Magazine celebrates its 50th anniversary, we take a look at some of the quality gurus who have made a significant impact on the world through their contributions to improving not only businesses, but all organizations.
Certainly there have been many quality gurus who have left their mark on industry and society as a whole. This article focuses on six people, three of whom I am proud to say that I have known professionally and personally, who had a profound impact on the quality movement. Subconsciously, I may have placed these luminaries in priority order so this list maybe one-sided and can be argued from various perspectives. As the author, I have taken some liberties but many experts will likely concur with those appearing here but the order may change, depending on individual experiences.
Walter A. Shewhart (1891-1967)
Walter Andrew Shewhart was a giant among giants in the quality movement during the first half of the 20th century. While working for Western Electric located in Hawthorne, IL, his groundbreaking work focused on reduction of variation and charts. His work altered the course of industrial history, led a quality revolution and launched the quality profession.
Shewhart defined the problem of process variability in terms of assignable and chance causes. On May 16, 1924, Shewhart prepared a memorandum of less than one page in length and forwarded to his manager, George Edwards, who later became the first president of American Society for Quality Control. This memorandum set forth the essential principles of controlling variation through the application of control charts.
Shewhart’s principle was that bringing a process into a state of statistical control would allow the distinction between assignable and chance cause variations. By keeping the process in control, it would be possible to predict future output and to economically manage processes. This was the birth of the modern scientific study of process control. Shewhart has often been referred to as the father of statistical process control.
In 1931, he published his watershed work, “Economist Control of Quality of Manufactured Product.” It challenged the inspection-based approach to quality and introduced the modern era of quality management. Up until this time, statistical process control was largely a Bell Telephone quality tool. Shewhart’s book, however, popularized statistical control and its use then spread throughout industry.
From the 1930s forward, Shewhart’s interests expanded from industrial quality to wider concerns in science and statistical inference. Shewhart was at the core of a group of people who were destined to become famous in their time. This group included Harold Dodge and Harry Romig, known for their work on product sampling plans. Joseph M. Juran worked at the Hawthorne Plant and Bell Laboratories for several years and worked closely with Shewhart.
W. Edwards Deming worked as an intern at the Hawthorne Plant where he became interested in Shewhart’s work. Shewhart and Deming had a long relationship of collaboration. Deming continued to champion Shewhart’s ideas, methodologies and theories throughout his career. While working with Japan, Deming further developed some of Shewhart’s methodological proposals of scientific inference, which had been named the Shewhart Cycle and was represented by the plan-do-check-act elements.
During the 1990s, Shewhart’s work was rediscovered by a new generation of industrial engineers and managers, and this time these concepts were repackaged and incorporated into the Six Sigma approach.
Shewhart believed that statistical theory should serve the needs of industry and society as a whole. He challenged the norms of his day and showed manufacturers a better way that revolutionized industry. Shewhart has often been referred to as the father of statistical quality control because he brought together the disciplines of statistics, engineering and economics.
Upon his death in 1967, there were a multitude of commentaries from many who were themselves important figures in the development of the quality field. An excerpt from a speech by the chairman of the committee that awarded the first ASQ Shewhart Medal captured Shewhart’s character in the follow words:
“Shewhart’s legacy lives in mementos of him-a simple bowl and some numbered chips, a bronze medal, some books and writings. It lives in the succession of other prominent individuals he influenced, and it lives in the society of professionals who carry on the work he started.”
Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008)
Joseph Moses Juran had a profound impact on not only the lives of countless individuals, but on nations of the world as he spread the gospel of total quality. No other person was able to capture the essence of quality as a total effort. Juran 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 addition 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 the ones to isolate and resolve. Resistance to change was more cultural and the root cause of quality problems.
My personal exposure to Juran began with one of his articles 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 and share his thoughts. I had the privilege of meeting him during one of his visits, and after more than 30 years, our company is still applying some of his recommendations.
