From the October 2009 Issue of Senior Market Advisor Magazine

From luxury automobiles to high-tech electronics, the phrase “made in Japan” is synonymous with quality and reliability. The Japanese have a well-deserved reputation for their relentless pursuit of excellence … but it wasn’t always that way.

At the end of WWII, many Japanese cities lay in ruin, its manufacturing base destroyed and its economy devastated. General Douglas MacArthur assembled a team of American business consultants to spearhead the rebuilding of the Japanese economic recovery. Dr. W. Edwards Deming, a statistician who worked at the US Census Bureau, was selected as a member of that distinguished team.

The start of TQM
It was Deming who introduced the Japanese business leaders to the concept of total quality management. Japan used the philosophy of TQM and the concept of continuous improvement to set and achieve ambitious national goals. Quality management best practices developed quickly in Japanese plants and became a major driving factor behind the Japanese management philosophy. By 1960, the culture of quality control management had become a national preoccupation.

In the early ’70s, Ford Motor Company bought an interest in the Japanese automobile company Mazda. Shortly after the partnership started, Ford discovered that the Japanese-manufactured transmissions were seven times more reliable and smoother-running than the American-made version. A team disassembled the Japanese transmission and to their surprise, discovered that the parts were meticulously machined to a tolerance way beyond industry specifications.

“Good enough” isn’t always so
All of the Japanese-made gears were right on the desired value with a negligible amount of variation. The American transmission was built with a standard of “good enough” because it met the acceptable levels for tolerance.
Guided by the principles of TQM, in 1950 the Japanese government set a 10-year goal of becoming the No. 1 country in the world in the production of textiles. In 1970, the Japanese turned their attention to dominating the automobile industry. In the ’80s, Japan was determined to set the quality standard in the field of computers and electronics.

Do you have written business and personal goals? Are you practicing continuous improvement in your business, or is the status quo good enough? Are you actively involved in personal and professional self-development to improve your skills? Don’t settle for good enough.