Kaoru Ishikawa (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. He is considered one of the Quality Gurus.
Born in Tokyo, the eldest 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.
In 1949, Ishikawa joined the Union of Japanese Scientist and Engineers (JUSE) quality control research group. Post World War II Japan was looking to transform its industrial sector that was known in North America as a producer of cheap wind-up toys and poor cameras. It was his skill at mobilizing many people for a common good that was largely responsible for Japan's quality initiatives. He was able to translate, integrate and expand the 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 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, 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.