During the 20th century, there emerged a growth of public suspicions and fears relative to the negative byproducts of industrial progress. These fears are evident in multiple trends, all quality-related:
Fear of major disasters and near disasters resulting from quality failures. Growing concern about damage to the environment. Action by the courts to impose strict liability. Public annoyance with the numerous minor quality failures. Growth of consumer organizations and an associated demand for better quality and more responsive customer service.
These trends are traceable to society's adoption of technology and industrialization. Technology confers wonderful benefits on society, but it also makes society dependent on the continuing performance and good behavior of technological goods and services. This is "life behind the quality dikes"\emdash a form of securing benefits but living dangerously. Like the Dutch, who have reclaimed much land from the sea, we secure benefits from technology. However, we need good dikes\emdash good quality\emdash to protect us against the numerous service interruptions and occasional disasters. These same trends have also led to legislation which at the outset was bitterly opposed by our industrial companies. Since then it has become clear that the public is serious about its concerns and is willing to pay for good dikes.
The response of progressive companies to "life behind the quality dikes" has consisted mainly of: Creation of high-level committees to establish policies and goals with respect to product safety, environmental damage and consumer complaints. Establishment of specific action plans to be carried out by the various company functions. Audits to assure that the action plans are carried out.
In addition, the ingenuity of companies has begun to find ways to reduce the costs of providing solutions.
The Japanese quality revolution and its impact
than by military means. The major manufacturers, who had been extensively involved in military production, converted to civilian products. They then found that a major obstacle to selling these products in international markets was Japan's reputation as an exporter of shoddy goods.
This major obstacle convinced the Japanese of the need to improve their quality reputation. The shock of losing the war made them willing to explore new ways of thinking about quality, including learning from other countries. Through Keidanren (the Japanese Federation of Economic Organizations) and JUSE (the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers), the Japanese companies acted collectively.
They sent teams abroad to visit foreign companies and study their approaches to managing for quality. They translated selected foreign literature into Japanese. They invited foreign lecturers to come to Japan and conduct training courses. These lecturers, W. Edwards Deming on statistical methods and J.M. Juran on managing for quality, provided seed courses that became influential inputs to the quality revolution that followed.
Building on these and other inputs, the Japanese adopted some unprecedented strategies for creating their revolution in quality:
The upper managers personally took charge of leading the revolution. The companies trained their engineers and the work force in how to use statistical methods as an aid to control of quality. The seed courses were Deming's 1950 lectures. They trained the entire managerial hierarchy in how to manage for quality. The seed courses for this training were Juran's 1954 lectures. They undertook quality improvement at a revolutionary rate, year after year. They evolved the QC circle concept to enable the work force to participate in quality improvement. They enlarged their business plans to include quality goals.
During the 1960s and 1970s, many Japanese manufacturers greatly increased their share of the U.S. market. A major reason was superior quality. Numerous industries were impacted: consumer electronics, automobiles, steel, machine tools and so on. Some researchers quantified the quality differences. See Juran, 1979 (color television sets); also Garvin, 1982 (room air conditioners).
The impact of the Japanese exports on the United States was considerable. Consumers benefited greatly by access to goods of superior quality at competitive and even lower prices. However, great damage was done to other areas of the U.S. economy: The impacted manufacturing companies were damaged by the resulting loss of market share. The work force and the unions were damaged by the resulting export of jobs. The national economy was damaged by the resulting unfavorable trade balances. Collectively, these impacts called for responsive action.
Interestingly, some people believe that had the two Americans (Deming and Juran) not given their lectures, the Japanese quality revolution would not have happened. In the view of the author, this belief has no relation to reality. Had the Americans never gone there, the Japanese quality revolution would have taken place without them. Each of the Americans did bring to Japan a structured training package that the Japanese had not yet evolved. In that sense, each gave the Japanese a degree of jump-start. But the same Americans also gave their lectures in other countries, none of which succeeded in building such a revolution. That is why the author has told his audiences that, "The unsung heroes of the Japanese quality revolution are the Japanese managers." (For a Japanese view of postwar events in Japan, see Ishikawa, 1989, pages 9\endash 13.)
