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Quality Philosophers

Deming, Juran, Ishikawa, and Crosby changed the world of quality management forever. These are their most significant contributions.

Bruno Pešec
Bruno Pešec
11 min read
Quality Philosophers

Previously presented definitions of quality could be considered new, but philosophy of quality is far from new.  Well known Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle considered qualities  as hylomorphically  formal attributes, and described four types of  qualitative opposites: correlatives, contraries, privatives and positives (Whitaker, 1996). Hylomorphism is a philosophical theory developed by Aristotle, which conceives substance as a compound of matter and form.

This post presents some of the philosophers who are considered as the  greatest contributors to quality management thinking. Their work is  presented concisely, summarising their major contributions.

Figure: At the 1986 ASQ Annual Quality Congress, Juran (second from right) met with W. Edwards Deming (seated) and, from left, H. James Harrington, Mason Westcott and Kaoru Ishikawa (Phillips-Donaldson, 2004)
Figure 1: At the 1986 ASQ Annual Quality Congress, Juran (second from right) met with W. Edwards Deming (seated) and, from left, H. James Harrington, Mason Westcott and Kaoru Ishikawa (Phillips-Donaldson, 2004)

William Edwards Deming

Deming giving lecture in Japan, 1951
Figure 2: Deming giving lecture in Japan, 1951 (Source)

William Edwards Deming is considered to be the pioneer and the founder of the quality movement (Graeme, 2011; Goetsch and Davis, 2014).  After Second World War he was involved in planning of the Japanese  Census. At that time Japanese engineers were studying Shewart’s methods  and techniques. Since Deming was a student of Walter Andrew Shewhart,  they decided to invite him help them rebuild the Japanese economy.

Deming’s work in Japan resulted in Japanese factories dominating the  manufacturing sector with high quality and low cost. The domination  lasted for approximately two decades, from 1970s to 1990s. Ironically,  his methods gained recognition in United States after his death (Deming and Petty, 1991). His major contributions to the quality management field are:

  • The Fourteen Points
  • The Deadly Diseases
  • The System of Profound Knowledge
  • Deming Wheel

The Fourteen Points

In Out of the Crisis (1982), Deming summarizes his management philosophy in 14 points for the transformation of traditional management of the organisation:

  1. Create constancy of purpose
  2. Adopt the new philosophy
  3. Cease dependence on mass inspection
  4. Cease award of business on price tag alone
  5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service
  6. Institute training
  7. Institute leadership
  8. Drive out fear
  9. Break down barriers between departments
  10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management
  12. Remove barriers that deny people pride of workmanship
  13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement
  14. Take action to accomplish the transformation

The Deadly Diseases

The deadly diseases represent threats to successful implementation of  the aforementioned Fourteen Points of transformation, preventing  companies from achieving world class excellence:

  1. Lack of constancy of purpose
  2. Emphasis on short-term profits
  3. Evaluation by performance, merit rating, or annual review of performance
  4. Mobility of management
  5. Running a company on visible figures alone
  6. Excessive medical costs
  7. Excessive costs of warranty, fuelled by lawyers who work for contingency fees

In addition to the major threats represented, he also laid out minor threats:

  1. Neglecting long-range planning
  2. Relying on technology to solve problems
  3. Seeking examples to follow rather than developing solutions
  4. Excuses, such as “our problems are different”
  5. Obsolescence in school that management skill can be taught in classes
  6. Reliance on quality control departments rather than management, supervisors, managers of purchasing, and production workers
  7. Placing blame on workforces who are only responsible for 15% of  mistakes where the system designed by management is responsible for 85%  of the unintended consequences
  8. Relying on quality inspection rather than improving product quality

The System of Profound Knowledge

The System of Profound Knowledge is the basis for application of The  Fourteen Points of transformation. With its four points it advocates  holistic approach: (1) appreciation of a system, (2) knowledge of  variation, (3) theory of knowledge and (4) knowledge of psychology.

