Building Blocks

Early lessons on Juran’s trilogy naturally carried over to work

by Sharon L. Burton

Planning, controlling and improving. These three managerial tools were initially introduced to me while I worked during high school as a clerk at a large pharmacy in the late 1970s in Albany, GA. I had gotten the job through the career and technical student organization. The plan was for me to apply my education to practical skills and enhance my overall knowledge and abilities.

Enhancing my knowledge, skills and abilities aligned with the organization’s guiding principle of applying learning in the context of business. Through one-on-one training sessions with the store manager, I understood Joseph M. Juran’s trilogy of planning, controlling and improvement.1

Given the task of supporting the pharmacy’s ordering system, I learned to plan at a day-to-day level by reviewing resources such as time, materials, equipment and process steps. This became my standard process for improving quality; I was the person on guard when issues occurred with the ordering.2 This detailed planning included:

  • An inclusive focus on customer needs.
  • Support of quality goals and strategies by the management.
  • Understanding of long-term goals as they relate to tactical and operating plans.
  • Building processes for evaluation and process improvement.

I learned to produce a valued service for the business and understood that for an initiative to be successful, it required top-down management support.3 A few years later, the education and training I had gained and used to take on college projects came in handy for real work projects. The real test came when I was asked to organize and lead a new department.

The next level

Managerial processes—planning, control and improvement—were elevated in my work processes and procedures in the mid-1990s when I was asked to establish the quality assurance and compliance department at a major bank in Wilmington, DE.

Serving on the management team, I led an operations team, as well as managed operations training and development. I understood this task would be different. Leading the project to form a quality assurance and compliance department required major planning and steps along the way. Further, we all understood Juran’s message that quality does not happen by accident:4

1. Research: Key leaders of the operations department met to determine their definition of quality assurance and compliance. From their working definition and additional research, I was prepared to move forward to the next stage.

2. Analysis: I pulled data from different sections of the operations department and reviewed this data with the leadership. From this data, a baseline of key evaluation points was established.

3. Design: Establishing key quality requirements and performance indicators came next. These requirements and indicators wrapped around four types of planning:

  • Strategic: Long-term planning with considerations for internal and external customers, risk levels, regulatory obligations and business systems needed for effective operations and the needs of stakeholders.
  • Action: Interpret strategic objectives into short-term, actionable activities to support long-term plans.
  • Operational: Create daily working procedures that ensured the quality of the service.
  • Quality: Determine the resources needed to complete the work and meet internal and external customers’ satisfaction while providing a satisfactory return on investment.

4. Development: The development of the department included understanding quality, quality planning, the value of employees, systems and processes, and suppliers, inputs, process, outputs and customers.

5. Variation: Comprehending variation included understanding disparity between design and expected outputs of the new process.

 These five key understandings guided the team overseeing the bank’s project to build the quality assurance and compliance department and ensure the department was aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives. Throughout the project, notes were taken and filed, stakeholder meetings were held regularly, a single point of data collection remained in place, and project dates were consistently reviewed and updated as required. The project was implemented on time.

Since the quality assurance and compliance project, I have worked to use quality measures in processes and procedures. The quality movement even inspired me to publish my first book, Quality Customer Service: Rekindling the Art of Service to Customers.5 Additionally, I recently graduated with a doctorate of business administration in quality management with a focus on distance education adult learning.


  1. Juran Institute, "The Juran Trilogy Model: The Universal Sequences of Quality Planning, Quality Control and Quality Improvement," www.juran.com/elifeline/elifefiles/2009/09/Juran-Trilogy-Model.doc (case sensitive).
  2. Jim L. Smith, "The Journey to Better Quality," Quality, Vol. 52, No. 2, 2013, p. 16.
  3. Sharon L. Burton, Quality Customer Service: Rekindling the Art of Service to Customers, Lulu Publications, 2007.
  4. J.J. Bailey, "Profile: Joseph Juran," Engineering Management, Vol. 17, No. 4, 2007, pp. 46-47.
  5. Burton, Quality Customer Service: Rekindling the Art of Service to Customers, see reference 3.

Sharon L. Burton is a chief learning officer in Washington, DC. She holds a doctorate of business administration in quality systems management from the National Graduate School of Quality Management in Falmouth, MA. Burton is an ASQ member and serves on ASQ’s Team and Workplace Excellence Forum special interest group.

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this article

Add Comments

View comments
Comments FAQ

Featured advertisers