Face of Quality: A Tribute to Dr. Joseph M. Juran

March 1, 2011
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Arguably the greatest management and quality consultant of the 20th century, Dr. Juran is remembered as an evangelist for quality and quality management.



Near the anniversary of the death of Dr. Joseph M. Juran (1904–2008), I thought it might be of interest to revisit the person who has been called the father of quality and referred to as the greatest quality giant of the 20th century. Perhaps more importantly, he is recognized as the person who influenced the adding of the human dimension to quality, broadening it from its statistical origin to the more comprehensive total quality management.

Juran pushed for the education and training of managers. His thought was that human relations problems were most important to isolate and resolve. He felt that resistance to change was more of a cultural issue and the root cause of quality problems.

My personal exposure to Juran began with an article of his I read more than 35 years ago. As a young quality engineer, I was part of team charged with bringing to my company unique quality approaches. Juran consented to visit with our senior management to share his thoughts.

I was able to meet him on several occasions, but during our first meeting, I was already inspired to join the American Society for Quality and get involved in quality. Through a journey of studying and learning about quality from many people, I became a Juranite-a disciple of his theories and practioner of his principles of quality. He didn’t just teach statistics. In fact, he didn’t think of himself as a statistician but simply dedicated to the total quality approach. Through Juran’s influence, it became evident that the human side of quality was just as important as the technical side.

Juran’s life is like a Horatio Alger story. His humble start in life gave no indication to the success and notoriety he would achieve.

In 1924, he accepted a position in the inspection group at Western Electric in Hawthorne, IL, at a weekly salary of $27. He rose to inspection division chief in just five years. During this time, he wrote the first known text on statistical quality control-and the ancestor of today’s widely-used Western Electric Statistical Quality Control Handbook.

Little did he know at the time, the decision to work at Western Electric would set him off on a more than 75-plus year career in quality. He would work with a virtual who’s who in quality. People such as George Edwards, Harold Dodge, Harry Romig and Walter Shewhart helped shape his ideas and his future.

During WWII, Juran served the Department of Defense as assistant administrator of the Lend-Lease program. After the war, he didn’t go back to Western Electric but went forward to create history.

In 1946, he, along with several other notables, founded the American Society for Quality Control. Juran developed what arguably became the foremost influential course on quality. His “Managing for Quality” curriculum has been taught to thousands of people in almost every country of the world.

In 1954, he conducted seminars for Japan’s senior and middle managers, explaining the roles they had to play in promoting quality. Juran was invited back many times and his teachings were so inspirational that a temple was named in his honor. He also was honored with Japan’s highest award that can be given to a non-Japanese-the Order of the Sacred Treasure. It was awarded in recognition of his contribution to “the development of quality control in Japan and the facilitation of U.S. and Japanese friendship.”

Juran’s process of developing ideas was gradual. Top management involvement, the Pareto principle-which could easily have been named the Juran principle-the need for widespread quality training, the definition of quality, the Juran Trilogy, the project-by-project approach to improvement-these are some of the ideas for which he is best known and all emerged gradually. The first edition of his classic book, the Quality Control Handbook, first released in 1951, contained about 100 pages and the fifth edition more than 1,900 pages. The sixth edition has recently been released and he edited it even in the final days of his life. His handbook is still widely considered to be the bible on quality.

Juran’s groundbreaking work in quality management and leadership was the catalyst that transformed industries. Shortly before his death, Juran said, “My job of contributing to the welfare of my fellow man is my great unfinished business.”

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