Many references track the beginning of formal use of the Six Sigma quality approach back to the mid 1990's. It was at this point that more formality was put around this approach to quality, including the inception of the DMAIC method. Though the formal inception wasn't until approximately 1995, the focus on quality began long before. It is important to recognize some of the key founders of Six Sigma to understand how the approach to quality that we use regularly today was born. This is the second blog in a series. During my first blog, I introduced you to Dr. Walter A. Shewhart, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and Dr. Joseph M. Juran. I will continue highlighting a few of the major contributors.

Philip B. Crosby (1928-2001)

Philip Crosby can be credited with originating the concept of zero defects, a concept used in Six Sigma. He believed that senior managers must take responsibility for quality, due to its significance. He recommended changes to the financial system to include the cost of quality and believed that quality professionals needed to be armed with necessary business knowledge and be able to communicate in business terms. Crosby had four basic principles:

  1. Quality means conformance to requirements provided by the customer
  2. Quality comes from prevention, not correction
  3. The performance standard for quality is zero defects
  4. Quality measurement is the price of nonconformance

In addition to these four absolutes, Crosby also developed a 14 step approach to quality improvement.

Dr. Armand V. Feigenbaum (1920- )

Dr. Feigenbaum is credited with establishing the concept of Total Quality Control (TQC), in his book, Total Quality Control, first published in 1951. His concept includes three steps to quality

  1. Quality Leadership
  2. Modern quality technology
  3. Organizational commitment

Dr. Feigenbaum's TQC philosophy involves all areas of the company in the quality effort, not just the people on the shop floor. Feigenbaum identified that the quality professional can become more than just a function specialist, but there is opportunity for them to provide valuable business information and direction.

Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa (1915-1989)

Dr. Ishikawa was involved in the quality movement from an early age and continued involvement until his death. Quality was in his family, as his father, Ichiro Ishikawa brought Deming in to speak to top Japanese executives in 1950.

One of Ishikawa's concepts that integrated into western management was the idea of quality circles. Quality circles are a bottom up approach, in which members from within a department meet to solve problems on a continuous basis.

Ishikawa also claimed conception of "next operation as a customer," as a key manufacturing philosophy. Treating the next operation as the customer creates a culture of satisfying the next actor in the process by delivering a quality contribution.

Dr. Ishikawa is known best for his creation of the fishbone diagram, which is also called the Ishikawa diagram in his honor, as well as the cause-and-effect diagram.

This concludes the two-part blog series on the people behind Six Sigma. Though I highlighted a few of the major contributors, there are many others that also added to the Six Sigma quality movement. For additional information, I suggest researching Dr. Genichi Taguchi, Bill Smith, Mikel Harry, and Forrest Breyfogle III.