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Dr W Edwards Deming

From chaos of deception to quality of Deming

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Dr W Edwards Deming
Published: 8 Apr 2024

International Project Quality Lead Rasoul Aivazi examines the issue of counterfeit academic qualifications on organisational quality systems.

In the world of quality management, Dr W. Edwards Deming's principles of integrity, continual improvement and leadership commitment establish a clear benchmark against the dishonest gaining and use of deceptive degrees.

In today's corporate landscape, the survival, success and sustainability of companies relies on robust quality management systems (QMS). However, the integrity of these systems suffers when leadership positions are occupied by individuals with fraudulent credentials obtained from so-called 'diploma mills' or ‘degree factories.’ This issue is particularly damaging in cultures like Japan, which place a high value on ethical standards and honesty.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a considerable rise in online education, leading to a sharp increase in the demand for academic certificates. At the same time, some individuals were actively pursuing managerial roles and higher salaries without a genuine commitment to authentic learning.

Their primary focus was on obtaining titles and certificates, often resorting to purchasing degrees from dubious institutions. Many of these individuals sought higher-paying management jobs in richer countries and are now seeking their desired roles in countries like Japan.

This article provides insight into the issue of counterfeit academic qualifications on organisational quality systems, drawing parallels between Deming's principles and Quality philosophy, and proposing a pathway towards authentic leadership and organisational integrity.

The risk of fake qualifications: a lesson from an old proverb

Individuals with fraudulent degrees might pose as top-notch candidates for management roles, to gain jobs they are unfit for.

Considering the hazards and outcomes of such practices, the Japanese saying ‘even monkeys fall from trees ‘ highlights the error of relying solely on formal qualifications for managerial hires.

Common characteristics of fake degree purchasers

Individuals who settle for counterfeit university qualifications often share several traits:

a) They might be impatient or not interested in real study, preferring a swift and effortless route to obtain a degree. b) They might have a tendency to bypass rules or take unethical shortcuts in various areas of their lives, suggesting poor integrity or a readiness to mislead.

c) They may experience a fear of failing or a strong need for others’ approval. By buying a fake degree, they aim to achieve recognition and status which they couldn’t attain through genuine effort.

d) They might possess an unwarranted sense of entitlement, expecting to gain benefits or positions without rightfully earning them.

e) They may have the delusion that they are more knowledgeable and experienced than their peers.

f) They might be trapped in the illusion: ‘I know everything; there's no need for further learning.’

These traits directly conflict with Deming's principles, which champion dedication, honesty, and lifelong learning.

"People buying counterfeit degrees lack vital knowledge and practical skills, resulting in substandard system management."

Rasoul Aivazi, International Project Quality Lead and a committee member of the CQI Audit and Deming special interest groups

The impact on organisational QMS

Deming's 14 Points for Management, emphasising the need for pride in work, improved interdepartmental relations, and the elimination of fear, are all compromised by fake qualifications. Deming’s advocacy for continual education sharply contrasts with the mentality of those seeking shortcuts.

Effects of counterfeit degrees on quality management systems could be outlined as follows:

  • Shortage of knowledge and skills: People buying counterfeit degrees lack vital knowledge and practical skills, resulting in substandard system management.
  • Trust issues: The trustworthiness of individuals with counterfeit degrees is often doubted by employers and colleagues.
  • Ethical problems: Ethics and honesty are crucial in quality management. Those who purchase fake degrees demonstrate a readiness to mislead for personal benefit. 
  • Compliance risks: A solid understanding of quality management principles is essential to comply with legal and industry standards. Those with counterfeit degrees may not possess this understanding, placing the organisation at risk of legal issues and a loss of customer trust.

Global and Japanese perspectives: the threat in QMS and team dynamics

The commitment to excellence in Japan contrasts sharply with the deceit of counterfeit qualifications, which threatens the integrity of effective quality.

Organisational dynamics and integrity: Honesty, genuine qualifications and cultural values are fundamental to the functionality of quality management systems. Misrepresented degrees and opportunistic behaviour underscore the need for maintaining high standards, enforcing transparency, and protecting organisational excellence.

Traits of individuals with fake degrees: Typically, those acquiring counterfeit degrees exhibit an ethical compromise and an unjust sense of entitlement.

Impact on team dynamics: The presence of such individuals can disrupt team cohesion, undermining trust and collective objectives.

Quality costs and managerial implications: The high 'quality cost' of hiring individuals with counterfeit credentials can significantly damage an organisation.

Bogus degrees – severe damages on corporation’s brand value and stock price: Hiring individuals with fraudulent degrees can severely harm an organisation's credibility; The exposure of such deception can undermine the trust of stakeholders and result in lasting harm to the brand.

Combating fraudulent qualifications in Japanese workplaces: Effectively addressing the issue of fake degrees necessitates a reliable commitment to integrity and rigorous screening procedures, emphasising the crucial role of ethical leadership in mitigating the risks.

Moving forward

As we tackle quality management complexities and confront the issue of counterfeit qualifications, integrating Deming's quality principles into our approaches becomes essential.

Deming's focus on continual improvement, systemic thinking and integrity offers a solid foundation to address the challenges. Organisations are encouraged to follow his 14 Points for Management to cultivate a culture of transparency, ethical conduct, and dedication to quality.

By prioritising education and training, businesses can help ensure that their staff have authentic skills and uphold high moral standards. Looking ahead, incorporating Deming's methodologies into the QMS is key to developing environments that prioritise honesty and professionalism.


The proverb ‘even monkeys fall from trees’ highlights the need for organisations to rigorously check the validity of academic records.

Adopting Deming's principles promotes a culture of excellence, honesty, and high quality. By adhering to transparency and true leadership, organisations protect their reputation, secure their long-term prosperity, and maintain adherence to universal and Japanese standards of quality and ethics. They are advised not only to confirm credentials but also to cultivate an environment of ongoing improvement and ethical behaviour.

In doing so, Deming's teachings continue to inspire organisations towards principled management and genuine achievement.

Read more from Rasoul Aivazi

Lead auditor Rasoul Aivazi examines how the PDSA/PDCA cycle unlocks the competitive potential of an organisation.

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