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Kaoru Ishikawa (石川馨) (Ishikawa Kaoru) (1915-1989) was a Japanese University professor and influential quality management innovator best known in North America for the Ishikawa or cause and effect diagram (also known as Fishbone Diagram) that are used in the analysis of industrial process.


Born in Tokyo, the oldest of the eight sons of Ichiro Ishikawa. In 1939 he graduated University of Tokyo with an Engineering degree in applied chemistry. His first job was as a naval technical officer (1939-1941) then moved on to work at the Nissan Liquid Fuel Company until 1947. Ishikawa would now start his career as an associate professor at the University of Tokyo. He then undertook the Presidency of the Musashi Institute of Technology in 1978.

In 1949, Ishikawa joined the Union of Japanese Scientist and Engineers (JUSE) quality control research group. After World War II Japan looked to transform its industrial sector, which in North America was then still perceived as a producer of cheap wind-up toys and poor quality cameras. It was his skill at mobilizing a lot of people towards a specific common goal that was largely responsible for Japan's quality-improvement initiatives. He translated, integrated and expanded the management concepts of Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran into the Japanese system.

After becoming a full professor in the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Tokyo (1960) Ishikawa introduced the concept of quality circles (1962) in conjunction with JUSE. This concept began as an experiment to see what effect the "leading hand" (Gemba-cho) could have on quality. It was a natural extension of these forms of training to all levels of an organization (the top and middle managers having already been trained). Although many companies were invited to participate, only one company at the time, Nippon Telephone & Telegraph, accepted. Quality Circles would soon become very popular and form an important link in a company's Total Quality Management System. Ishikawa would write two books on quality circles (QC Circle Koryo and How to Operate QC Circle Activities).

Among his efforts to promote quality were, the Annual Quality Control Conference for Top Management (1963) and several books on Quality Control (the Guide to Quality Control was translated into English). He was the chairman of the editorial board of the monthly Statistical Quality Control. Ishikawa was involved in international standardization activities.

1982 saw the development of the Ishikawa diagram which is used to determine root causes.

Awards and recognition

  • 1972 American Society for Quality's Eugene L. Grant Award
  • 1977 Blue Ribbon Medal by the Japanese Government for achievements in industrial standardization
  • 1988 Walter A. Shewhart Medal
  • 1988 Awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasures, Second Class, by the Japanese government.


  • QC Circle Koryo
  • How to Operate QC Circle Activities
  • Ishikawa, Kaoru (1990); (Translator: J. H. Loftus); Introduction to Quality Control; 448 p; ISBN 4-906224-61-X OCLC 61341428


  • Kaoru Ishikawa: What He thought and Achieved, A Basis for Further Research, Yoshio Kondo, * Quality Management Journal, July 1994, Page 86- 91
  • The Legacy Of Ishikawa, Greg Watson, Quality Progress, April, 2004, page 54- 57
  • A Serious Anomaly: TQC without Quality Circles, Donald L Dewar, Annual Quality Congress, Dallas TX, May 1988, Vol. 42. NO.O, Pages 34-38

See also

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