What is QUEST?

1. What is QUEST?

2. What do you get after 5 years of casual research, months of false promises to your editor that you’ll write an article, and a 3 hour train ride to the QUEST 25th Anniversary Conference?

I attempt to answer the former and certainly answer the latter in my latest article.

Spring semester of my sophomore year marked an important turning point in the manner in which I daydreamed and procrastinated. Distractions were critical to me at that time as I faced a very real dilemma—I hated studying accounting and I was an accounting major. I’m sure you can imagine the severity of the situation. Every day I sat in front of a book for hours about nonsense like bond amortization and the double-declining method of depreciation. So like any sane individual driven insane by the pressures of carving out a reasonable career for himself/herself, I decided to escape the reality in front of me and took a trip upstairs to the third floor of Van Munching to speak with Dr. King (then Kylie Goodell and the Quality Guild member in charge of QUESTPress).

Getting involved in QUESTPress was just as much a retreat from my studies as a return to something familiar (in high school I ran my school’s literary magazine, The Shalshelet [“The Messenger” in Hebrew]). On one of my trips upstairs to visit Kylie, Dr. Bailey was outside his office and we had a conversation. I don’t remember 99% of what we said, but I certainly remember a question The Doctor posed—“What is QUEST?” So here is what I’ve got so far.

1) Managing for Quality a History

  • “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” – Genesis 1:31
    • First recorded instance of quality control
  • From ancient Chinese regulation of the handiwork industry to Nordic shipbuilding, history is littered with examples of managing for quality
  • Read: “A History of Managing for Quality” by Joseph M. Juran

2) The Fathers of Quality

  • Joseph M. Juran (Born 1904, Romania)
  • E Deming (Born 1900, Iowa)
    • Read: “Out of the Crisis” by W. E Deming
      • I don’t have all the reports I read about him archived, but just read a few biographies all accessible on the interweb
    • Kaoru Ishikawa (Born 1915, Japan)
    • Each of these individuals plays a critical role as the developers and proselytizers of TQM in the US and Japan, then globally
      • Others not to be overlooked—Armand V. Feinbaum, Genichi Taguchi, Phillip Crosby, etc.
    • If you follow these individuals careers you gain a real appreciation for the foundation of TQM— “revolutions are the long shadows of great men and women”

3) The Keeper of the Gate

  • Walter E. Shewhart
    • May 16, 1924, Hawthorne Works (Western Electric): Dr. Shewhart prepares a one page memo laying the foundation for statistical quality control.
  • Juran and Deming each spend time interacting with Shewhart at Hawthorne and absorb his philosophy, leading many to dub Shewhart the grandfather of quality
    • These developments all occur during the height of the Bell Labs era (Hawthorn Works was a partner with AT&T Bell Labs)
      • Read: “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation” by Jon Gertner
      • Read: Early SQC: A Historical Supplement by Joseph M. Juran

4) Failure in America

  • Although Shewhart, Juran, and Deming develop TQM in the US, no one cares and they are largely ignored.
    • Reference 2). The careers of Juran and Deming are littered with examples of neglect stateside

5) War and Defeat

  • WWII devastates Japan and General McArthur is assigned as Supreme Allied Commander of the nation.
  • McArthur rebuilds the country and brings in TQM experts (Juran and Deming, among other) to rebuild the telecommunication system. [Hawthorn Works (AT&T) > rebuilding Japanese telecommunication system]
    • Read: “Embracing Defeat” by John W. Dower
    • Read: “Hirohito And The Making of Modern Japan” by Herbert P. Bix
      • Both books won the Pulitzer

6) The Japanese Economic Miracle

  • Japan, long known for terrible quality, becomes the world leader in Quality and second largest economy in the world
    • Back to the Future III
      • Doc: “No wonder this circuit failed; it says ‘Made in Japan’.”
      • Marty: “What do you mean, Doc? All the best stuff is made in Japan.”
        • Doc and Marty in 1955, while fixing the time circuits
  • Americans, long supportive of their steadfast ally in the Pacific, begin fear that they will all work for Japan someday (Japan’s rise is that dramatic).
    • Japanese competitiveness strikes fear in the heart of corporate America, especially those in the automotive and electronics industries

7) If Japan Can, Why Can’t We? (June 24, 1980)

8) Adoption of TQM in the US and Globally (especially IBM)

9) TQM Leadership by Dean Kirwan and Dr. Judy Olian

  • State budgets requires the University of Maryland to do more with less

10) The IBM-TQM Grants

  • Total Quality at the University of Maryland at College Park: Proposal Submission to the IBM Total Quality Management Competition

11) Only One Remains

  • Read: The IBM-TQM Partnership With Colleges and Universities– A Report: A baseline report of the initial activities and future plans of the nine Partnership institutions by Daniel Seymour

It’s hard to imagine that after five years I still haven’t found an answer. Every time I read a new book on Juran, Deming, Japan, TQM, or IBM I find another loose thread in the story. If someone in the community asked me “What is QUEST?” today, I wouldn’t have an answer. I actually prefer it that way. Every time I have the opportunity to peak down the rabbit hole I end up in another adventure. QUEST is the story of eras, of people facing insurmountable obstacles, of geniuses in labs, and societies clashing. If I have an answer, all that ends. Maybe it’s better to live in the questions?


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