Why Manage Better?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Which quality guru contributed the most and why?

Robert Thomson, a member of my LinkedIn network recently asked this question. It's a deceptive question. The more you think about it the tougher it gets. I almost decided I don't have the credentials to answer it. But then I looked at the few answers that Robert had already received. Most appeared to be saying - Deming. Nothing wrong with it since each one of them also said it was their personal opinion. I decided to say what I feel. J M Juran is my favorite quality guru.

Here is what he asked with my answer:

Which quality guru contributed the most and why?

The Quality Gurus—Dr. W. Edwards Deming, Dr. Joseph Juran, Philip Crosby, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Dr. H. James Harrington, Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, Dr. Walter A. Shewhart, Shigeo Shingo, Frederick Taylor, and Dr. Genichi Taguchi—have made a significant impact on the world through their contributions to improving not only businesses, but all organizations including state and national governments, military organizations, educational institutions, healthcare organizations, and many other establishments and organizations.

However, which quality guru contributed the most and why?

Firstly, it is unfair to compare such luminaries. Especially by us who are so far away from being even close to their levels. But if I do have to pick One, and I think that was your intent, then it is Dr. Joseph Moses Juran (JMJ) without a doubt. If I had to pick two – Juran and Deming; three – Juran, Deming, and Shewhart.

Some research is required before we answer a question like this. Unless we are okay with allowing perception and hype to overtake our judgment. I have referred to biographies and published literature on Juran and Deming before commenting.

JMJ was a the first Quality consultant - he created the industry.
JMJ concepts are fundamental to quality - Trilogy of planning, control, and improvement; Pareto analysis; Universal improvement cycle of diagnostic and remedial journey (Six Sigma was later an improvement on this)...long list.
JMJ highlighted the importance of quality improvement and management’s role in it well before other Gurus.
JMJ won the Japanese highest civil honor before other Guru's - he has a temple in Japan in his name and was offered the naming of the Nippon prize in his name (This prize is for winners of Deming prize).
JMJ was also instrumental in setting up what is known as ASQ today.
JMJ’s books – Managerial Breakthrough; Quality, Planning, and Analysis; Quality by Design; Handbook – all are seminal works. Generations have benefitted from his work.

If another Guru has hogged more limelight it is only because JMJ was a mild mannered man, content in his service to humanity. He had turned down naming of the Japan prize in his name only because he would feel awkward.

No offence to Deming but his move to the so called ‘holistic quality’ was very late in life. He became popular only after a 1980 TV show erroneously presented him as the ‘sole’ architect of Japanese quality. An error the producers later regretted. Some research will tell us that Juran was invited by JUSE once they realized that Deming’s SQC needed to be complimented with improvement efforts. To give credit where it is due, it was Deming who suggested Juran’s name.

My apologies if I have sounded offending towards other Gurus. I am nobody to judge Gurus.