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The Wisdom of Dr. Juran: Cross-Functional Quality

By Arnold Miller posted 08/22/23 07:37 AM


The Wisdom of Dr. Juran: Cross-Functional Quality

I know the secret to an effective quality system. Spoiler Alert: It is in the title.

by Ron Sedlock, the quality Catalyst

The Theory

Dr. Juran distinguished between interdepartmental improvement or “little q” and intradepartmental (cross-functional) improvement or “Big Q”.

Exhibit A is a visual of the difference. Most tough chronic problems that organizations have are intradepartmental. That is, the cause is in several departments.

Juran explained why cross-functional teams are necessary. He said because “part of the solution is in different departments.” Organizing for the diagnostic journey (symptom to cause) and the remedial journey (cause to remedy) of a chronic problem should be cross-functional teams using the Juran Breakthrough Sequence. Having a cross-functional “steering committee” to champion an improvement team was very important.

Dr. Juran also stressed the importance of having an upper-level quality council. Typically, this is the CEO and the VP’s. This is the highest-level cross-functional team an organization can have. The purpose of this is to legitimize improvement. The council should do an improvement project at their level. Their project should
be feasible. This confirms that improvement is the way we do business by example. 

Juran stated that you need to develop the habit of improvement. Everyone should spend about 10% of their time on improvement.

The 2 most important factors to an effective quality system are:

  1. Working cross-functionally
  2. Setting up a quality council.

The Application

Example 1:

When I was hired by a major aviation company, my boss had me for my first 2 weeks spending a day or two in each of the major functions. This gave me insight as to why a function does what they do. This was invaluable when I began doing audits and then as a quality engineer.

Example 2:

I was fortunate to learn how to facilitate cross-functional teams from Dr. Juran. It was one of the last classes he personally taught.

I gained a lot of experience with the first 2 cross-functional teams. The 3rd team I formed was the CEO and his VP’s. This served two purposes:
1. An intradepartmental team at the highest level
2. The natural formation of a quality council.

This team worked a chronic problem that suited their level of responsibility. They worked a project that was feasible. The team was successful and learned the Juran Breakthrough Sequence. The lower levels saw that improvement was done by upper management. Now it was their time to make improvements.

This led to the council identifying additional problems. These were assigned to be worked cross-functionally at lower levels. The key is to make improvement mandatory not voluntary. Juran took this approach in Japan.

Example 3:

As a consultant I always focused on cross-functionality. I had a client who asked me to do CQE training. The first class had mainly quality people. Since I can do up to 12 people, I suggested they put in people from other functions to fill in the vacancies. All became CQEs.

Two years later, they asked in offer the class again. This time I had half quality people and half non-quality. Two years later, a 3rd class. This time it was pretty much all non-quality people. There were a couple of quality new-hires.

What they found that having a lot of people from the various functions having a CQE helped in the day-to-day operations. It gave them a common language that the CQE Body of Knowledge provides. Upper Management noticed.

Today’s Application

Six Sigma

I have used statistics my entire career to make better decisions. Using statistics in the “A” of DMAIC is useful. The problem can arise when we do the “I”. Higher levels a management are often required. They may not relate to a lower sigma. They do relate to what Dr. Juran called “the language of money”.


Improvement sequences have been around for many years. The Shewhart PDCA Cycle, the Deming PDSA Cycle, the Juran Breakthrough Sequence and now DMAIC.

One problem I see is not using the “champion” role correctly. I used what Juran called a “steering committee”. A trained cross-functional steering group will better “champion” a project team.


The requirement for Management Review should be done by more than one person. Here is good opportunity to establish a quality council. This council can do intradepartmental review of the quality system for customer satisfaction, nonconformity costs reduction and opportunities for improvements.


At this point the reader might be asking “what can I do? Of course, it depends on your level of responsibility.

At a higher level you can promote the idea of a quality council.

Lower levels can think how do other functions effect quality.

At all levels, you should ask everyone “who is your customer?”

This will naturally lead to thoughts of “fitness for use”.

Thank you, Dr. Juran.

Ron Sedlock, the quality Catalyst


I had many personal conversations Dr. Juran. I will be eternally grateful for his guidance and words of wisdom. Any of his books have a wealth of information.


Ron Sedlock has close to 50 years of quality experience. He began his career studying under the personal tutorage of Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. Joseph M. Juran.

He has been a member of ASQ or ASQC since 1976 and has held most ASQ Certifications.

He is a military veteran serving with the 1st Air Cavalry in Vietnam.

He can be reached at

Exhibit A

VP HR VP Sales  VP R&D VP Purch VP Engr VP Prod VP Acct
next level next level next level next level next level next level next level
to  to  to  to  to  to  to 
bottom  bottom  bottom  bottom  bottom  bottom  bottom 

Top To Bottom (Bottom to Top) is Interdepartmental Control (Same Department)

Side to Side  is Intradepartmental (Cross Functional) Improvements

Note:  For ASQ Members only PDF version at myASQ Boulder Section file Wisdom of Dr. Juran: Cross-Functional Quality