Architect of Quality
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
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
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
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 email@example.com.