Quality Gurus

The following list contains a few of the well known quality pioneers in no particular order of importance. There are many more that have made contributions but these are the most likely to come up on a Six Sigma Certification exam.

Contributions from these gurus make up the foundation of the Six Sigma methodology that was eventually formalized and coined by Bill Smith (1929-1993). Six Sigma is a registered trademark of Motorola®.

Bill Smith had started working on his concepts and yield theory in the early 1980’s. He, and another engineer, Dr. Mikel Harry, collaborated on a new quality management system that recognized the end user performance of a product and the adjustments made at the manufacturing stage.

Smith convinced Motorola® CEO Chairman Bob Galvin to apply these concepts and statistics to reduce variation. Motorola® developed Six Sigma as a key initiative in 1987 and won the Malcolm Baldridge Award in 1988. The concept drove significant profitability growth.

Soon after, General Electric® and Allied Signal® adopted the initiative with CEO of GE, Jack Welch, being a wide-spoken strong advocate of the concept.

Dr. Walter A. Shewhart (1891-1967)

Shewhart is known as the Father of Statistical Quality Control. He's known for the PDCA cycle, related to the Shewhart cycle.

He’s credited for the terms of assignable-cause and chance (special)-cause variation and introduced the control chart as a tool for distinguishing between the two.

Shewhart laid the foundation for the use of Control Charts and statistical process control as a method to make improvements.

Deming piggy-backed on Shewhart’s ideas and the two worked together focusing on productivity. Deming went on to promote Shewhart’s ideas throughout Japan. Deming advanced Shewhart’s scientific inference ideas and called it the Shewhart cycle.



Dr. W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993)

Deming believed that quality should be built into the product and cease dependence on inspection to provide quality. He concentrated on system improvement.

Known for: 

  • 14 Points for Management 
  • 7 Deadly Diseases 
  • PDSA (slighly different than PDCA) 

Deming began to with Walter Shewhart of the Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1927. He was inspired by Shewhart’s work using control charts and SPC and saw that these could be applied to production and management. He expanded on the ideas of common and special causes of variation beyond manufacturing and this led to Deming’s theory of management. 

Deming worked from the Shewhart cycle and over time eventually developed the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) cycle, which has the idea of deductive and inductive learning built into the learning and improvement cycle.  

1984, the United States Navy eventually adopted the teachings of Deming and branded the effort "Total Quality Management (TQM)“. Six Sigma is sometimes referred to as TQM on  steroids.



Dr. Joseph M. Juran (1904-2008)

Juran is often referred to as the "Father of Quality". Stated the anyone is a customer of the product if they are affected by it (not just a user or buyer).

He called the desired change in performance a “breakthrough” when launching a significant quality improvement project. His quality management approach is based on three principles:

1) Pareto principle - focus on the vital few rather than trivial many. The 80/20 principle where 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

2) Management theory - involves a change of thinking away from solely the quality of the product and more attention to the human dimension of quality management. This includes education and training for managers, understanding resistance to change and motivators.

3) Three processes collectively called the Juran Trilogy®. They are quality planning (design stage), quality control (ongoing inspections to ensure process control) and quality improvement (including proactive adjustment of processes). Juran compares these in parallel to Financial management processes.

Dr. Genichi Taguchi (1924-2012)

Taguchi met Walter Shewhart  when he was a visiting professor at the Indian Statistical Institute. Awarded the Deming Application prize in 1960. Associated with the “signal-to-noise” ratio.

Known for:

Taguchi Methods - Quality and reliability built into the design stage, more important than process quality control.

Taguchi Loss (aka Quality Loss Function) - traditional decision on good or bad depends whether or not it is within the specification range (between the LSL and USL). With this approach, the specification range is more important than the nominal (target) value. He pushed further to make the product as good as possible even if it is within specification.

Taguchi specified three situations:

  1. Larger the better (such as the process yield);
  2. Smaller the better (such as injury rate, emissions, rejection rate)
  3. On-target, minimum-variation (such as part dimensions)

Design of Experiments (DOE)structured study of the factors that the team has determined are the key process input variables (KPIV's) that are the source of the variation or have an influence on the mean of the output.

