Made in U.S.A.: a renaissance in quality

Harv Bus Rev. 1993 Jul-Aug;71(4):42-7, 50.


In the opinion of some journalists and business leaders, Japan's preeminence in product quality is a direct consequence of lectures delivered 40 years ago in Tokyo by two Americans--W. Edwards Deming and Joseph M. Juran. According to Dr. Juran, this view is pure chauvinist nonsense. Despite the shoddiness of Japanese consumer goods before the war, the Japanese did have a quality tradition in the superb workmanship of certain ancient crafts and in the design and manufacture of their military hardware, which, at the outset of the war, was highly competitive with our own. It was just that the Japanese had never devoted engineering expertise, capital, or management attention to the quality of exportable consumer goods. The shock of losing the war changed that mind-set. When Dr. Juran first lectured in Japan in 1954, his audience consisted of 140 CEOs. He had given the very same lectures dozens of times in the United States, but never to top management. American CEOs concentrated their attention on financial reports. Quality was a discipline that they delegated to engineers and special quality departments. In Japan, senior executives took personal charge of managing for quality; trained their managers, engineers, and employees in quality methods; developed quality measurements; pursued quality change at a revolutionary pace; and kept at it year after year until, by the mid-1970s, Japan had passed the United States in quality manufacturing. The unsung heroes of the Japanese quality revolution were Japanese managers, not American experts. Now Dr. Juran sees the beginnings of a quality revolution in the United States as global competition drives managers to focus on their nondelegable responsibilities in quality management.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel / standards*
  • Economic Competition / standards
  • History, 20th Century
  • Industry / economics
  • Industry / history
  • Industry / standards*
  • Japan
  • Leadership
  • Quality Control*
  • United States