I was able to meet Juran on other occasions, but during our first meeting I was inspired to sustain a career in quality and become involved in American Society for Quality. Through a journey of studying and learning about quality from a variety of people, I became a Juranite-a disciple of his theories and practioner of his principles on quality. He did not just teach statistics. In fact, he did not think of himself as a statistician, but more 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 during his life.
In 1924 he accepted a position in the inspection group at Western Electric, a division of AT&T, in Hawthorne, IL. 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-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 were instrumental in shaping his ideas and his future.
During World War II, Juran served the Department of Defense (DoD) as assistant administrator of the Lend-Lease Program. After the war he did not go back to Western Electric but went forward to create history and a legacy for generations of quality professionals.
In 1946 Juran, along with several other notables, founded the American Society for Quality Control. He developed what has been called the foremost influential course on quality. His “managing for quality” 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 to the Japanese people 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 his fifth edition contained more than 1,900 pages. (The 6th edition was recently released with much acclaim.) His handbook is still widely considered to be the bible on quality and was instrumental in becoming core elements in the body of knowledge for ASQ certified quality engineers.
Juran founded the Juran Institute in 1979 with the aim of increasing awareness of his theories and principles. It was through this institute that the widely acclaimed video series “Juran on Quality Improvement” was produced. He continued to deliver exceptional contributions well into his 90s. He played a part in development of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, which has led a revolution of organizational improvement.
Like Shewhart, much of Juran’s work was rediscovered by engineers and managers in the 1990s. His principles of improvement coming project-by-project led by trained facilitators and leaders were incorporated into the Six Sigma approach.
Juran was one of those rare individuals whose collective work spans generations to make a sustained impact on society. His 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.” He is truly missed and it is doubtful there will be anyone who will soon follow in his footsteps. Juran was truly the “architect of quality.”
William Edwards Deming (1900-1993)
W. Edwards Deming was an American statistician, author, lecturer, professor and management consultant. Perhaps he is best known for his work in Japan after World War II when the Department of Defense (DoD) asked his help in the rebuilding of their industries. From 1950 forward, Deming taught management how to improve design, product quality and testing through various methods, including the application of statistical application.
Deming’s great legacy was that he opened the way for quality and statistical thinking in Japan, and later to American companies such as Ford Motor Co. Deming made a significant contribution to Japan’s reputation for innovative high-quality products and its emergence as an economic power. He is regarded as having had more impact upon Japanese manufacturing and business than any other person of non-Japanese heritage.
Deming is considered a folk hero in Japan because of the impact of his work. His influence was so significant that it is considered to have significant influence on Japan’s third wave of industrial revolution. The Japanese government showed their appreciation for his work by honoring Deming with an imperial award, the Order of the Sacred Treasure, and establishing an award in his name, the Deming Prize.
His accomplishments while working with the Japanese resurging industries could hardly have been predicted but his inspiration for excellence was set in place years before. While working on his Ph.D. at Yale in mathematics and physics, he had internships at Bell Telephone Laboratories, a division of AT&T. Deming found great inspiration in the work of Walter Shewhart, the originator of the concepts of statistical control of processes and the related technical tool of the control chart.
Shewhart’s idea of common and chance causes of variation led directly to Deming’s theory of management. He realized that these concepts could be applied not only to manufacturing processes but also to the processes by which organizations are led and managed. This insight was significant as it made possible Deming’s influence on the economics of the industrialized world after his work with the Japanese.
Despite being considered a hero in Japan, he still struggled to get his ideas accepted by American businesses. The watershed event that would change all that and catapult Deming into the American scene was the 1980 NBC video whitepaper titled, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?”
This documentary was about the increasing industrial competition the United States was facing from Japan. As a result of the broadcast, demand for his services increased significantly, and continued throughout the world until his death at the age of 93.
Ford Motor Co. was one of the first American companies to recruit Deming to help jump-start their quality movement. To management’s surprise, Deming’s first order of business was not to talk about quality but about management. Deming stressed that 85% of all problems were management-caused. As Ford implemented more and more Deming principles, quality and profits improved. In a letter to AutoWeek
Magazine, Donald Peterson, then-Ford CEO, said, “We are moving toward building a quality culture at Ford and the many changes that have been taking place here have their roots directly in Dr. Deming’s teachings.”
