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   Colloquium at Stanford
An In-Depth Look at "The Unfinished Revolution"
Session 5
Quality and benchmarking
Norman McEachron1.*
- unedited transcript -

Yes, productivity and so on. When I was asked by Marcelo to comment on Dr. Ohashi's presentation I felt humble in a way because of all the experiences I have had in my career, the visit that I made to Japan in 1981 to look at the Japanese quality movement, to interview members of that movement, including Janichi Chacuchi, Professor Itchikawa and Dr. Naguchi, who was at that time heading the Japan unit of scientists and engineers. That was one of the most important, if not the most important, formative experience in my whole career. One of the things that was striking about, I think, Dr. Ohashi's talk was how many deep tools and approaches and prospective have been woven into total quality. If I were to take out the M or the C at the end of it, if we were just to just talk about total quality, the way I do sometimes as a consultant, it's the total system perspective. Course I graduated from Stanford in 1979, I was finding out how much I didn't know about the campus since then when I was coming over and finding out how many roads have been constructed in places that used to be pathways. When I thought back at that time how much learning I did in Japan by simply observing how Japanese companies, despite the language barrier, observing how Japanese companies were in affect thinking about the early stages of the bootstrap process through continuous improvement, kisen. If you think about continuous improvement it was being mobilized in Japan through the work force involved in production as early as the 1960's based on Deming's original lectures to Japanese mangers in 1950, so it's a fifty year old tradition this year in Japan. This tradition has grown, as Professor Ohashi has described, from focusing on production and product to total customer satisfaction, which is still how many companies in the United States view it today to in affect total planetary responsibility and stakeholder responsibility when you consider the larger prospective that he had identified. What I find fascinating is to think back to those early days and think about it in relationship to what we now call knowledge management. Back then there wasn't such a thing, at least it didn't get the big press, but I can remember attending a meeting, it turned out to be a very privileged occasion, the 1000th meeting of QC circles in Japan in April of 1981. At that time I had the privilege of sitting and listening to presentations by Japanese workers that were as sophisticated in their understanding of process and their ability to communicate to other people about that understanding is anything I had seen industrial engineers do in the United States. So what we're seeing there was the ability to do something that has become a famous book title, and I gather it's tributed to Joel Burnbaum, if only we knew what we know. One of the things about knowledge management today is in effect uncovering what we know making it explicit and tangible enough to share and use for improvement in locations different from where the knowledge was originally discovered. That process in various ways is TQM or TQC, it is also knowledge management, it is also benchmarking, which I made my professional career on at SRI, which is in effect observing other organizations matching against a client organizations needs and uncovering opportunities for improvement. Virtually all of those activities come together around the idea of continuous improvement. So the plan do check action cycle, that Professor Ohashi described, is one of those unifying things that from the very first days of Deming's original lectures in Japan, to the present day looking at the complete scope of TQM, even at the societal level, we are still focusing on that basic process. I see an intimate relationship between plan do check action in that larger sense and the CoDIAK process itself. The process of continuous learning by plan do check action and I've also done some work over the years in looking at
the relationship between plan do check action and the scientific process. If we remember, if any of us have taken the sociology of sciences, I did when I was at Stanford, one of the things that is interesting is look at science as a process as opposed to just the results of science. How do we operate? In science we do plan do check action. The same CoDIAK process of learning from experience and integrating and communicating is part of the scientific communities way of making progress. So there's such a fundamental relationship among the things I see Professor Ohashi talking about that in a way it describes what humanity needs to do in a on going way understanding more and more about complex systems in order to put together better ways to manage not only our organizations but our politics and our international relationships as well. So there's just a tremendous scope in what's there. I might also comment in closing that my visit to Japan and my study of total quality and total quality management is what I would call my secret weapon. In every consulting assignment I've ever done the principal tools that I have used have been derived from total quality. Those tools are absolutely universal. From the 7 QC circle tools, through to the planning and strategy tools, those tools are incredibly powerful for understanding systems in a group context so that people learn together about them and to be able to make improvements. While it sounds like there's a movement there that's focused somewhat narrowly, I see in fact TQM is a process for almost universal improvement and it's so intimately related to bootstrapping that it's hard to describe a boundary between them. Thanks. 

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