The prevailing style of management must undergo  transformation. A system cannot understand itself. The transformation  requires a view from outside. The aim of this chapter is to provide an  outside view—a lens—that I call a system of profound knowledge. It  provides a map of theory by which to understand the organizations that  we work in. – Deming (1982)

Deming Wheel

Deming Wheel was based on the Shewhart Cycle (Moen and Norman, 2010). In his book (Shewart and Deming, 1986),  Shewart presented the first version of Shewart circle, consisting of  three steps: specification, production and inspection. In 1951 Deming  modified it for his lecture at the Japanese Union of Scientists and  Engineers (JUSE),  presenting it with four steps: design, production, sale and research.  Japanese executives called it Deming Wheel, and transformed it into PDCA  cycle (Imai, 1986). In his later work Deming modified PDCA cycle to PDSA cycle, substituting Check phase with Study phase (Deming, 1982). PDCA cycle is still used today, both in original form and in its variations.

Figure 3: PDCA cycle

Joseph Moses Juran

Joseph Moses Juran
Figure 4: Juran (Source)

While Deming focused more on the statistical approach to control, Juran focused on managing for quality. Although he was also invited to help the Japanese rebuild their economy he never collaborated with Deming.

The Quality Trilogy, cost of poor quality (COPQ) approach,  popularisation of the Pareto principle and Quality Circles, and adding  human dimension to quality management are considered to be his major  contributions (Phillips-Donaldson, 2004). In his work he advocated embedding quality into the corporate culture, creating quality habit, through a four-stage approach (Juran and Godfrey, 1999):

  1. Goals – establish specific goals for an organization
  2. Plans – detail ways to achieve these goals
  3. Responsibilities – assign tasks for executing the plans
  4. Rewards – base rewards on results

The Quality Trilogy

As I’ve written before,  Juran was inspired by financial processes of (1) budgeting, (2) cost  control, expense control, and (3) cost reduction, profit improvement. He  created parallel processes for quality, namely (1) quality planning,  (2) quality control, and (3) quality improvement. I recommend reading  Juran’s original article: A universal approach to managing for quality.

The Quality Trilogy
Figure 5: The Quality Trilogy (Juran and Godfrey, 1999)

Cost of Poor Quality

In the 1950s Juran developed a Cost of Quality approach (Feigenbaum, 1961; Juran and Godfrey, 1999),  which enabled companies to asses the costs related to quality. He  divided cost of poor quality into cost of nonconformities, cost of  inefficient processes and cost of lost opportunities for sales revenue  (Figure 6).

Some of the benefits are:

  • quality issues are translated into financial measures,
  • indicates the scale of opportunity presented by current poor quality performance, and
  • effective measurement of improvement.

Some of the issues are:

  • inaccurate costs,
  • requires trust to be effective,
  • re-calculation has to be consistent,
  • recurring costs,
  • there are unknown elements, and
  • benefits from cost of quality usage diminish with the maturity of the quality system (Sower et al., 2007).

If you wish to dig more into cost of quality I recommend The Cost of Quality – A Primer by Austenfeld Jr.

Cost of poor quality
Figure 6: Components of the cost of poor quality (Juran and Godfrey, 1999)

Knowledge transfer

During his work Juran popularised the Pareto principle, named after  Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, and Quality Circles. Juran applied  the Pareto principle to the cost of quality, highlighting that costs of  failure of control usually account for approximately 80% of total cost  of quality. Furthermore, Juran and Godfrey (1999) explain that:

Under the Pareto principle, the vital few  projects provide the bulk of the improvement, so they receive top  priority. Beyond the vital few are the useful many projects.  Collectively they contribute only a minority of the improvement, but  they provide most of the opportunity for employee participation. Choice  of these projects is made through the nomination-selection process.

Simplest definition of the Pareto principle is as follows:

The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20  rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity)  states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20%  of the causes.

Regarding the Pareto principle, it should be noted that it was based on observation and not on mathematical model. Newman (2005) presents mathematical explanation for Pareto distribution.