In his book, “Out of Crisis,” Deming’s theory of management presented his famous 14 Points for Management. Management’s failure to plan for the future brings about loss of market share, which results in the loss of job security. He stressed that management must be judged not only by quarterly profits, but by longer-term plans to stay in business, protect their investment, ensure future shareholder dividends, and provide more employment through improved products and services. Deming commented, “Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.”
Deming left a legacy that lives on in his documented works. He founded the W. Edwards Deming Center for Quality, Productivity and Competitiveness at Columbia Business School to promote operational excellence in business through the development of research, best practices and strategic planning.
His value and benefit to society can be seen in his System of Profound Knowledge, which is the basis for application of his famous 14 Points for Management. Deming taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs. The key is to practice continual improvement and think of manufacturing as a system, not as separate initiatives or elements.
Kaoru Ishikawa (1915-1989)
Kaoru Ishikawa was a Japanese icon, university professor and influential quality management innovator. The lifetime work of Ishikawa was extensive and had a profound impact on a worldwide scale. He wrote 647 articles and 31 books, including two that were translated into English: “The Guide to Quality Control” and “What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way.”
After World War II, Japan needed to transform its industrial sector, which was then perceived as a producer of cheap toys and poor quality cameras. It was Ishikawa’s ability to mobilize the Japanese government and people toward a specific common goal that was largely responsible for Japan’s quality-improvement initiatives. How was he able to do this? Ishikawa was perceived as wise, insightful and able to get people to focus on the very root of problems.
Ishikawa integrated and expanded the management concepts of Deming and Juran into the Japanese system of quality management. His ability to interpret the primary concepts and translate into a system of improvement techniques and strategies was critical to the Japanese success.
Ishikawa, in conjunction with the Japanese Union of Scientist and Engineers (JUSE), introduced the concept of quality circles. This concept began as an experiment to see what effect the “leading hand” at the worker level could have on quality. It was a natural extension of training that was taking place at other levels of an organization-the top and middle managers having already been trained by Deming and Juran.
Ishikawa believed strongly that all workers must be involved in quality improvement and that teams provided the greatest avenue to participation. People’s ability to offer suggestions to improve processes and products would be maximized by providing training in basic problem solving techniques. A simple concept today, but it was unique at the time.
Quality circles would soon become very popular and form an important link in a company’s total quality management system. At one point there were 1 million active quality circles in Japan, involving more than 10 million people.
He was at the forefront of the Japanese total quality control movement. To reduce confusion between Japanese and the western-style approaches, he called the Japanese method companywide quality control (CWQC). CWQC involved participation of workers from the top to the bottom of the organization and from the start to the finish of the product life cycle; therefore, the approach justifies its name.
Ishikawa became the chairman of the editorial board of the monthly Statistical Quality Control. Becoming so well-known and established, Ishikawa was involved in international standardization activities exposing him to other key concepts and initiatives.
He is well known for developing the concept for the fishbone diagram, also known as the Ishikawa or cause and effect diagram that is used by teams to improve their performance in determining potential root causes of their quality problems. The cause and effect diagram became one of the seven basic quality tools and is utilized thoroughly by teams and recognized around the world for its contribution to improvement.
Perhaps the most dominant leader in JUSE, Ishikawa also served as president of the Japanese Society for Quality Control. He co-founded and served as president of the International Academy for Quality.
His approach to reviewing the quality performance of Japanese companies formed the model Hewlett-Packard used to conduct internal quality reviews. Later, that approach served as a role model for the site visits conducted by the board of examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Upon Ishikawa’s 1989 death, Juran delivered this message: “There is so much to be learned by studying how Dr. Ishikawa managed to accomplish so much during a single lifetime. In my observation, he did so by applying his natural gifts in an exemplary way. He was dedicated to serving society rather than serving himself. His manner was modest, and this elicited the cooperation of others.”
