From the Editor: Juran’s Lasting Lessons

September 1, 2003
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I recently received an advanced review copy of “Architect of Quality: The Autobiography of Dr. Joseph M. Juran,” from McGraw-Hill.

Juran is the last of the quality “giants” still alive. Unlike other books written about Juran that focus on his theories and practices, this book is personal. Juran chronicles his parents’ life, his immigration to the United States when he was only 8-years old and his childhood in Minneapolis. He talks about his early years at Western Electric, how he met his wife, and his successes and failures. It is fascinating to hear from Juran how his personal life has influenced his professional legacy.

Juran’s autobiography teaches us that revolutionary thought can be found in hidden places. The employee that you least suspect of being capable of the next “leap forward” in quality could now be running one of the machines in your lab or production line. Juran, by his account, was an outsider in ethnicity, race, religion, social skills, style, etc., and yet he has left an indelible mark on how manufacturers view quality. Juran admits in the book that, given a poor role model in his father, childhood poverty and his early status as a social outsider, he was the least likely, by outward appearances, to have his own wonderful family and enjoy a successful career. But he did. With this in mind, the question then becomes for each of us, “Who works for me now that could prove more valuable than I have given him credit for?” Are you willing to look beyond the surface and dig further for answers? For the right person?

Juran talks about his career in quality. But rather than a technical look at his ideas, Juran gives us the human side of these stories. He was fearful at striking out on his own as a consultant after World War II. His talents and abilities were perfectly suited to a life as a “freelancer,” as he calls it, but he had familial obligations. Most of us have faced similar risks. Do we take the chance? Are we in an environment, at work or home, that encourages us to take risks? Great steps forward in thoughts and practices require taking risks, Juran points out.

Juran explains how success comes in one’s ideas or personal passions. In the professional world, Juran teaches the difference between improving manufacturing when it is solely the responsibility of a singular engineer or department vs. something that permeates every aspect of the workplace. True success, Juran says, comes when an idea or practice is integrated into every aspect of life—be it personal or professional.

Juran’s autobiography is scheduled to be published in mid-October, and I heartily recommend it. The lasting lesson Juran leaves the reader with is, that despite one’s surroundings, no matter one’s lot in life, it is possible to improve. It is possible to make one’s way in life better and translate that to making one’s mark on those we encounter. Juran did it in a large way, but each of us has the opportunity to do it in the lives we lead and in the careers we hold.

Do you have stories about the human side of quality? Let me know at williamst@bnp.com.

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