Philip Bayard Crosby

Philip Bayard Crosby
Figure 7: Crosby (Source)

Crosby developed quality is free and zero defects concepts (Crosby, 1980; Harwood, 1993),  and believed that appropriate quality management would contribute to  growth and survival of a company.  He emphasized that investments in the  quality program would be significantly lower than saving returns  resulting from implementation of such program, hence resulting in free  quality. Also, he considered that the costs of quality are as high as  20% of sales. Quality crisis in North America occurred between 1970s and  1980s, due to increased market share of Japanese high quality products.  In those times, Crosby proposed DRIFT (Do It Right the First Time)  principle, supported by four major principles. Those principles were (Creech, 1994):

  1. The definition of quality is conformance to requirements (requirements meaning both the product and the customer’s requirements)
  2. The system of quality is prevention
  3. The performance standard is zero defects (relative to requirements)
  4. The measurement of quality is the price of non-conformance

Besides aforementioned principles, he also proposed a 14-point plan for improving quality (Crosby, 1980; Crosby, 1992):

  1. Management must be clearly committed to the importance of quality
  2. Quality improvement programmes need to be supported by a multifunctional team
  3. Quality measures need to be in place
  4. The cost of quality needs to include the price of non-conformance as  well as the price of conformance so as to help prioritize action
  5. Quality awareness needs to be promoted throughout the organization
  6. Improvements and ideas need to be actioned at the appropriate level of an organization
  7. The goal is to achieve a position of zero defects
  8. Education and training should form the basis of any quality programme
  9. A specific future date should be established as zero-defects days
  10. Management needs to set goals
  11. Everyone is to be responsible for identifying the source of defects and errors
  12. A quality programme should receive public, non-financial recognition
  13. A quality council should be formed to help share experiences, problems and ideas
  14. To highlight the never-ending process of quality programmes, companies then need to return again to Step 1

Kaoru Ishikawa

Kaoru Ishikawa
Figure 8: Ishikawa (Source)

Kaoru Ishikawa is credited for the creation of cause and effect diagram and quality circle concept. In his work Ishikawa (1986) emphasized defining quality from the perspective of the customer and empowering the workforce (Watson, 2004).  He believed that quality should come first, and proposed a holistic  approach to the quality which he called an integrated quality.

Quality Circles

“Quality Circle” is a small group between three  and twelve people who do the same or similar work, voluntarily meeting  together regularly for about an hour per week n paid time, usually under  the leadership of their own supervisor, and trained to identify,  analyse, and solve some of the problems in their work, presenting  solutions to management, and where possible, implementing the solutions  themselves. – Hutchins (1985)

Juran and Godfrey (1999) compared  quality circles with traditional multifunctional teams in terms of  purpose, scope and size of project, membership, hierarchical status of  members, and continuity. Differences are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Contrast, quality circles, and multifunctional teams

Feature Quality circles Project teams
Primary purpose To improve human relations To improve quality
Secondary purpose To improve quality To improve participation
Scope of project Within a single department Multidepartmental
Size of project One of the useful many One of the vital few
Membership From a single department From multiple departments
Basis of membership Voluntary Mandatory
Hierarchical status of members Typically in the workforce Typically managerial or professional
Continuity Circle remains intact, project after project is completed Team is ad hoc, disbands after project

Cause-and-effect diagrams

Cause-and-effect diagrams (also called Ishikawa  diagrams, fishbone diagrams, herringbone diagrams, or Fishikawa) are  causal diagrams that show the causes of a specific event. – Ishikawa (1986)

Cause-and-effect diagrams are a useful and simple tool for root cause  analysis. On the right-hand side of the diagram we have a single  effect, usually a problem. From it stems a main line (trunk, spine),  from which other lines stem (branches, bones). Every line represents a  cause, and it is up to you to decide how deep you want to go. Useful  rule of thumb is to categorise causes, e.g. 5M+E (Machine, Method,  Material, Man Power, Measurement, and Environment) for manufacturing  industry or 4S+E (Surroundings, Suppliers, Systems, Skills,  and Environment) for service industry. Figure 9 presents and example  with multiple causes and sub-causes.

