Unsung quality heroes – Sarasohn and Protzman

Unsung quality heroes – Sarasohn and Protzman

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Photo of Sarasohn (Left) and Protzman (Centre) with an unknown man – Courtesy of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University.


• Prior to Japan

• Sarasohn – Wireless

Homer Sarasohn arrived in Japan in 1946. He had been a soldier in WW2. He had a background in physics, RADAR and radio.  He proceeded to work on Project Cadillac developing RADAR at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and then subsequently put his radar knowledge to civilian use in the development of transcontinental microwave transmitters. He specialized in taking products from prototype to production quickly.

There is a story about how he received a telegram requiring him to join General Douglas MacArthur in Japan and he thought it was a joke. He did nothing until he got an angry call from a Colonel and he then did as he was asked. He was 29 at the time.

• Protzman – Wired telephony

In November 1948, Charles Protzman arrived in Japan at the age of 48 to join CCS  as a civilian advisor to the Japanese communications industry. After joining Western Electric in 1922 (2 years before Dr Joseph Juran), Protzman rose to senior production management level before he was also assigned to MacArthur to support his work as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), one of his prime duties would be to help improve quality.

• The role of CCS in Japan

According to Sarasohn his work in Japan was directly driven by MacArthur – effectively as the ruler of Japan. As an early part of this work, MacArthur wanted to communicate to the Japanese people the main principles of the occupation:

  • Japan’s military forces would be dissolved.
  • The zaibatsu, the industrial cartels that had supported the military’s war adventures, would be abolished. Their executive managers would be removed from positions of influence.

Other proclamations addressed these subjects:

  • Workers would be free to form and join labour unions.
  • Women would have the same legal status as men.
  • Democratic forms of education would be established. Elementary school education would be compulsory.
  • Child labour would be banned.
  • Political prisoners would be released from jail. The secret police would be abolished.
  • Freedom of religion, thought, and political expression would be the right of all people

But there was a significant problem contacting the Japanese people and telling them about MacArthur’s proclamations. At the time there were no widely circulated newspapers, no effective telephone system, it wasn’t easy to travel around the country and there was no radio system to speak of.

To compound all this, at the time the CCS arrived in Japan the economy was devastated by the war.  Its  1946  industrial output was estimated to be less than  25%  of the  1943  output,  and  75%  to  85%  of the manufacturing capacity for communications equipment had been destroyed  (Protzman,  1950).

Sarasohn’s first initiative was to establish a national electrical testing laboratory. All electronic, radio and telephone equipment had to be type-tested and quality-certified by the laboratory before being offered to the public. All subsequent production units then had to meet the same requirements. Samples were taken at random from store shelves and tested to ensure the product continued to meet requirements. If there were any failures, manufacturers would be required to withdraw all products of that type until a re-certification test was completed.

To support the function of the test lab, managers and engineers cooperated with Sarasohn in developing performance specifications and test criteria that covered the entire spectrum of communications products. The introduction of this product approval led to the telecommunication system working reliably.

This allowed Sarasohn and Protzman to go to individual companies and managers with responsibility for the quality of the product.

Because of the purge of the zaibatsu, the ruling classes with control of the top management roles, supervisors and managers had to be chosen and put into new roles. These new managers had little or no managerial experience. I

Principal teaching


The pair taught:

  • Quality control is not a sticking plaster.
  • It cannot make a bad system good.
  • Put Quality ahead of Profit.
  • It is not a therapy to be applied to an ill-conceived or poorly managed function.
  • To be effective as a control, the total process to which it is applied must be well designed, to begin with.
  • Objective centred
  • Emphasis on management
  • Quality control as a route to providing acceptable product

Protzman and Sarasohn realised that new managers had to understand that they were building for the future. The CCS taught these new managers the concept of a total system in which every part was important and interrelated. They found that ordinary workers seemed to understand this concept better than their managers.

