr. Deming spoke of the changes needed within an organization’s culture to make the Deming Cycle work to its greatest effectiveness.

Dr. Deming wrote and spoke of Seven Deadly Diseases that infect an organization’s culture and prohibit it from truly succeeding in achieving quality for the customer.
  • Lack of constancy of purpose: You must remain focused on doing the right things because they are the right things to do for your customer and to achieve quality. ITSM is not a fad it is a way of behaving.
  • Emphasis on short-term profits: Cutting costs can bring short-term profits and are easy to achieve. But cutting costs can only go on for so long, before you have cut to the bone and have nothing left to cut.
  • Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance: Management by objectives ends up focusing on the objectives and not on the management. It is about “hitting the numbers” and not improvement.
  • Mobility of management: When management changes jobs constantly there is no continuity or constancy of purpose. Each time a new leader comes in, the efforts of quality go back to square one.
  • Running a company on visible figures alone: Everything that can be counted does not count, everything that counts cannot be counted—look for hidden information
  • Excessive medical costs: Ensuring that workers are healthy to help deliver quality helps control costs.
  • Excessive costs of liability: Lawyers are part of the problem not part of the solution according to Deming
Each of these Seven Deadly Diseases can destroy a company’s ability to focus on quality and to conform to the requirements and needs established by the customer. These Diseases also reflect on the need to focus on Value on Investment (VOI) as an umbrella over Return on Investment (ROI). We must maximize what the customer gets back for what they put into the delivery of service. The Diseases also reflect Dr. Deming’s belief that strong leadership and well built processes are the most effective and efficient way of achieving quality.
When we put long-term thinking and focus on value before short-term thinking and returns then we can achieve quality and increase customer satisfaction. When customers are satisfied with your delivery of services then they will continue to seek you out as a provider. When you focus strictly on the bottom line, you will have a tendency to forget that the customer is really the key to your success. If no customers desire your products or services or see no value in them, they will be unhappy. Then your customers will seek other mechanisms (your competitors) to fulfill their needs.

As much as anything (and perhaps more) ITSM is about changing our thinking and our behavior to focus on the needs of customers, the value they seek and the quality needed to deliver on their requirements. The Seven Deadly Diseases show what happens when we take our eyes off the customer and focus on ourselves or strictly on the bottom line.


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