Deming Communities
Profound Knowledge

The Hidden Learning Traps of Japanese Quality Communities


For past several years, the most impressive phenomena of reading Japanese magazines for quality management are they decided to adopt TQM (Total Quality Management which is somehow notorious and controversial in Western countries) and gave up their CWQC(Company-Wide Quality Control), with the fever of promoting ISO 9000 quality systems certification programs.

I think the phenomena are a setback. But our Japanese friends somehow lost their confidence and gave up their pride in the Japanese-styled management systems, that is, quality management oriented management systems which were the benchmarking of world-wide companies. Although it were pointed out by some smart Japanese that they lack the innovation or breakthrough power which Japanese communities and companies needed badly.

One of the most serious trouble of past two decades of Japanese quality or management communities is that they are so proud of their home-made tools( say, new 7 QC tools, QFD, Taguchi Methods and so on ) and systems (say. Hosin Kanri, Deming Prize or N- Prize which are the models of American Balridge Awards). I made a small note on last month article of Pareto Distribution and the Worlds of Knowledge as follows:

The “Statistical Methods used in Presentations of QC Conference in Japan (1985-1996) “table done by Ikuro Kusaba’s Keynote Speech “ Expectation for TQM” for 1997 CSQC Conference and the Asia Quality Symposium, p. 1-6. It is illuminating to get a feeling of the essence of Japanese total 2034 presentations with the following application frequency:

graphic 1106; design of experiments 543; cause and effect diagram 524; histogram 442; tree diagrams 384;Preto diagram 380; scatter diagram 350; regression and correlation 210;QFD 189; control charts 136; others---

It is interesting to know that JUSE promoted NEW 7 QC TOOLS more than two decades but the result proved the basic cause-effect diagram and its related techniques are most popular. Most people don 't bother to confirm the systems under study are in control states and Pareto diagram is still among the vital ones.

Beside the above-mentioned one, I'll point out another serious hidden learning trap of Japanese management community. It may be due to their complacent or pride of their achievements. For a country so eager with learning from Western countries, it is amazing to find out the resistance of Deming Philosophy 15 years ago and recently The Fifth Discipline so hard. The politely listening to Deming's SQC philosophy while moved to Zero Defect like NEC were not atypical but I'll focus the discussion in the years after Deming published his Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position (MIT, CAES, 1982).

Let me disclose one of correspondence between me and the chief of JUSE long time ago.It can serve as one of the mental models of the powerhouse of Japanese Quality Movement.The following letter I received from the executive director of JUSE, Mr. Junji Noguchi dated Nov. 21, 1983. At that time, I worked for Electronics Research and Service Organization (ERSO which was the powerhouse of talent and engineers of Taiwanese coming booming semiconductor and computer industries) of ITRI which is a quasi-government supported research and development Institute. I did presentation for CSQC but Mr. Noguchi may be more interested with the organization I worked for.

Dear Mr. Chung,

We have received your letter of Nov. 11. Thank for your presentation on QC activities of your Institute at the time of CSQC visit.

Regarding your inquiry about Japanese translation of “ Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position”, we are sorry to inform you that it has not been translated into Japanese and currently, there is no plan to do so in the future.

Sincerely yours,

Jungi Noguchi

Executive Director


Of course, Japanese NTT Press published Dr. Deming's The New Economics two years ago and Mann's Dr.Deming: the Man who teaches Japanese Quality was published by Diamond Press about ten years ago. The reality is that the numbers of people with real understanding the power of Dr. Deming's Profound Knowledge systems. are still very limited ( Dr. Y. Kondo maybe one of few exceptions). No wonder Dr. T mentioned several years ago that he didn't know the progress of Loss Function study Americans made and one of most active international consultant Dr. K thought Dr. Deming's philosophy is "old-fashioned or outdated" two years ago in one of his chat with me in Taiwan.

The most serious barriers are not in the industries in Japanese which have some of their own learning style and experience but in Schools (including universities) and many other bureaucracies like banks and financial institutions and government agents.

They don't have the wisdom of outsiders' viewpoints. They think their systems are unique. The essence of OUT of the CRISIS were neglected or rejected.

In addition to the crisis of above-mentioned, another trouble is the pride that the Japanese systems are one of the best with the controversial viewpoints that the Taylorism will eventually self-destroying Western countries. These issues are the subject we plan to talk about next month.

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