Common Causes and Special Causes: Who Is Threatened by Deming--Labor or Management?

Meyer, Richard S.
October 1993
Labor Law Journal;Oct93, Vol. 44 Issue 10, p620
Academic Journal
This article discusses the effects of total quality management (TQM) programs on labor and management in the U.S. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board's decision in the case involving Electromation Inc. and E. I. DuPont & Co. held that that Electromation's employee involvement committees constituted unlawfully dominated labor organizations, commentators have renewed their focus upon total TQM and whether it is foreclosed by the National Labor Relations Act. According to TQM founding father W. Edwards Deming's view, the management's job is to improve the system and create an environment in which the worker can improve processes and thereby the system. In short, the gravamen of TQM is that management, not labor, bears responsibility for quality improvement and that such responsibility is continuing. In Deming's view, once a system is in statistical control, all special causes have been eliminated, improvement can occur only by attacking problems in the system itself, what he calls common causes or flaws in the system. These might include: better uniformity in incoming materials, better setting of the machines, better maintenance or even a change in the sequence of the operations. Obviously, facilitating those kinds of changes are the responsibility of, and can only be implemented by, management. INSET: Hazardous Materials Labeling.


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