Responses to the Japanese quality revolution-Price competition
In the early postwar period, the impacted U.S. companies logically considered Japanese competition to be in price rather than in quality. (Japanese wages were far below those in the United States.) So one major response was to move the production of labor-intensive products to low-wage areas, often off-shore.
Block the imports
Some of the impacted companies tried to solve their problem by blocking the imports. They urged legislation that would establish restrictive import quotas and tariffs. They urged criminal prosecutions on the grounds of violation of laws against "dumping" (selling below cost, or at less than fair value). They filed civil lawsuits on the grounds of unfair trade practices. They appealed to the public to "Buy American."
These efforts yielded a modicum of relief but did nothing to improve U.S. competitiveness in quality. In addition, restriction of imports generated serious side effects: Domestic users lost access to better values; trade restrictions invited retaliatory restrictions; the impacted companies had no incentive to become more competitive. In some cases, import restrictions have damaged the very industries they were intended to protect (Levinson, 1987).
Lack of early warning
As the years unfolded, price competition declined while quality competition increased (Juran, 1979). At the outset, Western companies were clearly the quality leaders. Moreover, they continually improved their products, but at a gradual, evolutionary rate.
In contrast, Japanese automotive quality was at the outset well below that of the West. However, the Japanese undertook to improve their quality at a revolutionary rate, enabling them to overtake the West during the mid-1970s.
The U.S. upper managers were generally unaware of these trends. The reports available to them consisted mainly of financial information. In those days, the executive instrument panels lacked information on customer satisfaction, competitive quality, cost of poor quality and the like. So the managers continued to believe that Japanese competition was primarily price competition rather than quality competition.
In June 1966, at the conference of the European Organization for Quality Control (in Stockholm), the author sounded a warning:
"The Japanese are headed for world quality leadership and will attain it in the next two decades because no one else is moving there at the same pace." (Juran, 1967)
That warning went unheeded. To the West, it was unthinkable that Japan, of all countries, could become the world quality leader.
Efforts to become competitive in quality
During the 1960s and 1970s, a growing quality crisis became evident,
and company managers became increasingly concerned. Some upper managers
recognized that the soundest response to a competitive challenge was to
become more competitive. Not being trained or experienced in managing for
quality, these same upper managers sought advice from the experts, internal
and external. As it turned out, most experts were specialists in tools
techniques, and tended to assume that what they had to sell coincided with
what the companies needed. As a result, a long list of potential strategies
Exhortation of the work force
Organization and training of quality circles
Statistical process control
Awareness training for managers and supervisors
Computation of the cost of poor quality
Project-by-project quality improvement
Preparation of complete manuals of procedure
Revision of organization structure
Incentives for quality
Automated inspection and test
Automation and robotics
Every one of those (and other) strategies had some degree of merit under proper conditions. However, the companies needed a plan of action that addressed their major quality problems. Yet, in most cases, the major quality problems had not been identified. In companies where the design of the action plan was by a functional manager, there was a risk that the plan would be biased toward the goals of that function. Where the design was by the upper managers, the risk was that they lacked the necessary training and experience. They were experienced managers, but not in managing for quality. Generally, they opted for "action now," that is, do something plausible promptly rather than endure delay. The results were predictably unsatisfactory.
The major initiatives of the 1980s
By the end of the 1970s, the U.S. quality crisis had reached major proportions. It attracted the attention of national legislators and administrators. It was featured prominently in the media- it was regularly on the front page. It increasingly forced company chief executive officers to provide personal leadership in managing for quality.
During the 1980s, a great many U.S. companies undertook initiatives to deal with the quality crisis. These initiatives focused largely on three strategies: exhortation, project-by-project quality improvement and statistical process control.
Some consultants proposed a sweeping solution by exhorting the work force to make no mistakes\emdash "Do it right the first time." This simplistic approach was persuasive to those managers who, at the time, believed that the primary cause of their company's quality problems was the carelessness and indifference of the work force. Actually, the bulk of the quality problems had their origin in the managerial and technological processes. In due course, this approach was abandoned, but not before a lot of divisiveness had been generated.
