Six Sigma Quality Gurus: Pioneers and Their Contributions to Quality Management

In the realm of quality management, several influential figures, known as the ‘Quality Gurus,’ have played pivotal roles in shaping the theory and foundation of Six Sigma. Throughout this article, we will explore the key contributions of renowned quality gurus such as Joseph Juran, W. Edwards Deming, Walter Shewhart, Kaoru Ishikawa, and Genichi Taguchi. Join us as we delve into their groundbreaking ideas that have left an indelible mark on the field of quality management.

Quality Gurus and their Contributions to Six Sigma

Quality Gurus

Joseph Juran: Advancing Total Quality Management (TQM):

  • Dr. Joseph Juran played a crucial role in the development of Total Quality Management (TQM) theory. Organizations widely recognize this theory and use it in quality initiatives.
  • His book, The Quality Control Handbook, was first published in 1951 and quickly became the go-to reference for quality managers. In fact, it remains an important resource today.
  • One of Dr. Juran’s major contributions was his recognition of the Pareto principle. According to this principle, 80% of problems are caused by 20% of potential causes.
  • Dr. Juran’s work significantly impacted the Japanese economy during the 1950s. His Juran Institute also influenced top management in the United States.
  • In addition to his other accomplishments, Dr. Juran developed the Juran Trilogy for quality management. This consists of three fundamental principles: quality planning, quality control, and quality improvement.

W. Edwards Deming: Statistical Methods and Organizational Transformation:

  • W. Edwards Deming was a prominent figure in the field of quality control using statistical methods.
  • He had a significant impact on Japan. He taught statistical methods to the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (J-U-S-E).
  • In the US, Deming gained popularity when he introduced his 14 points and 7 deadly diseases of top management guidelines. He designed these guidelines, in essence, to bring consistency and purpose to organizations. They emphasized the importance of focusing an organization’s quality efforts on a single goal. Similar to the concept of Six Sigma, all employees work towards a common performance goal.
  • One of Deming’s noteworthy contributions was his endorsement of the Plan Do Study Act (PDSA) cycle as a method for improving systems. Today, this method remains widely used, and it shares similarities with other process improvement tools, such as the DMAIC Methodology.

Walter Shewhart: Pioneering Statistical Process Control (SPC):

  • Walter Shewhart, an important figure in quality management, played a significant role in advancing the use of statistics.
  • While working at the Western Electric Company in the 1920s, Shewhart observed that engineers needed to reduce failures to improve production processes and increase efficiency.
  • Shewhart introduced the concept of process variation. This, in general, refers to the deviation from the average or mean.
  • He categorized process variation into two types: assignable cause and chance cause variation.
  • Assignable cause variations are traced back to a specific root cause, while chance cause variation cannot be attributed to a specific cause.
  • Shewhart’s idea of reducing variation using statistical methods laid the foundation for Statistical Process Control (SPC).
  • Shewhart pioneered the use of control charts. Control charts visually indicate variations that occur within a process.
  • Shewhart also made notable contributions to the development of the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, popularized by Dr. Deming.
  • Overall, Walter Shewhart’s work revolutionized quality management by introducing statistical techniques, control charts, and the PDCA cycle to improve processes and reduce errors.

Kaoru Ishikawa: Japanese Quality Control Visionary:

  • Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa is known as the father of Japanese quality control.
  • He played a significant role in the Japanese quality movement from the beginning.
  • Dr. Ishikawa distinguished the Japanese approach to quality control, which he called company-wide quality control, from the Western style.
  • His ideas were quickly embraced by Western managers in the United States.
  • Dr. Ishikawa’s ideas continue to influence quality management today, including concepts like quality circles and the next operation as a customer.
  • In fact, the development of the cause-and-effect diagram was one of his major contributions to quality management theory and Six Sigma. The cause-and-effect diagram is a simple and graphical method used to identify the root causes behind process problems. This diagram is also known as the Ishikawa Diagram in honor of Dr. Ishikawa.

Genichi Taguchi: Quality Engineering Innovator:

  • Dr. Genichi Taguchi, known as the father of quality engineering, played a significant role in developing techniques to improve quality and reduce cycle time.
  • Taguchi’s ideas are closely associated with the Six Sigma process improvement methodology.
  • He came to the US to assist industries in enhancing their quality initiatives.
  • Prominent companies like Ford and Xerox quickly recognized the value of Taguchi’s concepts and actively promoted them.
  • Taguchi believed that external factors have an impact on manufacturing processes. He referred this to as noise.
  • According to Taguchi, managers must identify and eliminate these noise factors in order to improve processes and reduce costs.
  • Taguchi’s theory for quality management consists of two main components.
    1. The first component is the quality loss function. This equation calculates the monetary loss resulting from process variability.
    2. The second component is the designed robustness. This aims to ensure that a process consistently produces high-quality products regardless of external factors.


The contributions of these quality gurus have significantly influenced the field of quality management. They further continue to shape the methodologies and practices employed in organizations today. From Joseph Juran’s Total Quality Management principles to Walter Shewhart’s statistical process control techniques, from W. Edwards Deming’s organizational guidelines to Kaoru Ishikawa’s cause-and-effect diagram, and from Genichi Taguchi’s quality engineering innovations to the robustness of Six Sigma, their legacies endure. Thus, by understanding and implementing their visionary ideas, organizations can strive for excellence, drive continuous improvement, and elevate the quality of their products and services to new heights.

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