Juran has been called the father of the quality movement. If this is so, then Ishikawa could be called the grandfather of the quality movement. He was wise and openly shared his insight for the benefit of all. He was able to get to the point of a problem, no matter how complex, and offer sound advice. Isn’t this what a benevolent grandfather does?
Armand V. Feigenbaum (1922- )
Armand Vallin (Val) Feigenbaum is an American quality expert, academic, innovator, author, benefactor and businessman. He certainly is considered a quality guru but his life’s work is much broader than that title indicates. He has been a role model for managerial innovation and its implementation.
He was one of the first engineers to be able to speak in the language of management by using financial performance as an indicator of poor quality. Throughout his career, Feigenbaum was able to refine his business theories to demonstrate the economic relationships whereby quality drives commercial performance.
Early practitioners of quality theories and principles focused on inspection and statistical sampling or the use of statistics for process control. Feigenbaum, however, was the first to define a systems engineering approach to quality.
With more than 30 years of hands-on managerial experience and serving as quality champion at General Electric (GE), Feigenbaum was able to develop his system theories. He rose rapidly into increasing levels of responsible positions. While GE’s global quality focus expanded, Feigenbaum made many international contacts with leading businesses in Europe and Japan.
Feigenbaum’s ideas are contained in his now famous book “Total Quality Control,” first published in 1951 under the title “Quality Control: Principles, Practice, and Administration.” This book has been translated into more than a score of languages and the fifth edition was recently released. This book and his related contributions is why Feigenbaum has been called the father of quality management and is widely recognized as a quality guru.
Total quality control, known today as total quality management (TQM), is one of the foundations of modern management and has been widely accepted as a viable operating philosophy across various industry sectors. The integration of previous concepts and methods of quality control into a systematic discipline are what made his work so significant.
Many of his initial contributions were not readily recognized by senior management as critical success factors for sustained business growth. That changed with the NBC documentary, “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” which was broadcast on June 24, 1980. Coincidently, the release of the third edition of “Total Quality Control” happened around this time and caused renewed focus on his principles.
Feigenbaum served a pivotal role in the history of the quality movement. Along with Juran and Deming, he established the intellectual framework for quality as a discipline worthy of senior management’s attention. While the quality movement had previously focused on production processes and product quality using statistical tools and analysis methods, the extension of quality into all areas of business, including the service and public sectors, is Feigenbaum’s lasting contribution.
By encouraging a systems approach, he focused organizations on building an understanding of the effects of the flow of their business operations and how one operation had subsequent impact on downstream operations. This systemic linkage among processes was the breakthrough thinking for Japan’s just-in-time management and Ishikawa’s companywide quality control.
Feigenbaum’s second influential concept was financial accountability which he introduced through his emphasis on the impact of the cost of poor quality. He studied the economic effects caused by poor quality performance and characterized quality costs as the costs of prevention, appraisal, as well as internal and external failure. Feigenbaum was the first to introduce the concept of the “hidden” plant. The idea that so much extra work is performed in correcting mistakes that there is a hidden plant within any factory or organization. This work encouraged Philip Crosby’s application of “zero defects” and Feigenbaum’s cost of poor quality indicator as the business measurement standard to assess nonconformance to customer requirements.
Many managers misunderstand one of the more popular sayings attributed to Feigenbaum, “quality is everybody’s job.” What many don’t realize is that Feigenbaum intended this concept to be about establishing accountability for quality. Because quality is everybody’s job, it may become nobody’s job. The idea that quality must be actively managed and have visibility at the highest levels of management.
Feigenbaum continues to expand his theories and principles to a worldwide audience. He co-founded, along with Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa of Japan and Walter Masing of Germany, the International Academy for Quality, an organization that continues to be dedicated to advancing the understanding and use of principles, techniques and tools to benefit society at large.
Along the way, Feigenbaum steered the structure of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as a member of its inaugural board of overseers, the group that helped create an operational definition of total quality in terms that can be broadly applied throughout society. For his significant contributions, he received the National Medal for Technology and Innovation in September 2008 from President George W. Bush.
