A Surprising Twist in Japanese Quality
by Craig A. Anderson
Article from Global Insights
It's not just hype anymore.
Baldrige. World Class. Two terms that are becoming inextricably linked. If you don't
believe us, ask the experts from the country that established "Made in Japan" as the
global benchmark for quality.
"The (Japan Quality) Program is modeled after the self-assessment methods of the
Malcolm Baldrige Award of the United States which is a globally recognized de facto
standard for management innovation practiced in over 60 countries in Asia, Europe,
and other regions. It is one of the most advanced management innovation programs
incorporating management theories with proven results worldwide."
So quality management has finally come full circle. Back to the future. In the 1950s
and 1960s, Japanese industry embraced the quality principles taught by Americans
W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran as a foundation for decades of continuously
improving quality that captured markets around the world. Now, fifty years later, the
Japanese are again looking to the United States for new visions in quality
management. And like many of us, they have determined that the Baldrige
Performance Excellence System is the new "state of the art" for achieving world-
class quality and performance excellence.
Naoyuki Yanagimoto, the Program Director, smiled and continued the earlier thread
of his discussion. "We are evolving in our understanding of quality. The Deming
Award and the earlier focus on statistical process control was useful to improve our
manufacturing industries, but we were missing the customer."
Daisaku Harada, the Director of the Japan Productivity Center, the organization that
sponsors the Japan Quality Award, joined in to emphasize this point. "We started the
Japan Quality Award in 1995 to encourage Japanese companies to transform their
management structures to meet international competition effectively by becoming
customer-focused and continuously creating new value through self-innovation.
"Baldrige forces organizations to innovate rapidly in the pursuit of high quality
performance. The traditional management cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act can no longer
adequately enhance innovation enough to remain competitive. Our companies need
to reform their management structures to realize their full potential."
The rest of our lunch continued in this vein.
Now as I look back at that meeting, I realize that I had the good fortune of witnessing
something that is still "off the radar screen" for most American managers--American
quality management systems are back big-time, and the Baldrige is the gold
standard for performance excellence. In typical American style ("You can always
count on the Americans to do the right thing…after they have tried everything else!" --
Winston Churchill) we have hung in there with the Baldrige process through the
cumbersome early cycles to have matured the process to where it drives current
thinking in Japan about quality.