Much of Baltimore's business and government communit turned out last night to learn the wisdom of W. Edwards Deming, the American management consultant who is credited with revolutionizing Japanese industry after World War II.
And for their trouble, they were treated as rather dense pupils.
Talking to a standing-room-only crowd at the School of Continuing Education of Johns Hopkins University, the 91-year-old Mr. Deming started his lecture by asking the audience to identify the difference between the United States and Japan.
It was painfully clear, however, that most of the answers did not make the grade.
One person said the difference was that the Japanese had a work ethic. "As long as we think that, we're going to be licked," Mr. Deming replied.
There is more government and business cooperation, another said. "The government has nothing to do with it," he said.
Still another person credited patience. Mr. Deming grimaced and said: "I suppose" and then ordered the group to "work on my question."
"There's something else I want," Mr. Deming said. "I'm going to sit here until I get it."
Finally, he relented. "The difference is management of people," he said. "We destroy our people and in Japan, people are jewels."
The key to effective management is to have a system with an aim that is controlled. "Left to themselves, the different segments become competitive and they ruin the whole thing," ** Mr. Deming said.
He criticized American business for paying too much attention to the things that can be measured -- profits, sales and market share -- and not to the things that can't be measured, such as the benefits of training and the proper treatment of employees.
Mr. Deming, whose initial training was in mathematics and physics, is credited with helping revitalize Japanese industry after World War II. In response, the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers created the Deming Prize to recognize achievements in quality.