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TQM’s Juran: Curb your arrogance

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

The father of Total Quality Management and Six Sigma, Joe Juran, became a guru of industry because he saw what nobody else did: the high cost of product defects. One thing Juran didn’t see that everybody else did: his own arrogance.

Juran admits that even though he relished his work and shot up through the ranks, his big head became a bigger hindrance the higher he climbed.

“Ideally, some boss of mine should have told me about my failings in blunt language and could have coached me or warned me to change my ways,” he writes in his autobiography. “But the message that came through to me was that each promotion was proof that I was doing just fine. So I continued in my tactless, arrogant ways.”

He paid the price in 1939, after he’d already been promoted to his company’s New York headquarters. There, he was passed over for the first time in his life. Juran felt betrayed, and for two years, “I practiced stupidity at its worst.” He resented being bypassed and showed it. He blamed anti-Semitism, envy and gossip. The result: He was passed over again.

Only much later, after visiting his mentors and reflecting on his career, did Juran reassign the blame for his predicament to two causes:

1. He’d offended his peers.

2. He’d developed a sense of entitlement toward promotions.

Juran realized that his fast advancement had created a goal and an expectation that he would keep rising, which mutated into an assumed right.

Ideally, you’ll have bosses who enlighten you about your flaws. If not, do three things:

1. Solicit guidance from your peers and subordinates by encouraging them to challenge your ideas and style.

2. Reflect.

3. Observe and learn from another manager who leads the way you do.

— Adapted from Architect of Quality, Joseph M. Juran, McGraw-Hill.

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