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Mike Richman

Quality Insider

Farewell to Our Founder and Friend

Donald L. Dewar, 1928-2015

Published: Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 00:00

The life of a man, especially a man like Quality Digest founder Don Dewar, is punctuated by a series of events that shape not only him, but those he touches as he moves through his life. 

From his birth in Canada in 1928, to his emigration to the United States in his early twenties, through his highly successful career with Boeing and Lockheed Aerospace, Don exemplified the highest levels of professional excellence in everything he did. Along the way, he married, raised children, wrote, trained, founded organizations and companies, and traveled extensively. He also mentored countless younger professionals, and helped many of us, myself included, to achieve our professional dreams and aspirations.

Don passed away Monday morning, Feb. 16, 2015, at the age of 86. He founded Quality Digest 35 years ago, and for all of us on the QD team, the loss of our founder and our friend weighs heavily. If I may be so bold, today we feel that we are the keepers of Don Dewar’s legacy, embodied in our name and our mission, to support teamwork and encourage performance improvement for the betterment not only of industry, but also for anyone who has ever made a product or delivered a service anywhere in the world.

Don founded QCI International in 1978, and Quality Digest emerged soon thereafter as the publishing flagship of the company. The proliferation of quality circles in the United States during the 1970s and 1980s was directly attributable to Don’s influence, as he was one of the earliest U.S. proponents of the technique and the founder of the International Association of Quality Circles, later known as the Association for Quality and Participation (AQP). Don was part of a 1973 fact-finding tour to Japan, the home of the quality circle (the brainchild of Kaori Ishikawa a decade earlier). The support of Joseph M. Juran for the tour was instrumental in the granting of approval from Don’s superiors at Lockheed.

That was typical of Don, who seemed to associate with everyone, including leading industry figures from across the globe. In addition to Juran, Don knew and worked with luminaries such as W. Edwards Deming, Philip Crosby, Tom Peters, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Jim Harrington, Norman Bodek, and many, many others. He had a keen sense for different cultures, and the respect he showed to everyone was amply returned.

Jagdish Ghandi, who in 1999 founded the World Council for Quality and Excellence in Education in Lucknow, India, looked at Don as one of the key mentors for his movement, which exists to instill quality principles in students across the world as part of its general curriculum. As Ghandi wrote, “Of all the great men—the great improvement gurus—who have helped [us] on our journey, Don Dewar is among the greatest. He is, first and foremost, a man of quality.”

As great as Don was with the gurus of the quality industry, he was just as good with those of us who had the honor to work with him every day. Each of us at Quality Digest have personal stories of our time with Don, who was very much a hands-on manager, particularly during the early years of the publication. I first met him in 2004, when I joined QD in the position of managing editor. A year later, Don promoted me to publisher. He was incredibly generous and supportive of me and our staff as we undertook some of the radical changes in the format and distribution model of the brand that he had launched some 25 years before. In fact, many of the hallmarks of today’s QD, including the use of video and access to industry-leading training, were pioneered by Don himself back in the 1980s.

Don Dewar is survived by his children Doug, Kerry, Betsy, and our current CEO, Jeff. In what qualifies as a gross understatement, he will be very much missed by our industry at large, most of all by those of us who knew and loved him.


About The Author

Mike Richman’s picture

Mike Richman


Thanks Mike

Your comments are very kind. I know dad had many friends in Australia, and in those early years I remember so many of you making the trip to Red Bluff. All the best, Jeff

Don Dewar - fond memories from Australia

Australian quality community were sad when I informed them that Don Dewar had died.

Don came to Australia many times and he was one of the foundations of our modern quality movement but in particular, his with his QCI International books and training films (yes 16mm vintage I know), then video format and supporting Adult Learning supporting texts.

