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About ASQ

Joseph M. Juran

Joseph M. Juran

A search for universal principles

"It is most important that top management be quality-minded. In the absence of sincere manifestation of interest at the top, little will happen below."
— Joseph M. Juran, ASQ honorary member

By 1945, as local quality control societies were forming the regional organizations that would merge into a national quality group, Juran was about to embark on his second career, which would earn him more than 30 awards from organizations around the world, including ASQ's Edwards Medal and Brumbaugh and Grant Awards. Juran joined the Bell System as an engineer in 1924; two years later, he was one of three people assigned to a new department formed to carry out what is known today as statistical quality control. Juran prepared what may have been the first text on statistical quality control—and perhaps the ancestor of today's widely used Western Electric Statistical Quality Control Handbook.

Within a few years, Juran became involved in quality management. The stage was set and the government, as if on cue, called on Juran to serve as an administrator in the Lend-Lease Administration.

Juran's early career

The son of an immigrant, Juran was seeking security when he went to work for the Bell System in the years following World War I. He planned to spend his entire career at the Bell System, but after four years on a leave of absence for government service, Juran decided not to return to the company. He had begun career in research, lecturing, philosophizing, consulting, and writing on management.

For a time, Juran was head of the Department of Industrial Engineering at New York University (NYU). While there, he wrote and edited the Quality Control Handbook. First published in 1951, the Handbook has grown from 15 chapters to 52, paralleling and aiding the growth of the quality field.

During the late 1940s, Juran began to develop his influential course "Managing for Quality," which has been taught in more than 40 countries. He also wrote for Industrial Quality Control during the 1950s and 1960s. As a contributing author and editor, Juran frequently emphasized the role of management in quality. He saw early on the broadening role of quality and urged quality professionals to prepare for it.

Focus on quality and management

Juran's reputation in quality management led the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers to invite him to Japan in 1954. In his book What Is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way, Kaoru Ishikawa describes what happened:

[Juran] conducted seminars for top and middle-level managers, explaining to them the roles they had to play in promoting QC activities.

Japanese managers had shown little understanding or interest when those young quality control research group members explained QC to them, but Dr. Juran, with his worldwide reputation, was more persuasive.

Juran's visit marked a transition in Japan's quality control activities from dealing primarily with technology based in factories to an overall concern for the entire management. The Juran visit created an atmosphere in which QC was to be regarded as a tool of management, thus creating an opening for the establishment of total quality control as we know it today.

Juran gave much credit to the Japanese for developments in quality over upcoming years. By the 1960s, Juran began to report to Americans on the new ideas on quality coming out of Japan, such as "quality circles."

In 1970, Juran and his co-author Frank Gryna wrote Quality Planning and Analysis. The book was written to fill the need for a textbook on the subject of quality. Like the Quality Control Handbook, it has been a bestseller since it first appeared.

The Juran Institute

In 1979, Juran founded The Juran Institute, whose mission is to "Create a global community of practice to empower organizations and people to push beyond their limits." Juran's objective has always been to capture the universals that lay behind daily experiences. He has even analyzed the process by which he arrives at these general principles: experience, reflection on that experience with an eye to discovering broader truths, presentation of the ideas for comment and discussion, refinement, and finally publication in a paper or book.

Top management involvement, the Pareto principle, the need for widespread training in quality, the definition of quality as fitness for use, the project-by-project approach to quality improvement. These are the ideas for which Juran was best known, and they are still widely used today.

Learn more about Dr. Juran's life work at the Juran Institute.

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