Quality improvement, project by project
One of the consulting companies, Juran Institute Inc., created and published a series of videos titled Juran on Quality Improvement. These were tested by many companies. Some achieved notable quality improvements; others did not. The decisive variable was the extent of personal leadership provided by the upper managers. By the end of the 1980s, the improvement process described in those videos had become the basic model for the process of continuous quality improvement adopted by most companies.
The third wave of statistical quality control
The 1980s also witnessed a broad movement to train company personnel in application of statistical methods to quality problems. The stimulus came from a widely viewed video titled If Japan Can, Why Can't We? It implied strongly that Japanese success in quality had resulted solely from use of statistical methods. The video helped persuade many companies to train numerous employees in basic statistical methods. The term statistical process control became the popular label for this third wave.
Such training had merit\emdash it provided trainees with a useful set of tools. Yet it was premature. It was done before the companies had defined their quality goals and the strategies needed to reach those goals. In a sense, the personnel were trained in remedies when the diseases were not yet known.
Eastman Chemical Co., when relating its approach to managing for quality (it became a 1993 winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award), stated that it trained 10,000 of its personnel in SPC. However, many trainees lacked the opportunity to apply the training, so much was forgotten (Eastman Chemical Co., 1994).
This third wave of statistical quality control (now SPC) is destined to become a permanent addition to the tools of managing for quality. However, during the 1980s many companies limited their quality initiative to SPC, assuming it to be the panacea claimed by its advocates. Those companies lost precious years before learning that quality leadership comes from a mixture of strategies, no one of which is a panacea.
Results of the initiatives of the 1980s
In retrospect, the results of the quality initiatives of the 1980s were deeply disappointing. Most of the initiatives fell well short of their goals. Some achieved negative results\emdash the companies lost several years of potential progress. The disappointing results were due mainly to poor choice of strategies and poor execution of valid strategies. In turn, these were largely traceable to the limitations of leadership by upper managers, who lacked training and experience in managing for quality. In the minds of some observers, the lessons learned during the 1980s were chiefly lessons in what not to do.
The role models
During that same disappointing decade, a relative few company initiatives achieved stunning results. Such companies attained quality leadership\emdash "world-class quality"\emdash and thereby became the role models for the rest of the U.S. economy.
The role models were few in number. They included the Baldrige Award winners plus other companies that had achieved similar results. Together they made up only a tiny part of the U.S. economy. Yet there were enough of these companies to prove that world-class quality is attainable within the U.S. culture.
The successes achieved by the role-model companies stimulated great interest among upper managers and others who sought to learn how such stunning results had been achieved. The role models were quite willing to share information about the strategies they had used to achieve those results. In addition, they took steps to share the lessons learned through company visits, conferences, publications and so on.
Each role model is different. In groping for ways to attain world-class quality, each serves as a laboratory, testing out various strategies, adopting some, modifying others, rejecting still others. Moreover, each company houses resourceful people whose ingenuity knows no bounds. So the role models have contributed invention of new strategies as well as stunning results. In this way, each role model came up with its own unique collection of adopted strategies.
Nevertheless, analyzing these collections shows that they include extensive commonality. There is a core list of strategies that achieved adoption by most of the role model companies. These core strategies deserve careful study. They form the central body of lessons learned\emdash a list of the key strategies that produced those stunning results. As such, they become an essential input to future quality planning.
All role models adopted the concept that the customer has the last word on quality. Adoption of this concept then led to intensified action to identify: who are the customers, internal as well as external; what are the customers' needs; what product features are required to meet those needs; how do customers decide which of the competing products to buy; and so on.
To illustrate, it is now widely recognized that many past quality problems can be traced to failure to meet the needs of internal customers. (A widespread example has been product designs that designers "threw over the wall" to be made by the manufacturing department.) The customer focus concept led to broader acceptance of the participation concept\emdash internal customers should participate in those planning activities that will impact their operations.
Upper managers in charge
One element present in all successes and absent in most failures was the
personal involvement of the upper managers. In effect, the upper managers
took charge of quality by accepting responsibility for certain roles,
Serve on the quality council.
Establish the quality goals.
Provide the needed resources.
Provide the quality-oriented training.
Stimulate quality improvement.
Revise the reward system.
