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Architect of Quality
Juran releases his long-awaited memoirs.

Scott Paton

I just received an advance copy of Architect of Quality: The Autobiography of Joseph M. Juran (McGraw-Hill, 2003). It’s a must-read for anyone interested in quality. In it Juran outlines his life and his life’s passion--quality improvement--in vivid detail.

Juran, now 99 years old, begins his tale with his humble beginnings as a Romanian peasant and his family’s immigration to the United States. He recounts how he overcame poverty, anti-Semitism, bitterness and despair to become one of the world’s leading quality thinkers. His is a tale of how education wins over ignorance, persistence prevails over complacence and, more than anything else, how faith--in God, in family, in humanity and in the American dream--is rewarded.

The pattern for Juran’s life of hard work and dedication was set at an early age. “We grew up with no fear of long hours or hard work,” he writes. “We learned to seek out opportunities and to use ingenuity to gain from them. We accepted the responsibility for building our own safety nets. By enduring the heat of the fiery furnace, we acquired a work ethic that served us the rest of our lives.”

As a child, Juran endured the loss of his beloved mother, an indifferent father, bitter winters, the terror of anti-Semitism--many residents of his native village in Romania perished in Nazi death camps--and grinding poverty. Consequently, he entered the working world bitter and socially inept, yet he was driven to succeed.

Juran’s story parallels many of the great events of the 20th century. He landed his first job at Western Electric, which was the hot growth company of the 1920s. He weathered the Great Depression, he served his adopted country during World War II by working in the Lend-Lease Administration, he helped Japan rebuild its devastated economy and he showed U.S. manufacturers how to compete successfully in the world market.

Perhaps most interesting is the revelation that his interest in quality wasn’t his decision; he was assigned to the inspection branch of Western Electric a week after being hired out of college. “I have often been asked, ‘How did you happen to choose managing for quality as a life-time career?’” he writes. “My response has always been, ‘I didn’t choose it. It was chosen for me by the powers that be.’”

Also remarkable is the success of Juran’s siblings. They, too, overcame their humble beginnings and led successful lives. For example, his brother, Rudy, became a successful bond trader; his brother, Nat, had a successful career in Hollywood, earning an Academy Award; his sister, Minerva, earned a doctorate degree and became a college professor--no small feat for a female Romanian immigrant.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Juran several times. I have a tremendous admiration and fondness for him. He’s always been exceptionally kind and generous with his time.

I’ve always been struck by his deep sense of gratitude for the life this country has provided him and his drive to repay that debt through his work.

Juran is the epitome of the American dream. He should also serve as a role model to the current generation of quality professionals. “To those whose careers are in the field of managing for quality: Thank your lucky stars,” he writes. “Your field will grow extensively during your lifetime, especially in three of our giant industries--health, education and government.”

If you’d like to share your thoughts about Juran with me, e-mail them to letters@qualitydigest.com.