Don was sought out by WD Scott Management Consultants, the first in Australia, in the early '80's to come to Australia as they had brought our Dr J Juran in the ealy '60's up to the early '90's. The link with Don is interesting for WD Scott, Sir Walter Scott and the Juran Medal as you said Mike, Dr Juran's support for Don to head to Japan with Lockhead, was crucial.

Sir Walter Scott won the inagural Juran Medal, I was fortunate to do so in 2008 and the Australian Organisation for Quality Inc, established in 1965, still conducts the Award. Don's influence was instrumental in Australia in how "People Engagement" through Quality Circles and Lean and Six Sigma improvement teams continues. We conducted the AOQ QUALCON Conference in Adelaide last year and we had 4 teams from Indonesia and Malaysia present  - Don would have loved it as we all did.

I attended and saw hundreds or QCC's and Team competing and singing at the Singapore and Malaysian IQCC Conventions and Don's passion for people and management participation and his statistical and problem solving techniques drawn from his establishment in the Association for Quality and 'Participation', was most evident across many Asian and Australian Teams and Circles today.

Don was a catalyst for change in Australia and I thought I would share some things this great person's legacy:

  • QCI International Facilitator and Team Leader & Member Manuals supplied the Department of Defence and foundations for the Airforce, Navy and then Army Quality Management Programs that still continue, under different strategies
  • Same for such Australian organizations as Australia's largest companies as BHP Mitsubishi Alliance; NRMA (AIG Insurance); Comalco Aluminium (CRA Rio Tinto); Boral and CSR Building Materials; CBA Bank
  • His Process Cause and Effect technique resurrected Dr Ishkawa's 3rd type of Cause Analysis and was instrumental in its application for solving chronic issues in those companies mentioned and in General Motors Holden, Nissan, Zurich Insurance  
  • Don's introduction and showing me the 1965 British Productivity Councils "Right First Time" 16mm film in the QCI Red Bluff training room was profound and after securing video, showed it as part of many executive sessions and still show it today - every time is the same response "how come we still do it those things now?" and "so this Lean and Sigma are not that new after all?". Don came into the room and just did his usual wry smile as I sat there dumbfounded by how powerful that film was and still resonates today
  • Don gave me his copy of "Mogy autobiogrpahy by Allan H Mogensen - the Father of Work Simplifcation". Those techniqes are now manifested within "Lean" as we know today but also little know was the Flow Process Chart is the required direct input source of activities for the Process FMEA as AIAG FMEA Texts still in use world wide in the Automotive, Aerospace and Defence sectors.
  • Don's work at Lockhead was I guess in tha back of his mind in seeing MOGY's techniques had application for those doing a Lean "Value Stream Map" - that Flow Process Chart is the ONLY technique that can unravel the value and non-value adding activities in a process hence its use in VA/VE studies
  • Likewise as Don showed and reminded me from my Work Study and Industrial Engineering days, the FPC also included the Original '5 Why' and 1 H Analysis that Toyota made infamous but we have missed in our Western ways the originlality and power of 5W and 1H as Don implored me to re-embrace  and use to determine their voted and then Root Cause in Cause and Effect Analysis

There are many here in Australia that directly and indirectly owe much to Don as you can see from these quality and productivity stories but his enduring legacy was the man himself. Sitting in a Montreal Quality Conference was the last time I was with Don sharing a meal which he told me how Onions were his bane and laughing at the Australian and New Zealand banter my compatriot had and how he missed that sense of humour from his visits.

You made a difference to us all Don. I will remember you as I do every time I cook onions over a Barb-B-Q, train teams and individuals the Process Cause & Effect Technique, and show the Right First Time DVD to executives and use the Flow Process Chart to create the Process FMEA.

My family had the pleasure of meeting Don, wife Elizabeth, son Jeff, Scott Paton and the great QCI team, over in Red Bluff, CA. Their openness and friendliness were memorable, even for my now grown family as they remember Halloween with fondness and Elizabeth's rocking Horses.

On behalf of the Australian Quality community, Vale Don Dewar.

Miss you mate.