Guru (Devanagari गुरु) is a Sanskrit term for “teacher” or “master”, especially in Indian religionsIn the United States, the word guru is a marketing term used by ad agencies and the meaning of “guru” has been used to cover anyone who acquires followers. ( from wikipedia)

From the Webster dictionary :

Quality : noun,  a characteristic or feature that someone or something has : something that can be noticed as a part of a person or thing ; a high level of value or excellence.

Quality gurus : Those teachers and masters who defined what has become the contemporary meaning of quality in regulated industries and in the mind of consumers, clients, patients. (see this interesting summary)

We all know their names!

  • Deming : 1900-1993
  • Juran : 1904-2008
  • Crosby 1926-2001
  • Shewhart 1891-1967
  • Ishikawa 1915-1989

A morbid trend however is quite apparent : THEY ARE ALL DEAD!!

Almost …Feigenbaum  (TQM anyone?) is still alive but he is 92! And  Masaaki Imai, the founder of the Kaizen institute, is 82. (Click here for a comprehensive list)

If you  review of the history of Quality of the last century no new BIG name appears.

No individual names but….

  • ISO is getting stronger.
  • ICH is becoming more harmonized than ever.
  • International efforts to make the norms and  regulations more uniform appear all over  the planet in various industry.

There will probably never be another guru like Deming or Juran. And it might not be all bad.

No individual names are appearing ont the radar screen but…just look at the sheer numbers of discussion groups, internet forum, virtual communities of practices about quality!!!! No single guru but a plethora of like-minded spirits who really want to improve and are willing to share their insights, success and pitfalls all over the net! It is all there. Are we listening?


The gurus of the past showed the way and we have not, with all due respect, understood the message yet.

I have been reading books and books on these gurus and their quality philosophies ( yep…more than regs and tools… these guys were philosopher too!!)  and I never cease to be amazed at how little do we know, understand and apply their quality principles.

First and for most Deming, Juran and Crosby all emphasized the importance of the team dynamics and the fundamental rules of engagement, responsibility and accountablily for all. Managers and employees working together to achieve the highest level of quality.

BOY, are we far from that!!!

It struck me recently  that most of the great books on management, the bestsellers, come  from the United States (5% of the world population) and are about Fortune 500 companies (out of 18 000 000).  These books which we all read and enjoy and try to imitate are about 0.003% of those doing business in the US….divide this by 20 for the rest of the world.

And Jim Collins , author of the book  GOOD TO GREAT, recently said that most of those companies did not stay in the the top tier 20 years later. Look at Kodak and the rise of the digital camera for example. Look at the current decline of Blackberry or Yahoo. Look at Toyota and their series of recalls in the last decade!!! Look at J&J and their continuing descent even though their quality credo has been one the most revered model of the last 40 years…..


Even the best do not stay the best.

What about the rest?

An yet the guideline are there. Those great gurus wrote the path. ISO and the other are “translating” it in a modus operandi we should be able to follow.

But QUALITY is not just about guidelines and procedures.

It is mostly about people.

Look closely in ICH , ISO and even the current pharmaceutical GMP regs and you will find, in small print sometimes, a hint about people, attitude and proper behaviours to insure quality.

Those great gurus have shown the way.

Why don’t we start by going back to the basic?


I am curious …

Who reads about quality?

Who read those books by Deming Juran and Crosby et al?

What are the best titles we could suggest to our colleagues?

How can we spread the message internally to our management teams?

Let’s share!


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