Robust Design – 3 stages to develop process/products that are not impacted by parameters outside the control of the designed/develop. 1) System design stage 2) Parameter Stage 3) Tolerance design stage.



Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990)

Ohno worked at Toyoda Spinning and Weaving Works in 1932 which later became Toyota.

Known for:

Toyota Production System (TPS) – later evolved into Lean Manufacturing which included his next credit… Seven Wastes. TPS accelerated Toyota to become world-class producer starting in the 1970’s and even today others are striving to duplicate their success.

Seven Wastes (Muda) – DOTWIMP is an acronym for Defects, Overproduction, Transportation, Waiting, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Overproduction, Processing (Excess) and Defects).

An 8th waste was later added referring to the underutilization of human asset and skills.



Philip B. Crosby (1926-2001)

Crosby was an American businessman that first introduced the concept of Zero Defects. Most often identified with creating a core of quality specialists within an organization. Another strong advocate for upper level management involvement.

Also known for:

14 Points of Quality

4 Absolutes of Quality – Doing It Right the First Time (DIRFT).

  1. Definition of “Quality” is conformance to requirements (requirements meaning both the product and the customer's requirements)
  2. The system of quality is prevention
  3. The performance standard is zero defects (relative to requirements)
  4. The measurement of quality is the price of nonconformance


Dr. Kauru Ishikawa (1915-1989)

Ishikawa is most notably credited with the Fishbone Diagram (aka Ishikawa Diagram and the Cause-Effect Diagram).

Also known for:

Seven Basic Quality Tools  - applying the following tools to Quality Circles to get to the root cause and develop solutions: Check Sheet, Flow Chart, Control Chart, Fishbone Diagram, Scatter Diagram, Pareto Chart, Histogram.

Quality Circles - small group of employees in the same line of work that would apply the tools above. They meet in regular intervals to identify root causes and solutions. This became an important component of Total Quality Management (TQM).

He expanded the management concepts of Deming and Juran into the Japanese system with an emphasis on company-wide quality control. Pushed the mindset that the next operation was to be treated as a “customer”.



Dr. Armand V. Feigenbaum (1920-2014)

Feigenbaum was educated at MIT and became an American expert on quality control. Published book called Total Quality Control which later evolved into the underlying concepts of Total Quality Management (TQM).

Known for:

Total Quality Control – a system for integrating the quality development, quality maintenance, and quality improvement efforts of the various groups in an organization so as to enable production and service at the most economical levels which allow full customer satisfaction.

Quality Costs (aka Costs of Quality) – four categories of costs related to keeping Control (prevention and control) and making conforming products plus the costs of Non-Conformances (internal failure and external failure).

Hidden Plant (Factory) – belief that a high % of capacity is lost due to lack of first time quality. There are a lot of costs that aren’t visibly clear on the surface (the iceberg concept) and a significant amount of costs are hidden.

Accountability for quality: “Because quality is everybody's job, it may become nobody's job—the idea that quality must be actively managed and have visibility at the highest levels of management.”



Shigeo Shingo (1909-1990)

Known for:

Poka-yoke -  is a Japanese term corresponding to “mistake-proofing”. He broke down the types of poke-yokes into three types and the term became part of the Toyota Production System. 

Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) a Lean manufacturing concept that involves a relentless pursuit to reduce the amount of time to set up a process. The goal is to reduce this non-value added time and then reduce the lot size during each run, thereby reducing the amount of in process inventory.

Just-in-Time (JIT) - aka “synchronous flow”. A production method that strives to create a flow of all the necessary inputs for the process in the right amount at the right time. The objective is to optimize inventory levels with the intention of reducing excess inventory and carrying costs (remember that not all inventory is bad).



Other notes

Juran, Deming, and Crosby all believed that management is ultimately responsible for quality.

Noriaki Kano developed a model (Kano Model) for customer satisfaction that classifies customer preferences among five categories.

Carl Frederick Gauss (1777-1855) introduced the concept of the normal curve.



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