Kaoru Ishikawa and His Impact on Quality in Business
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As with many people who are at the forefront of a cultural movement or paradigm shift, Kaoru Ishikawa’s contribution to Total Quality Management is sometimes over shadowed by other contributors. This comes as no surprise in learning about some of his fundamental beliefs in applied statistical analytics and total quality philosophy. He felt that by applying Quality Control properly, “the irrational behavior of industry and society could be corrected” (Ishikawa, K; 3) By his own admission Dr. Ishikawa became involved in Quality Control by way of data analytics. He began studying statistical methods while at the University of Tokyo; he found the data from his experiments to be widely scattered making it impossible to reach accurate conclusions. At that time the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) had the very information he felt would serve and asked to see their materials on statistical methods. In exchange for the use of the materials Ishikawa became one of the instructors and his fascination with statistical methods and QC was born.
Genius is often the ability to see around the corners, to see the limitless possibilities with the simplest elements in front of you. Ishikawa’s commitment to Japan’s economic recovery gave him the vision to apply statistical methods and Quality Control in an organized systematic measurable manner. In his personal quest for finding the correct conclusions he was able to help revolutionize management in his own country of Japan and share that revolution with the world. In his book What is Total Quality Control, Ishikawa speaks to what QC can bring to every industry everywhere in the world; not only increasing productivity or lowering costs but improving energy and raw material usage. His hope for what he has helped to develop in QC is about peoples all over the world to be happy, and that the world prospers and is peaceful.(pg. 11) The foundations of his focus on Japan’s economic recovery and hope for worldwide peace and are based in how and when he grew up.
He was the eldest son born in 1915, graduated from the University of Tokyo Dept. of Allied Chemistry, in 1939 and was commissioned as a naval technical officer until 1941. Prior to academia at University of Tokyo, Ishikawa worked in several industries obtaining experience in design, construction, operations, research education, training and management. These experiences proved to be invaluable background for his later applications of QC. Ishikawa has had a broad influence in the field of Quality Control. His Holistic approach emphasized certain principles based on quality through leadership, everyone’s involvement and commitment, systematic execution of long-term quality plan, continuous improvement, not only knowing but understanding your customer and quality begins and ends with education and training. Outside Japan, he may be best known for one of his earliest concepts the cause and effect diagram or fishbone diagram, which is easily used in analyzing and solving problems.
The cause and effect diagram contributed to the success of Quality Circles, a management-worker team problem solving approach to quality, production and service issues Ishikawa played a major role in the growth of quality circles in Japan and the concept spread something Ishikawa never foresaw tying their success to factors unique to Japanese culture. The success of circles around the world led him to a new conclusion: Circles work because they appeal to the democratic nature of humankind. “Wherever they are, human beings are human beings,” (Stephens, K.S.)
Ishikawa’s leadership skills were largely responsible for Japan’s quality-improvement initiatives. Among other accomplishments he translated, integrated & expanded the quality concepts of Deming and Juran into the Japanese system. He developed and delivered the first basic quality control course for JUSE. He wrote several books including two that were translated into English, Introduction to Quality Control and What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way, both of which are utilized in US business management and quality training today.
Ishikawa was involved in Japanese and international standardization activities beginning in the 1950s. He was instrumental in establishing the Annual Quality Control Conference for Top management, first held in 1963 and held numerous positions including serving as chairman of the editorial board of the monthly Statistical Quality Control and the quarterly Reports of Statistical Applications Research. As chairman of Japan’s Quality Month committee, Ishikawa was involved in the selection of Japan’s quality mark and quality flag. ASQ established the Ishikawa Medal in 1993 to recognize leadership in the human side of quality. The medal is awarded annually in honor of Ishikawa to an individual or team for outstanding leadership in improving the human aspects of quality. “Throughout his career, Ishikawa worked on very practical matters, but always within a larger philosophical framework. His work was intended to produce what he called a “thought revolution” new ideas about quality that could revitalize industry. The wide acceptance of many of Ishikawa’s ideas—and the numerous honors he has received from around the world show how successful his revolution has been” ( Watson, G)
Ishikawa, Kaoru; (1985). What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way, translated by David J. Lu Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Originally printed in Japan as TQC towa Nanika—Nipponteki Hinshitsu Kanri by Kaoru Ishikawa (1981, 1984) published by JUSE Press. Evans, Lindsay. (01/2010). Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence, 8th Edition. South Western Educational Publishing. Retrieved from <vbk:1111509360#outline(110)>. Watson, G. The Legacy of Ishikawa: Gurus of Quality, April 2004. Quality Progress
Retrieved from http://www.asq.org.edu
Stephens, K. S., editor. International Academy for Quality: Best of Quality, Vol 13. ASQ Press 2002. Retrieved from http://www.asq.org