Many upper managers resisted such additions to their own workload. They preferred to establish broad goals and then urge their subordinates to meet the goals. However, the lessons learned from the role models are that the above roles are not delegable\emdash they must be carried out by the upper managers personally.
Strategic quality planning
The role models recognized that the new priority given to quality requires enlarging the business plan to include quality-related goals. These goals are then deployed to identify the needed actions and resources, to establish responsibility for taking the actions and so on. The resulting plans parallel those long used to meet goals for sales and profit. A common name for this concept is strategic quality planning.
The concept of "Big Q"
The role models grasped the concept that managing for quality should not be limited to manufacturing companies and manufacturing processes. It should also include service companies and business processes. This concept broadens the area under the quality umbrella. It bears the name "Big Q," to distinguish it from the traditional "little Q."
Without exception, the role models went extensively into quality improvement\emdash most of the stunning results came from projects to improve quality. These projects extended to all activities under the Big Q umbrella. They reduced costs, raised productivity, shortened cycle times, improved customer service and so on.
Quality improvement required special organization. The vital few projects were carried out by multifunctional teams of managers and specialists. The useful many projects were carried out at lower levels, including members of the work force.
The role models also adopted the concept that quality improvement must go on year after year\emdash it must be woven into the company culture. To this end, they mandated that goals for quality improvement be included in the annual business plans. They also redesigned the systems of recognition and reward to give added weight to performance on quality improvement.
Business process quality management (also reengineering)
A major extension of quality improvement was to the area of business processes. This extension resulted from fresh thinking relative to the multifunctional processes prevalent in functional organizations.
Each horizontal macroprocess consists of numerous steps or microprocesses that thread their way through multiple functions. Every microprocess has an owner, but there is no clear ownership of the macroprocess.
The role models concluded that each key macroprocess should have an owner, and they took action to create such owners (individuals or teams). They also defined the responsibilities of an owner, involving responsibility for improving the macroprocess. An important part of the stunning results achieved by the role models came from improvements made in the business processes.
Training in managing for quality
The earliest formal training courses in quality-related matters were the wartime courses in statistical quality control sponsored by the federal government during World War II. Following the end of the war, these courses were offered by some colleges (as extension courses), by societies such as the American Management Association and the American Society for Quality Control, and by consultants. Then, as the company quality departments broadened their scope, there emerged courses oriented by the functional needs of those departments: inspection and test; quality engineering; reliability engineering; advanced courses in statistical methodology, such as design of experiments and analysis of variance.
During the 1970s, the quality crisis resulting from the Japanese quality revolution emerged. As companies tried to respond, it became clear that training should not be limited to the quality department\emdash it should extend to all functions and all levels of the hierarchy. Such extension required creating an expanded variety of courses to meet the various special needs of the multiple functions and levels.
It also became clear that training should not be limited to exhortation and statistics\emdash it should be expanded to include managing for quality. At the time, training courses in managing for quality were still in the early stages of evolution. Many designs of training courses emerged, and companies selected those that seemed to fit the strategies they had chosen.
By the 1990s, numerous designs had become available for training in managing for quality. No consensus had been reached, but some designs were in wide use. One was based on the Baldrige Award criteria. Another was based on Deming's lectures\emdash statistical quality control plus his 14 points (Deming, 1986). A third was based on the Juran Trilogy , which organizes the subject matter into three fundamental processes: quality planning, quality control and quality improvement.
A further development has been a growing feeling among industrial companies that while quality has risen greatly in importance, the educational system has not kept up with this trend. As a result, school graduates lack knowledge of the subject, forcing companies to fill the gap through training. Schools at all levels have begun to address this problem. In addition, some companies have set up alliances with selected schools to help redesign the curricula, provide training materials, train faculty members and otherwise support the alliance.
Measurement of quality
Measurement of quality at the technological level has been used for many centuries. What is new is the need for measuring quality at the business level\emdash measures of customer satisfaction, competitors' quality, performance of key business processes and so on. To meet such needs often requires inventing new measures as well as creating related methods of analysis and presentation. The need for measurement may also require development of a National Quality Index to parallel the indexes already in use, such as those for consumer prices, unemployment and productivity.
