Kaoru Ishikawa, a luminary in quality management, played a pivotal role in Japan’s post-war economic resurgence. Best known for the innovative Fishbone-Ishikawa diagram, his methodologies simplified complex statistical concepts, making them accessible for industry-wide application. This essay celebrates Ishikawa’s legacy, emphasizing his holistic approach to total quality management that galvanized a collective commitment to excellence within organizations.

Kaoru Ishikawa was born in 1915 in Tokyo. He was the eldest of eight sons. In 1939, he graduated from the University of Tokyo with an engineering degree in Applied Chemistry. In March 1939, after graduation, Kaoru Ishikawa took a job at a company engaged in the provision of public services. A few months later, he was drafted into the Japanese Navy. From 1939 to 1941, Kaoru Ishikawa was a naval technical officer. He was engaged in the education and training of the personnel carriers staff. Later, he again began working in the sphere of industry. In 1947, he joined the Nissan Liquid Fuel Company. He began to fulfill the duties of a chairman in Musashi Institute of Technology in 1978.

Kaoru Ishikawa began their studies at Tokyo University. As a technical specialist, he was well aware of the difficulties of analysis of random variables and interpretation of results. These problems led to his interest in the study of statistics and statistical methods. In 1949, he was invited by the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE) in the Special Interest Group to study quality control for researching the field of statistical methods. For the next forty years of his life, Kaoru Ishikawa was almost completely devoted to work in this area. Also, he tried to help professional associations, scientific institutions, and industrial organizations throughout the world in the practical application of the principles of quality control. After World War II, Japan was interested in the transformation of the industrial sector, which in North America was perceived solely as a manufacturer of cheap toys and low-quality cameras. It was the time when Kaoru Ishikawa mobilized large groups of people trying to achieve one common goal of developing Japanese production. He put into practice, integrated, and stated in detail management concepts of Joseph M. Juran W. and Edwards Deming in the Japanese system (Bodek, 2004).

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In the 1950s, to help overcome the conflicts between divisions of the company and help promote cooperation between them, Kaoru Ishikawa put forward the slogan The next process is your customer. In 1952, he became the president of the Chemical Society of Japan. In this post, Kaoru Ishikawa encouraged the implementation of joint projects of various scientific institutions in the field of quality control and provided sponsorship for the organization of annual conferences on the subject. The participants in these conferences focused on the needs of different groups of employees, including workers and leaders of senior and middle levels. He was sure that a companywide approach to quality control was necessary for success (Evans & Lindsay, 2007). The result of these efforts was the creation of the first quality circles and recognition of the fact that the problem of quality control should involve all members of the organization and the focus on the processes used and the final consumer. This conception was introduced in 1962. On industrial enterprises, this concept was originally introduced experimentally to see what effect a leading arm will have on the property.

Such groups voluntarily were taught the methods of statistical quality control at all levels of the organization. They were engaged in the analysis of problems and developed optimal solutions. Although a lot of companies were asked to participate in the experiment, only Nippon Telephone & Telegraph accepted the invitation. However, soon, the quality circles became extremely popular, turning in the important element of management systems based on quality management (Total Quality Management System). Kaoru Ishikawa wrote two books on the topic of quality circles How to Operate QC Circle Activities and QC Circle Koryo (Ho, 1999).

Continuing the contribution to the program to increase the quality of production, in 1963, Kaoru Ishikawa attended the annual conference on quality control for senior executives and wrote several books on quality control. His book A Guide to Quality Control was translated into English. He was also the chairman of the editorial board of the monthly publication Statistical Quality Control and took part in international standardization activities.

A period of the great Japanese revolution in the sphere of quality control was marked by the creation of quality circles and programs of intensive training and preparation for the challenges of improving the quality, the appearance of numerous publications on the subject in various journals, and conduction of special studies on the use of a new concept and what benefits it could bring. Kaoru Ishikawa participated actively in the implementation of quality standards and worked closely with the Japanese Industry Standards (JIS) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO). In 1969, he became a member of the Japanese Branch of ISO. In 1977, he became its chairman. In 1981, Kaoru Ishikawa became a member of the executive committee of ISO, which allowed him to influence the processes of international cooperation through the introduction of quality standardization (Ho, 1999).

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Although Kaoru Ishikawa believed that the availability of standards was the essential condition for the achievement of the minimum acceptable level of quality, he did not believe that their existence or even implementation would necessarily lead to the satisfaction of customers. He was convinced that besides the observance of the standards, the task of quality control was the formulation of higher goals and overcoming complacency by the continuous introduction of improvements and ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction. In 1982, a method of Ishikawa diagrams was developed. It is used for the development and continuous improvement of products and detection of the actual causes of problems.

Until his death in 1989, Kaoru Ishikawa traveled a lot and was often invited by governments, universities, and industrial organizations for seminars and consultations to explain the Japanese experience of quality management. He cooperated with many other prominent experts in the field of quality including E. Deming and J. Juran. He had met them in the 1950s in Japan, where they were invited to assist a group of Japanese managers in conducting seminars on the spacecraft. Kaoru Ishikawa was a director of Musashi Institute of Technology and was often attracted to the cooperation as a consultant both in Japan and other countries (Bodek, 2004).

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After the death of Kaoru Ishikawa in 1989, Joseph M. Juran in his panegyric said:

We can learn a lot just by examining how much has been done by Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa in one lifetime. According to my observations, he achieved everything using his natural talents. He was dedicated to public service. He acted modestly. He followed his own teachings by collecting facts and subjecting them to careful analysis. He was completely open, therefore, everyone trusted him (Ho, 1999).

For his achievements, Kaoru Ishikawa received a great number of prestigious awards. In 1972, he received Eugene L. Grant Award from the American Society for Quality (ASQ), in 1977 – a Blue Ribbon Medal from the Japanese government for his achievements in the field of industrial standardization, and in 1988 – the Order of the Sacred Treasures of the second degree and Walter A. Shewhart Medal (Bodek, 2004).

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