Joseph Juran is one of the leading thinkers on the route establishing a culture of quality throughout much of Japanese and then western business. He asserted that quality was nothing new or clever. Rather, it is elemental and elementary. That said, he watched as, for 25 years, his adopted homeland of the United States ignored the quality imperative. Then, in his late seventies, he lived to see American businesses wake up to quality. In his eighties and nineties, he was active and, indeed, energetic in consulting and advocating for quality.
Joseph Juran began his long life in 1904, in Romania. His family emigrated to the United States, and from 1912, he grew up in Minnesota. He gained his first degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota (he later gained a Doctorate in Law at Loyola University) and went straight to working for Western Electric at its Chicago Hawthorn Plant (where Elton Mayo later conducted his famous studies).
In 1928, he wrote his first pamphlet on statistical approaches to manufacturing quality and rose up through the business. Along the way, he ‘invented’ the Pareto Principle (of which more later), but by 1945, he was ready for something else.
In 1945, he joined the faculty of New York University, to allow him time for lecturing, consulting and writing. In 1951, he published his first substantial book, the Quality Control Handbook. This is still in print, much updated, enlarged and revised, in its sixth edition, under the title Juran’s Quality Handbook: The Complete Guide to Performance Excellence. He was becoming well known, although initially, not so much in the US as in Japan. In 1954, he was invited to Japan for a series of lectures, and Japanese companies eagerly took up his ideas on how to increase their manufacturing quality.
In the US, the concept of quality was largely ignored. But in 1979, he founded the Juran Institute in the hope of increasing awareness of and engagement with his ideas. It was in the 1980s that quality started to rise up the agenda of US companies, and he became, in his 80s, a much in demand speaker and consultant. In 1988, he wrote the book that most marks his contribution, Planning for Quality – now out of print. The ideas, however, are all incorporated into later editions of other books.
Juran remained active, undertaking consultancy until the final years of his life. He died in 2008, survived, until the end of the year, by his wife of 81 years, Sadie, who was also born in 1904.
Juran and the Pareto Principle
Juran noticed early on that not all defects were equal. He found that some causes resulted in many defects and others in a few. A small number of causes accounted for a vast number of the defects. This, he recognised, was the same pattern as that which Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto found when looking at the distribution of wealth among Italian citizens. Juran recognised this as a general principle in the way some effects were distributed, and named it the Pareto Principle. It also became known as the 80/20 rule, because Juran found that around 80 per cent of defects were cause by 20 per cent of the underlying problems.
Juran and Deming
The other huge name in quality management was a contemporary of Juran’s, W Edwards Deming. However, where Deming put huge faith in the value of statistics, Juran saw another equally important effect, which his writings are at pains to stress. Possibly influenced by the work of Elton May at the Hawthorn plant, Juran placed huge emphasis on the human aspects of quality management. In so doing, he was an early exponent of employee empowerment.
Juran identified what has become known as his Quality Trilogy:
- Quality Planning
- Quality Management (or Control)
- Quality Implementation (or Improvement)
From these, he identified a nine-step roadmap to achieve the ideal of quality.
1 Identify your customers
2 Determine their needs
3 Translate their needs into your own language
4 Develop a product that meets their needs
5 Optimise the product to your own needs too
6 Develop a process that can create the product
7 Optimise the process
8 Prove the process works under operational conditions
9 Operationalise the process
Company-Wide Quality Management
Perhaps Juran’s biggest contribution was to see quality as a cultural, rather than operational imperative. He argued that senior managers must not just be involved in, but must actively lead the quality processes. They must not delegate them: the impetus must come from the top and accountability and responsibility must remain there. However, he also saw empowerment of workers at all levels as a key to making quality work successfully.
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