The benchmarking concept grew out of the need to establish quality goals based on factual analysis rather than empirical judgment. For example, in one company the warehouse takes an average of five working days to fill customers' orders. The leading competitor takes an average of four days. A company in a totally different industry takes only three days. The benchmarked goal becomes three days. There may well be a reaction that "It can't be done," and this may be valid as applied to the present process. However, the fact is that the goal is already being met. So the problem is then to create (or recreate) a process that can meet the benchmark.
The benchmarking concept has been widely accepted in the United States. Progress is being made to developing data banks on what are the best-known performances and on the methods used to achieve them.
Human resources and quality: Empowerment
As of the early 1990s, many U.S. companies still retained the separation of planning from execution inherent in the Taylor system of scientific management. As a result, those companies failed to make use of a huge underemployed asset\emdash the education, experience and creativity of the work force. It is generally agreed that the Taylor system is obsolete and should be replaced, but there is no consensus on what should replace it.
Replacing the Taylor system requires transfer of tasks from specialists and supervisors to nonsupervisory workers. The word empowerment has become a label for such transfer. Empowerment takes various forms, all of which have been undergoing test. The more usual forms of empowerment have included the following: Establish worker self-control.\plain\f6\fs24 This requires providing workers with all the essentials for doing good work: means of knowing what are the quality goals; means of knowing what is the actual process performance; and means for adjusting the process in the event that quality does not conform to goals.
A state of self-control makes it possible to empower workers to make decisions on the process\emdash decisions such as, "Is the process in conformance?" and "Should the process continue to run or should it stop?" Ideally, the work force should make such decisions. There is no shorter feedback loop. Establish worker self-inspection. This empowers workers to make decisions on whether the product conforms to the quality goals. Such empowerment shortens the feedback loop, confers a greater sense of job ownership and removes the police atmosphere created by use of inspectors. Enlarge workers' jobs.\plain\f6\fs24 The enlargement may be horizontal\emdash assigning a greater assortment of tasks within the same function to reduce the monotony of short-cycle work. It may also be vertical\emdash assigning multiple functions around the core task. A widespread example has been the training and empowerment of workers who answer telephones, to enable them to provide "one-stop shopping" to customers who call in. Establish self-directing teams of workers.\plain\f6\fs24 Under this concept, a team of workers is trained and empowered to conduct operations that consist of multiple functions as well as multiple tasks. The empowerment may include process planning, establishing work schedules, deciding who will perform which tasks, recruiting new team members, maintaining discipline and still other responsibilities formerly carried out by specialists and supervisors.
The concept of self-directing teams has been widely tested. The published results indicate that quality and productivity improve significantly. The ratio of workers to managers rises sharply. Jobs cross functional lines and become team jobs. Workers become team members. All of this requires extensive training.
Because empowerment involves extensive transfer of work from supervisors and specialists to the work force, it is meeting much cultural resistance. There is also some resistance from labor unions. They sense that empowerment establishes a new communication link between management and the work force, which may weaken the linkage between workers and the union.
In the view of the author, replacing the Taylor system is an idea whose time has come. It is also his view that all of the above options will grow and that the major successor to the Taylor system will be self-directing teams of workers.
Motivation: Recognition and reward
Meeting the new competition in quality has required company personnel to adapt to numerous changes, such as: Quality must receive top priority. Personnel must accept training in various quality-related disciplines. A new responsibility\emdash quality improvement\emdash is added to the traditional list of responsibilities. The use of teams requires personnel to learn how to behave as team members. Generally, U.S. companies have recognized that for such changes to be accepted, they must make revisions with respect to motivation. The companies responded by increasing the use of recognition and, to a lesser degree, by revising the reward systems.
Recognition is public acknowledgment of superior performance. The companies expanded their use of prizes, plaques, ceremonial dinners, publicity and so on. Generally, they did this with skill and in good taste.
While recognition relates to voluntary action, the reward system relates to the mandated actions that define the job description. Here the company responses were less sure-footed\emdash there was no precedent on how to make the needed changes. Mostly the companies expanded the list of parameters used annually to judge employee performance by adding a new parameter such as "performance on quality improvement." (Some companies even failed to realize that they needed to change the reward system.)
