A Forefather of TQM Principles: Kaoru Ishikawa Total Quality Management (TQM) principles are based off of the philosophies of numerous individuals – W. Edward Deming, Joseph Juran and Philip Crosby, to name a few. One such individual is Kaoru Ishikawa. Touted as the “Father of Quality Circles and as a founder of the Japanese quality movement” (Beckford, 2002), his philosophy on quality control is critical to understand TQM in general. Knowing the fundamentals/ building blocks of TQM can be used to shape the future direction and improvement of TQM.
Ishikawa hoped his philosophy would improve quality in work, which in turn would lead to improvement in quality of life (Beckford, 2002). Ishikawa was born July 13, 1915. He graduated from the University of Tokyo where he received an engineering degree in Applied Chemistry. Later he would become a professor of the same University. After graduating, he joined the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) in 1949. This could be seen as the first steps he took towards developing his quality control philosophy and following in the footsteps of his father in Management Science (Hutchins, 1989. The core ideas of Ishikawa’s philosophy on quality control – companywide quality control (CWQC) – can be divided into three main concepts (Beckford, 2002). The first is that quality is based off of a holistic approach. The second core idea of Ishikawa’s philosophy is that there is active participation in the quality program amongst the employees. The third core idea is that there is direct, simple communication between management and workers. A holistic approach means that not only is the end product/service a quality product/service but also extends to the process that developed it.
The end is just as important as the means. The company has a program in place that strives for quality management, quality workers and quality processes within all levels of the company. I think this concept of quality at all levels within a company is especially important in today’s society where it is not enough to know a company provides a quality product but is socially and environmentally conscious. For example, if a company has a quality process in place when choosing and working with certain suppliers – they lessen the chance of being surprised that the supplier uses child labor or contaminates the environment.
Ishikawa’s second core idea of active participation among employees emphasizes the importance the workers. It’s not enough to have a quality program in place; the employees (including leadership) have to be involved and to have a voice within the company. This is based off of the idea that employees not only can recognize the problems in a process but also the solutions (Beckford, 2002). One of the main complaints that employees have is that management is not in touch with what they actually do so they don’t listen when there is a problem or a solution. Ishikawa’s second core idea looks to avoid this phenomenon.
The last core idea of direct, open communication between workers and management rounds out Ishikawa’s philosophy on quality control. It stresses the importance of group communication to be understandable and in “layman terms” so it can be pertinent for all levels of the company. Ishikawa’s contributions to quality management were numerous. He wrote 600+ articles and 31 books (Smith, 2011). He had 2 English translated books – “Introduction to Quality Control” and “What is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way”. He was also behind the concept of quality circles and the Fishbone Diagram.
Quality circles can be seen as a method of creating active participation within a company. It shows how Ishikawa believed that “all workers must be involved in quality improvement through teams to enhance the capability of individual workers and improve work processes” (Watson, 2004). Quality circles are groups of workers within a company that is formed to review, analyze and make recommendations for issues and problems. The Fishbone diagram was developed in 1943 as a problem-solving tool and was used to identify possible root causes to problems in a simple and straightforward presentation.
It is one of the seven tools of quality control that is recognized worldwide (Smith, 2011). While all the tools of quality control is important, this diagram can be used in numerous disciplines ranging from not only quality management, but science, education, etc. The other tools of quality control is Pareto Charts, Stratification, Check sheets, Histograms, Scatter graphs and Control charts (Beckford, 2002) Throughout his career, Ishikawa was the recipient of numerous awards. Per Beckford, he received the Deming, Nihon Keizai Press and Industrial Standardization prizes and the Grant Award from the American Society for Quality Control.
Ishikawa’’s work also prompted an award to be given out in his honor. In 1993, ASQ established the Ishikawa Medal where it is awarded “to an individual or a team whose work has had a major positive impact on the human aspects of quality” (ASQ, 2012) Ishikawa passed away April 16, 1989. Although he is no longer with us, his work and his philosophy is still vibrant and in use today. Understanding the core concepts behind Ishikawa’s CWCQ sheds light on TQM principles. His philosophies help shape how companies today develop their quality control programs.
Maybe from the lessons and philosophy of Ishikawa, a future TQM guru could emerge, giving the world another individual that further advances quality in work and ultimately in life. References Beckford, J. (2002). Part two: The quality gurus: Chapter 8: Kaoru Ishikawa. Quality (Routledge), pg. 93 – 104. Watson, G. (2004). The Legacy Of Ishikawa. Quality Progress, 37(4), 54-57. SMITH, J. (2011). The Lasting Legacy OF THE MODERN QUALITY GIANTS. Quality, 50(10), 40-47. Kaoru Ishikawa 1915-1989. (2010). Quality Progress, 43(11), 19. Bauer, K. (2005). KPI Identification With Fishbone Enlightenment.
DM Review, 15(3), 12. Hackman, J. , & Wageman, R. (1995). Total Quality Management: Empirical, Conceptual, and Practical Issues. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 309-342. Hutchins, David. (1989). Obituary: Professor Kaoru Ishikawa. The Independent. April 26, 1989. http://asq. org/about-asq/who-we-are/bio_ishikawa. html http://asq. org/about-asq/awards/ishikawa. html (Evans, James R.. Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence, 8th Edition. South Western Educational Publishing, 01/2010. p. 110). <vbk:1111509360#outline(3. 7. 2)>

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