The evolution of Quality Management, from mere ‘inspection’ to modern interpretations such as Lean and Six Sigma, has led to the development of essential processes and tools that have been key to business performance improvements across every sector.

Although Quality Management can be traced back to early 1920s production quality controls, much of the pioneering work was done in Japan during the 1940s and 1950s, most notably by the Americans Feigenbaum, Juran and Deming.

In the early days of manufacturing, an operative’s work was inspected and a decision was made whether to accept it or reject it. As industry grew larger, so did this decision-making process, leading to the creation of full-time inspection roles.

With the arrival of these roles came a change in focus: from simple product acceptance to the prevention of the manufacturing defects that might prompt a rejection in the first place. This was the birth of Quality Management.

The History of Quality Management

In the late 1940s Japan’s industrial capacity had been virtually destroyed. The Japanese recognized this, together with an acceptance that Japan had a reputation for cheap imitative products and an illiterate workforce.

They set about solving these problems, employing Quality Management as the solution.

Post-war Japan

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In the 1950s, Japanese Quality Management practices developed rapidly. By 1960, Quality Management had become the major preoccupation of Japanese industry. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, Japan was producing superior products at a significantly cheaper price than her Western counterparts. Exports into the USA and Europe increased impressively and quickly, as did the profits of Japanese industry. This was the fruit of Quality Management.

Japan, America and Europe jointly sponsored the first international Quality Management conference in 1969. There, Feigenbaum gave a paper in which he addressed wider issues such as organization, planning and management responsibility. The term “Total Quality Management” was coined, used to describe the Japanese model in which all employees, from top to bottom, must study and participate in Quality Management.

In response to the Japanese successes, Quality Management gained traction in the West in the early 1980s. The Total Quality Management model was used in nearly all cases. Extensive research evidence demonstrates the enormous benefits gained.

A much wider concept today, Quality Management encompasses overall organizational performance and the important role of operational process.

Quality Management has now developed into a number of holistic paradigms, helping organizations achieve excellent customer and business performance results.

Two of these models are Lean and Six Sigma.

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Richard is the Portfolio Manager and one of the Senior Instructional Designers at Good e-Learning. A BA (Hons) in Philosophy from the University of Essex started an unfortunate habit of collecting degrees, with the count currently standing at three. After many years a stand-up classroom trainer for organisations such as Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, Richard realized a switch to e-Learning would allow him to do much more sitting down. This he did with Thomson Reuters before joining Good e-Learning in 2015. When not acquiring esoteric and useless facts, Richard is mostly found installing tricky Minecraft mods for his son and his friends.