There's an old, old, old Saturday Night Live skit that always stuck with me, part of the news of the week section, when Voyager became the first man-made object to leave the solar system. The gag was that Voyager had been found, and we had received a message from the aliens who discovered our probe. Part of Voyager was a solid gold phonograph record with music and sounds from Earth, from different ages, and included a little Chuck Berry. The punch line was the alien response- "Send more Chuck Berry!"
In earning my MBA at Nova, I always felt: "Send more Deming!"
Reading Deming gave structure to what I have seen throughout my career. Almost everyone in a workplace starts out, and comes to work every day, trying to do a good job by doing their best. The systems in place, and the way people work around the systems to get their job done, using workarounds in place for years and handed down repeatedly, can be the biggest obstacle to quality and productivity a business faces. Ignoring suggestions from the front lines leads to two things- hands thrown up in the air in frustration, or processes completely different from those structured in the first place. Either way, the system is out of control. I have seen profitable businesses operating like this, with no idea of how much more profitable they would be if people listened to Deming and made the effort to "know what to do".
Continuous improvement means constantly, with an open mind, examining the tools and processes we use every day. Almost all of us are knowledge workers now, individually doing the work of departments not too long ago. Access to the Internet, big data, mobility, and all our tools don't change the fact that software only tells us what we told it- if our processes and input aren't solid, what our systems tell us is useless. That's where Deming and the 14 points come in.