The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award
In 1987, the U.S. government established the Baldrige Award as a stimulus to improving quality. During its first few years, the award greatly increased national awareness of the subject and did provide the intended stimulus. The annual number of applicants for the award has been low\emdash usually less than 100. However, a great many companies have used the Baldrige Award criteria as a basis for self-audits to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. stablishing the Baldrige Award has stimulated the growth of state awards. As of late 1994, more than two-thirds of the 50 states had created such awards. There has also been a growth of regional awards, as well as awards within companies. (Numerous European and Latin-American countries have created quality awards, as has the European Foundation for Quality Management.) This proliferation of awards is strong proof of the growing recognition that quality has risen greatly in importance.
The ISO 9000 series of standards
During the 1980s, the countries of Western Europe began to use the International Organization for Standardization's ISO 9000 series of standards as the basis for judging the adequacy of the quality control systems of companies.
Compliance with ISO 9000 is voluntary. There is no legal requirement that companies must be certified as complying with ISO 9000 criteria before they are allowed to sell their products in Europe. However, any company that lacks a certificate of compliance may be at a significant marketing disadvantage if its competitors do have such certificates. Such is the belief of most company heads, including those in the United States. As a result, there has been a rush to become certified.
The ISO 9000 standards have a degree of merit. The criteria define a comprehensive quality control system. The certification process may well get rid of the plague of multiple assessments that have burdened suppliers in the past. However, the criteria fail to include some of the essentials needed to attain world-class quality, such as personal leadership by upper managers; training the hierarchy in managing for quality; quality goals in the business plan; maintaining a revolutionary rate of quality improvement; participation and empowerment of the work force.
All in all, European companies may be in for a massive letdown. They are getting certified to ISO 9000, but this alone will not enable them to attain quality leadership.
Total quality management
As the quality crisis deepened during the last half of the 20th century, more and more prerequisites were identified as essential to achieving world-class quality. A need then arose for a short label for this list of prerequisites. As of the 1990s, the most popular label was the term total quality management, or TQM.
Although TQM became a popular label, there was no agreement on what the essential elements of TQM are. One widely available, comprehensive list was the criteria used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology to evaluate applications for the Baldrige Award. As of the early 1990s, that list became, in the opinion of the author, the most complete available definition of TQM.
Prognosis for the 21st century
Until the 1980s, the prognosis for the United States was gloomy. Japanese companies had successfully invaded the U.S. market with products that offered superior quality and value. The resulting public perception then became a force in its own right, continuing to damage those U.S. companies that had been slow to respond.
During the 1980s, the quality crisis deepened despite initiatives taken by many companies. However, a small number of companies distinguished themselves by raising their quality to world-class levels. The results they achieved have been publicized. The methods they used to get those results have also been publicized. The fact that such results were achieved proved that world-class quality is achievable within the U.S. culture. (If those companies did it, it is doable.) The job ahead then became one of scaling up.
By the early 1990s, some powerful forces had converged to stimulate scaling up. The growing quality crisis had raised awareness of the subject, as did the growth of awards for quality, notably the Baldrige Award. Self-assessment against the Baldrige criteria helped many companies identify their strengths and weaknesses. The publicized results achieved by the role-model companies stimulated a desire to secure similar results. The publicized lessons learned showed the way to get such results. The successful companies began to shrink their supplier base, and a major criterion for supplier survival was to attain world-class quality.
An additional powerful force is waiting to emerge\emdash the urge to "buy American." Most Americans do prefer to buy American, all other things being equal. During the 1960s and 1970s, other things were not equal, so the urge to buy American was overcome by the superior quality and value of Japanese products.
More recently, some U.S. companies have narrowed or eliminated the gap between Japanese and U.S. quality. That action enabled those companies to regain some of the market share they had lost. We can expect the quality gap to continue to narrow in the coming century. That will translate into growth in market share for U.S. companies once customer perception catches up with the facts. Some of this has happened already.
Of course, quality is a moving target, and competitors do not stand still. But the trend remains clear. The revolution in quality will persist into the next century. The 21st century has been the Century of Productivity, but the 21st century will be the Century of Quality.
In the view of the author, the United States is now well-poised to become a world leader in quality during the next century.
