Dr J M Juran; Architect of Quality

Remembering Dr J M Juran - Qimpro

Qimpro’s homage to the Quality Guru

Qimpro served as the Indian Affiliate of The Juran Institute from 1987 to 1996.

Dr Juran’s suggestion to Suresh Lulla in 1987: “If you wish to start a Quality Revolution in India, focus on the Healthcare and Education sectors”

This blog has been culled from the autobiography of Dr J M Juran – Architect of Quality

My Birth

I was born in Braila, Romania, on 24 December, 1904. On that date, the front page of Los Angeles Times carried this story:

“KISHINEFF: Sentences were pronounced on the persons found guilty of participation in the anti-Jewish riots here in May 1903.”

Kishineff is within 150 miles of Braila.

Our New Home

We had come to Minneapolis, Minnesota in the fall of 1912. Our new home was a tarpaper shack set in a wooded area. Our home had no amenities – no running water and no sewer, gas, or electricity. We lived in poverty during most of my entire twelve years in Minneapolis, yet there was little complaining. I seem to have assumed that poverty was for us a natural state of life.

Life with Dad

Mother had been the cohesive force in the family. With her gone, the family disintegrated rapidly. My little sisters were placed in an orphanage and remained there through adolescence. My older sister Betty was next. She was expelled from the house for violating Dad’s curfew. Rudy, my brother, left next, voluntarily. He was already employed full time. Next, my brother Nat violated Dad’s curfew law and was ordered out. By then I was within several months of graduation. I left for my job in Chicago in 1924. Dad remained alone until his death in 1931.

My Views on Religion

By the year 1924, I was a confirmed unbeliever. Those who like to label people based on religious beliefs would classify me as a deist. I marvelled at the immensity of the universe – the vastness of space, the incredible numbers of galaxies and stars, the relative insignificance of our own earth and solar system, the mystery of time.

Western Electric, Hawthorne

At the end of the week’s orientation period, all college recruits were assigned to the branches that would become their employers. Fifteen of us were assigned to the Inspection Branch. We had been told that Inspection was “the guardian of quality”. To this end it inspected and tested the products before they were shipped to Hawthorne’s customers – the regional Bell Telephone Companies.

Ethnic and Religious Differences

One element of culture that was not set out in writing was  the influence of ethnic or religious origin in hiring, promotion, and the like. Nevertheless these things were influential. Most obviously, in 1924 there was not a black face to be seen in Hawthorne despite the fact that Chicago already had a significant black population.

First Job in Quality

My employment contract was with Western Electric, but my ultimate employer was the huge American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), which owned Western Electric.

All inspection departments kept records showing the inspector’s findings. The inspection managers regularly reported the frequency of defects to the general foreman. Those reports did not lead to action unless a sudden (sporadic) rise in the defect level became a threat to meeting the delivery schedule or the earning levels of the workers.

Reducing the continuing (chronic) waste was not high on Hawthorne’s priority list. The responsibility for taking action was vague; in addition, a way to diagnose and remedy such wastes was not well understood.

My Dress Code and Conduct

During my first years in Hawthorne, my dress and conduct attracted attention – the wrong kind.

My wardrobe was minimal; what there was showed its age. My conduct matched my appearance. I spoke my mind and did so bluntly.


In the fall of 1924, my sister Betty wrote me that she would be coming to Chicago, hoping to find work there. She would be living with friends, and one of them would be meeting her train. She wondered if I could also meet her train.

I did meet Betty’s train, and so did her friend, Sadie Shapiro. Then and there I was smitten and have remained so ever since.

We had scheduled the wedding for a Saturday afternoon, and by necessity it was a spartan event.

Cuts in Pay

By mid-1931, the economy was roaring downhill at a reckless pace, bringing layoffs and ruin to the lives of millions. Hawthorne was already being affected; orders from the telephone companies were drying up and falling below production capacity.

In July 1932, my pay was cut from $380 to $330 per month. In August 1933, my pay was cut further from $330 to $285.

Law School

As I pondered our plight, my thinking raised the broader questions: How can I reach a state in which I am in control over the outside force?

By mid-1931, I enrolled in Loyola University’s law school, located in downtown Chicago.

I learned that to practice law, one must undertake certain demanding tasks: identify with precision the issues presented by a case; study prior cases to discover the precedents; establish the pertinent facts; and find cause-effect relationships.

I learned also that practicing law demands mastery of the language – choosing appropriate words and phrases, and clearly defining terms to avoid the confusion that arises from words’ multiple meanings.

World War II

On December 7, 1941, Japanese armed forces bombed the American naval base of Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. Soon the United States was at war with Japan and Germany.

On December 20, 1941, Western Electric president C G Stoll received the following telegram:

“Very anxious to secure services of J M Juran…..on loan basis for six weeks to make very important analysis of Statistics Division of Lead-Lease Administration and assist in reorganizing it. Government will pay salary …. Up to and not exceeding rate $8,000 per year….Please advise.” E R Stettinius, Jr., Land-Lease Administrator.

The overture could not have come at a better time.

Farewell to Government and Western Electric

I resigned from the government effective on August 15, 1945. Victory in Europe had been won, and the outcome in the Pacific was no longer in doubt.

Then, as I pondered “what next?”, a totally new goal emerged: start over as a freelancer.

I began to do management consulting immediately upon leaving government service. I had formed an alliance with Wallace Clark, a management consultant I had met through the professional societies. I did my earliest consulting for Clark’s clients.

My First Visit to Japan

In 1954 I went to Japan to lecture and to consult with companies on matters relating to managing for quality. That visit marked the beginning of a long, productive alliance that contributed usefully to Japan’s emergence as a world quality leader and economic superpower. It began with the convergence of two events:

  1. The Japanese military defeat in World War II, and
  2. Publication of the first edition of my Quality Control Handbook, in 1951.

Books Published

During the twentieth century, I authored, co-authored, or edited over 30 books. The books significant for Quality are:

  1. Quality Control Handbook
  2. Managerial Breakthrough
  3. Management of Quality Control
  4. Upper Management and Quality
  5. Quality Planning and Analysis
  6. Juran on Planning for Quality.

The Eight Visit –  1981

My eighth visit to Japan (in November 1981) was to receive a high honour – the emperor’s award of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class. (The Second Class is the highest that may be given to a non-Japanese.)

The Juran Institute

As the 1970s were coming to a close, I was still happily engaged in consulting, training, and writing.

Meanwhile, siren voices had been trying to lure me into dangerous waters. The most frequent were those that sang out, “You have an enviable status in industry. You could create a consulting company and earn a fabulous income.” But I wanted none of it. I had no master and wanted none.

Late in the 1970s, a new species of siren emerged. Occasionally a course attendee would point out, “You have an endless supply of know-how in your speciality. Some of that knowhow is in your course text and some you provide orally. But most of the knowhow remains in your head. You need to empty out that head.”

About that time, I met G Howland Blackiston, a young man who was dating my granddaughter, Joy. We soon discovered an interest beyond Joy – producing video-cassettes on managing for quality.

I brought lawyers to create a corporation – Juran Enterprises Inc. (We soon changed it to Juran Institute Inc.)

We called our product “Juran on Quality Improvement”(JQI). JQI was a major force in disseminating the new science of managing for quality.

Finally, Two Messages

So I have come to the end. I close this book with two messages.

  • To those who are in the field of managing for quality: thank your lucky stars
  • Your field will grow extensively during your lifetime, especially in three of our giant industries – health, education and government.

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