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Kaoru Ishikawa: from fishbones to world peace
  1. M Best,
  2. D Neuhauser
  1. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine—Bradenton, Bradenton, Florida, USA
  1. M Best, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine—Bradenton, Bradenton, FL 34211, USA; markbest20{at}

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In management, the first concern of the company is the happiness of the people connected with it. If people do not feel happy and cannot be made happy, that company does not deserve to exist. (Kaoru Ishikawa1)

Today, Kaoru Ishikawa is best known for his diagram which looks like the bones of a fish. His diagram is a practical widely used tool for a group to organise its understanding of the causes of variation in the outcome of their work. He was an unassuming man who saw a link between workplace quality and prosperity. High-quality products would sell, and their makers would prosper. If work was thus made a joyful and human experience, such prosperity and joy would lead to world peace.

Some might find this vision grandiose, but Ishikawa was as responsible as anyone for transforming Japanese industry after the Second World War to focus on high-quality products. This lead to a prosperous, peaceful Japan. The Japanese quality revolution woke up the rest of the industrial world.

Ishikawa believed that quality began with the interaction of people. Top-down (goals) and bottom-up (means) involvement by all members of an organisation is required to optimise quality. Pulling out employee potential is a key leadership skill. Enhancing the quality of life of people enhances the quality of outcomes and productivity of their services. Happy people are more productive and have more pride and responsibility for their work. Ishikawa was one of the first people to emphasise the “internal customer.”


Kaoru Ishikawa was born in Tokyo, Japan, the eldest of eight brothers. His father invited Deming to Japan. In 1939, he was granted a doctorate of philosophy in chemical engineering by the University of Tokyo. He worked as a naval technical officer from 1939 to 1941, then at the Nissan Liquid …

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  • Competing interests: None declared.

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