Managing for quality in the United States originated in the systems prevailing in Europe at the time the North American continent was colonized. Those systems were rooted in craftsmanship and in the associated regulations by the monopolistic guilds and political authorities.
The Industrial Revolution and the factory system originated in Europe and were then exported to the United States. Reliance on craftsmanship reduced while reliance on inspection and test increased.
The Taylor system of separating planning from execution resulted in giving top priority to productivity, but at the expense of quality. The managers tried to minimize the damage to quality by giving the inspection function an organization status that was not subordinate to production. An unintended byproduct was the emergence of a belief that quality was now the inspection department's responsibility. A further byproduct was that upper managers became detached from the quality function and thereby became progressively less and less informed on how to manage for quality.
The United States became deeply involved in World War II, first as a supplier to the Allies and then as a combatant. The approach to quality relied heavily on inspection and test. Final product quality was less than satisfactory, while the costs of poor quality were shockingly high. These problems carried over into the postwar period, when shortages of civilian goods resulted in a severe decline in quality.
During the 20th century, Americans enthusiastically accepted the benefits of technology. The volume of technological products rose enormously, bringing with it some uninvited guests. Consumers lacked the technological literacy needed to make informed decisions on what to buy, how to deal with product failures and so on. Quality of life became increasingly dependent on the continuing performance of technological goods and services. With greater volume of products came more product failures and more dissatisfied consumers. More product failures also resulted in greater damage to human health and safety. The threat to the environment reached dangerous levels.
Collectively, these impacts stimulated some powerful reactions. Consumerism emerged in unprecedented force. Extensive new legislation and government regulation emerged relative to consumer protection, product safety, the environment and still other matters. The law courts eroded the traditional defenses of producers to a point approaching strict liability.
These problems all seem to be different, but the fundamental remedy for all of them is identical\emdash better quality. The importance of those problems suggests that the pressure on producers to improve quality will never let up so long as Americans insist on accepting the benefits of technology. There is no indication that many Americans prefer to return to life in primitive villages.
Following World War II, the Japanese became the world quality leaders by focusing on quality improvement and defect prevention rathe than on inspection. Japanese goods benefited U.S. consumers but damaged other parts of the economy. Responses by U.S. companies were for several decades ineffective, largely due to lack of upper managers' leadership as well as to upper managers' ignorance of how to manage for quality.
Then, during the 1980s, a relative few U.S. companies did attain world-class quality, and thereby became the role models for the rest of the economy. As of the 1990s, the results achieved by the role models were being widely disseminated, along with the methods they used to attain those results. In addition, some powerful forces emerged to stimulate additional companies to use those same methods to attain world-class quality. There are now strong indications that the United States will become a world leader in quality during the 21st century.
Deming, W. Edwards, Out of the Crisis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Applied Engineering Study, Cambridge, MA, 1986.
Eastman Chemical Co., Papers presented at 1994 Quest for Excellence Conference, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Washington, D.C., 1994.
Garvin, David A., "Quality on the Line," Harvard Business Review, September\ October 1983, pages 64\ 75.
Ishikawa, Kaoru, "How to Apply Companywide Quality Control in Foreign Countries," Quality Progress , September 1989, pages 70\ 74.
Juran, J.M., "Japanese and Western Quality\ A Contrast," Quality, January 1979, pages 8\ 12; and February 1979, pages 12\ 15. Juran, J. M., "The QC Circle Phenomenon," Industrial Quality Control, January 1967, pages 329\ 36.
Levinson, Marc, "Asking for Protection Is Asking for Trouble," Harvard Business Review, July\ August 1987, pages 42\ 47.
About the author . . . J.M. Juran, Chairman Emeritus, Juran Institute, has since 1924 pursued a varied career in management as engineer, industrial executive, government administrator, university professor, impartial labor arbitrator, corporate director and management consultant. Throughout his life work, his search for the underlying principles common to all managerial activity has produced many central concepts now used in quality management. Juran s the author of 15 books, including the best-selling Juran's Quality Control Handbook, and has received more than 40 medals and awards from 12 countries for his innovations in and contributions to quality.
1995 by Juran Foundation Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpted from A History of Managing for Quality by J.M. Juran, ASQC Quality Press, 611 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53201, $40. qd