There is an anecdote about the cultural difficulties Sarasohn and Protzman faced in driving this forward. At one organisation, Sarasohn asked a group of senior managers for their ideas on improving yield, for the reasons for the problem, and what action they could suggest to cure the problems and increase yield. He wanted to get them started on some analytical and creative thinking and involved in participative management.

At first, there was dead silence. They seemed shocked and surprised. Then a lot of talking but nothing came back. Sarasohn asked the translator what they were talking about. He said that the men were trying to decide upon a response they hoped would be “most pleasant for me to hear”.

Training development

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Photo of Sarasohn (Left) and Protzman (Centre) with an unknown man – Courtesy of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University.

Protzman and Sarasohn decided they would be the trainers for all the organisations. At the time there was no textbook available that covered the subjects they thought were necessary so they decided that they would write the textbook themselves. Protzman and Sarasohn were now in a position to propose teaching the Japanese about industrial management. However, they faced opposition from the Economic and Scientific Section (ESS) a sister body for the CCS responsible for the rest of Japanese industry not including communications. ESS officers were concerned about the potential impact on competing American companies.

The proposal to provide the training was brought to MacArthur’s attention for a final decision. Sarasohn and a spokesman for the ESS opposition went to MacArthur’s office. The ESS spokesman made his case first and then Sarasohn. According to Sarasohn during both presentations, MacArthur sat at his desk smoking his corncob pipe, expressionless and not saying a word. At the end of the second presentation, MacArthur suddenly got up, and started walking toward the door. He stopped, turned around and glared at Sarasohn. “Go do it!” he blurted; turned around, and walked out. (Sarasohn 1997)

Sarasohn describes in an interview with Myron Tribus how he and Protzman then went off to a hotel in Osaka for a month, working in separate rooms, and meeting over meals to discuss progress, they proceeded to write a complete manual on Industrial Management (Sarasohn & Protzman 1949). Protzman’s half of the book covers finance, manufacturing engineering, cost control, factory layout and inventory management. Sarasohn’s half deals with strategy and planning, management policy, organizational structures, research and product development and quality control. Statistical quality and process control occupied more space in the book and more time in the lectures than any other subject.

Training delegates

Sarasohn and Protzman decided that they would be the ones to select delegates. They would all be senior executives and would be compelled to attend (no substitutes). They were largely from manufacturing organisations but some government officials and university professors would also be selected to attend.

The programme was made up of classes four days a week for eight consecutive weeks, four hours a day. At each session, there would be homework for the delegates to do. The idea was that each delegate would apply the lessons learned at their company immediately. Delegates attending the CCS programme were also expected to teach the content of the programme to the next level of managers.

Frank Polkinghorn, the head of CCS, introduced each Seminar. Sarasohn and Protzman were the presenters. By this time, Sarasohn had learnt Japanese and he taught in that language. Sarasohn presented the six sessions on Quality Control (which was allocated more time than any other topic).

As Sarasohn relates, there was no final examination at the end of the course. Delegates were told that success or failure would be judged by the performance of their companies at the end of 12 months following their attending the CCS course.

The first CCS Management Seminar was presented between 26th September and 18th November 1949. The list of participants included Takeo Kato from Mitsubishi Electric, Hanzou Omi from Fujitsu, and similar top executives from Furukawa, Hitachi, N.E.C. and Toshiba, or their predecessor companies.

The second CCS Management Seminar ran in Osaka from 21st November 1949 to 20th January 1950 and included Bunzaemon Inoue from Sumitomo Electric, Masaharu Matsushita from Matsushita Electric, and the top executives from Sanyo Sharp (or their predecessor companies).

Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka, the founders of Sony Corporation, were taught separately by Sarasohn.

My special thanks to the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University for permission to use photos of Sarasohn and Protzman and for the use of the resources in the Kenneth Hopper Papers on Management held at the library.

Also to Kenneth Hopper for the book he wrote with his brother, William, The Puritan Gift: Reclaiming the American Dream Amidst Global Financial Chaos which led to a lot of these discoveries.


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