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Quality leadership from a national perspective has changed over the past five to six decades. After the second world war, Japan decided to make quality improvement a national imperative as part of rebuilding their economy, and sought the help of Shewhart, Deming and Juran, amongst others. W. Edwards Deming championed Shewhart's ideas in Japan from 1950 onwards. He is probably best known for his management philosophy establishing quality, productivity, and competitive position. He has formulated 14 points of attention for managers, which are a high level abstraction of many of his deep insights. They should be interpreted by learning and understanding the deeper insights and include:
* Break down barriers between departments
* Management should learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership
* Improve constantly
* Institute a programme of education and self-improvement
In the 1950s and 1960s, Japanese goods were synonymous with cheapness and low quality, but over time their quality initiatives began to be successful, with Japan achieving very high levels of quality in products from the 1970s onward. For example, Japanese cars regularly top the J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings. In the 1980s Deming was asked by Ford Motor Company to start a quality initiative after they realized that they were falling behind Japanese manufacturers. A number of highly successful quality initiatives have been invented by the Japanese (see for example on this page: Taguchi, QFD, Toyota Production System. Many of the methods not only provide techniques but also have associated quality culture aspects (i.e. people factors). These methods are now adopted by the same western countries that decades earlier derided Japanese methods.
Customers recognize that quality is an important attribute in products and services. Suppliers recognize that quality can be an important differentiator between their own offerings and those of competitors (quality differentiation is also called the quality gap). In the past two decades this quality gap has been greatly reduced between competitive products and services. This is partly due to the contracting (also called outsourcing) of manufacture to countries like India and China, as well internationalization of trade and competition. These countries amongst many others have raised their own standards of quality in order to meet International standards and customer demands. The ISO 9000 series of standards are probably the best known International standards for quality management.