When history judges the breakthrough ideas and thought leaders of the 20th century, Feigenbaum will be noted for his enduring contributions. He has earned a unique place in the history of engineering through his definition, advancement and execution of his quality and managerial principles.
Philip B. Crosby (1926-2001)
Philip Bayard Crosby was a legend in the quality movement and was considered one of the leading authorities on the subject. He was a businessman, quality professional, author, trainer, philosopher and management consultant throughout his storied career.
After serving in World War II and Korea, and a brief stint as a podiatrist, Crosby began his career as a quality professional. After working as a test engineer at Crosley Corp and a reliability technician at Bendix Corp., he joined Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin, in 1957 as a senior quality engineer. This began the development of his zero defect concepts and his writing and speaking on this topic.
In 1965, Crosby joined International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) as the vice president of quality. During the 14 years with ITT, he worked with many of the world’s largest industrial and service companies, implementing his pragmatic management philosophy, and found that it worked.
Juran, Deming and Feigenbaum were considered the brains, the academics, of the quality revolution. Where Crosby excelled was in finding a terminology for quality that everyone could understand.
Like Fredrick W. Taylor, also an influencer of Juran, Crosby’s ideas came from his experiences on an assembly line. He focused on zero defects, not unlike the focus of the Six Sigma quality movement (although, even 6 sigma quality produces 3.4 ppm, which is not zero).
Crosby was quick to point out, however, that zero defects is not something that originates on the assembly line. To create a manufacturing process that has zero defects, management must set the tone and atmosphere for employees to emulate. If management does not create a system by which zero defects are clearly the objective, then employees are not to blame when things go astray and result in defects occurring. The benefit for organizations of such a system is a dramatic decrease in wasted resources and time spent producing goods that customer’s do not want.
Crosby published 14 books, all of which were best sellers. His first book, “Quality is Free,” has been credited with beginning a quality revolution in the United States and Europe. It has been translated into 15 languages and sold more than 2.5 million copies. All his books, including his other keynote book, “Quality Without Tears,” were easy to read, so people read them. He popularized Feigenbaum’s idea of the cost of poor quality, that is, figuring out how much it really costs to do things badly.
Crosby showed managers everywhere that doing things wrong made costs skyrocket. More importantly, he showed that management was the root cause of these problems. The book set off a revolution in corporate thinking because it shifted the responsibility for the quality of goods and services from the quality department to the corporate boardroom.
To Crosby, there was no such thing as a quality problem. Systems, individuals, processes or departments cause the problems. This was unique thinking. In a meeting to discuss a problem, a department manager brought up a recent quality problem causing much difficulty. After correcting the manager by saying there was no quality problem, the manager became upset and asked, “then what are we meeting for?” When Crosby said “to discuss the engineering problem,” it spurred much debate but it drove the organization to an enlightened transformation and an improved quality culture.
Crosby left ITT to form his own company, Philip Crosby Associates, where he spread the quality gospel through training and management consulting. He went on to be recognized by corporations around the globe as a guru of quality management, and a business philosopher and innovator who changed the way organizations seek to achieve greater efficiency, reliability and profitability.
In addition to his zero defects concept, Crosby left us with his Four Absolutes of Quality Management, the Five Characteristics of an Eternally Successful Organization, and his 14 Steps to Quality Improvement.
Crosby was a prime mover to promote the expansion of the quality concepts, theories and principles. First as head of quality from the global behemoth ITT and then as one of the most highly respected and sought-after quality management consultants and educators, he played a key role in quality improvement.
Crosby’s legacy continues to live on in better quality in thousands of organizations across the globe. Upon Crosby’s death, a noted quality professional had this tribute, “He was one of the warmest and most focused people I ever had the pleasure to meet and his common-sense approach will be missed.”
It was not our intent to ignore the many notable quality gurus who have given so much to the quality movement. With space limited we had to focus on a small number for this article. However, we should give credit to all the men and women who have toiled to make this society better through their dedicated and tireless work. Q