Cause-and-effect diagram example
Figure 9: Cause-and-effect diagram example (Juran and Godfrey, 1999)

Concluding Remarks

In this post I wrote about some of the most influential figures in  the quality management field: William Edwards Deming, Joseph Moses  Juran, Philip Bayard Crosby, and Kaoru Ishikawa. Others include Walter  Shewart, Armand Vallin Feigenbaum, Genichi Taguchi, Shigeo Shingo,  Eliyahu Moshe Goldratt, and Taiichi Ohno. Each of these gurus bodies of  work are worth your time, regardless of your industry.

Next post will compare six management systems, Japanese Total Quality  Control, Total Quality Management, Deming’s System of Profound  Knowledge, Business Process Reengineering, Lean Thinking, and Six Sigma,  from quality management perspective.


Austenfeld Jr, R.B., 2006. The Cost of Quality – A Primer. 修道商学, 46, pp.149-198.

Creech, B., 1994. The five pillars of TQM : how to make total quality management work for you. Truman Talley Books/Dutton.

Crosby, P.B., 1980. Quality is free: The art of making Quality certain. Signet.

Crosby, P.B., 1992. Completeness: Quality for the 21st century. Penguin.

Deming, W. E., 1982. Out of the Crisis. MIT Press.

Deming, W. E., and Petty, P., 1991. The Deming of America. Petty Consulting/Productions.

Feigenbaum, A. V., 1961. Total Quality Control. McGraw-Hill.

Goetsch, D.L. and Davis, S.B., 2014. Quality Management for Organizational Excellence. Pearson.

Graeme, K., 2011. Quality Management. Ventus Publishing.

Harwood, W. B., 1993. Raise heaven and earth : the story of Martin Marietta people and their pioneering achievements. Simon & Schuster.

Hutchins, D.C., 1985. Quality circles handbook. Nichols.

Imai, M., 1986. Kaizen (Ky’zen), the key to Japan’s competitive success. Random House Business Division, 1986.

Ishikawa, K., 1986. Guide to Quality Control (Tokyo, Asian Productivity Organization). Ann Arbor, MI: UNIPUB.

Juran, J.M. and Godfrey, A.B., 1999. Juran’s Quality Handbook. 5th edition. McGraw-Hill.

Moen, R.D. and Norman, C.L., 2010. Circling back. Quality Progress, 43(11), p.22.

Newman, M.E., 2005. Power laws, Pareto distributions and Zipf’s law. Contemporary physics, 46(5), pp.323-351.

Phillips-Donaldson, D., 2004. 100 years of Juran. Quality progress, 37(5), p.25.

Shewhart, W.A. and Deming, W.E., 1986. Statistical method: from the viewpoint of quality control. Dover.

Sower, V.E., Quarles, R. and Broussard, E., 2007. Cost of quality usage and its relationship to quality system maturity. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 24(2), pp.121-140.

Watson, G., 2004. The legacy of Ishikawa. Quality progress, 37(4), p.54.

Whitaker, C.W.A., 1996. Aristotle’s De interpretatione: contradiction and dialectic. Oxford University Press.

This article is a part of Quality Management series:

On Managing for Quality
Historical overview of quality movement from inspection to strategic management.
Quality Philosophers
Deming, Juran, Ishikawa, and Crosby changed the world of quality management forever. These are their most significant contributions.
Quality Management Systems
Comparison of Japanese Total Quality Control, Total Quality Management, Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge, Lean, Business Process Reengineering, and Six Sigma.
Quality Management Frameworks
Organisations can use quality management frameworks to benchmark the quality performance on their journey to excellence.
On Continuous Improvement
Core principles of continuous improvement are (1) process orientation, (2) improving and maintaining standards, and (3) people orientation. What are the fundamental behaviours for developing a culture of improvement?
Quality ManagementDemingJuranIshikawaCrosby

Bruno Pešec

I help business leaders innovate profitably at scale.


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