80% of This Obituary is Bullshit

Joseph M. Juran died yesterday. If you are wondering who is this is and why you should care, you probably have never spent much time in an executive board room meeting and you had to hear someone talk about the retarded 80/20 rule at least 5 times during a given meeting. Of course, only one time did the rule actually apply, the other 80% of the time, the executive was just stalling for time because he didn’t know what he was talking about.

Mr. Juran is known as the quality control expert or “QC God” as those in the quality control world like to think of him.  As for us grunts on the factory floor, he’s known as that annoying blowhard who keeps changing the policy for which widgets to keep and which ones to throw away.

His greatest contribution was the whole idea of “continual quality improvement” which strikes me more as a nonsensical bulletpoint than anything achievable on the planet earth. If you ever bought consumer goods for more than two years, you’d realize that quality is something that is hit or miss or as our friend would have said, “80/20.”

But I only have respect for such a hard worker. By the time he graduated from college, he had worked 16 jobs, of which he said that 12.8 of them sucked. After college he got his first job in a complaints department. His huge contribution there was instead of sitting there and listening to people complain, he locked himself away from the rabble and worked on statistics. When he applied the same statistical techniques to beating Al Capone’s roulette wheel, his friends gave him an only 20% chance of survival on the streets of Chicago.

Not only did he survive, but he thrived. As a consultant, he shaved the costs of producing razors. At night, he wrote the breathtaking, “Quality Control Handbook.” I still get a shiver down my spine when I read the opening lines. However, I have regrettably learned that of the 1 million copies sold only 200,000 were saved from being dumped into landfills.

He went on to observe workers in factories this giving him the nickname, “The Jane Goddal of factories.” He noticed that in a typical factory only about 20% of workers were actually doing a decent job.

The greatest tragedy for his passing is that had he been in charge of quality control for the venilator he was on, he might still be with us. Alas, the failure rate for the venilators was 20% thus proving in his last moments his rule usually holds true. That is it’s true about 80% of the time.


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