WHY ARE THE JAPANESE LEADING THE FIELD OF QUALITY?
There are a number of factors which have led the Japanese to reach their present status as world leaders in manufacturing industry. The Japanese miracle is perhaps to be explained by a strong motivation to succeed, strong leadership, total commitment and belief in continuous improvement.
History of the Japanese work:
- The leading pioneers of the quality movement (Deming, Juran) started to promote their work in the late 1940s to early 1950s.
- This was a crucial time for the Japanese who, after suffering humiliation in the Second World War, wanted desperately to get on with life and re-built a new Japan which is industrially strong and respected worldwide.
- This happened at a time when Japanese products were suffering from poor quality and reliability standards and therefore something was desperately needed to rectify the situation.
- This does perhaps explain the third and most important factor, which is the level of enthusiasm, responsiveness and commitment in wanting to achieve high quality standards.
- Western countries have had the same opportunities to promote quality, but seem to have ignored the powerful influence that it could have on future competitiveness. Indeed, Deming started to teach the concepts of quality in 1941, and although these were well received by engineers and industrialists, they were snubbed by managers. Ironically this happened at a time of industrial boom.
The following statement from Deming' highlights his disappointment in not succeeding in selling the idea to management:
'The courses were well-received by engineers, but management paid no attention to them. Management did not understand that they had to get behind improvement of quality and carry out their obligations from the top down. Any instability can help to point out specific times or locations of local problems. Once these local problems are removed, there is a process that will continue until someone changes it. Changing the process is management's responsibility. And we failed to teach them that.'
- Although most of the pioneers of the quality movement are American descendants (the catalyst), the Japanese are enjoying the harvest from believing that the American ideas (the seeds) are a way of life.
- Similarly to Deming, Juran blames attitudes and lack of commitment from management as the reason why the uptake of quality, as a way of doing business, has taken so long. He was reported to have commented that:
'A segment of the Western press has come up with the conclusion that the Japanese miracle was not Japanese at all. Instead it was due to two Americans, Deming and Juran, who lectured to the Japanese soon after World War II. Deming will have to speak for himself. As for Juran, I am agreeably flattered but I regard the conclusion as ludicrous. I did indeed lecture in Japan as reported, and I did bring something new to them -a structured approach to quality. I also did the same thing for a great many other countries, yet none of these attained the results achieved by the Japanese. So who performed the miracle?’