Grand Daddy of Quality - Noriaki Kano - GoLeanSixSigma.com

This November marks Noriaki Kano’s 76th birthday (we’re still working on what day it is…anybody?). Dr. Kano is a professor, lecturer, writer and consultant but first and foremost, his name will forever be tied to his eponymous Kano Model. He was a student of another quality great, Kaoru Ishikawa and he devoted his life to teaching others about Total Quality Management (TQM). His theories are alive and well and making a difference in both product design and customer satisfaction everywhere in the world today.

Claims to Fame – What Did He Invent?

The Kano Model:

His Kano Model challenged customer satisfaction assumptions

The Kano Model makes so much sense that we take it for granted today. But when Dr. Kano introduced it back in 1984 he was going against the accepted theories on how to build customer loyalty. At the time common wisdom called for simply reacting to customer complaints and extending the most popular features of a product or service. Dr. Kano decided that customers were probably more complicated than that – and he was right. After doing his own research he developed 3 categories of customer requirements as guidance:

3 Categories of Customer Wants and Needs:

    1. Basic (Dissatisfiers): When these essential features are present they don’t create satisfaction, but their absence causes dissatisfaction. They’re also known as “Must Haves.”
      Airline Example: Finding that your seat is empty on an airplane – Your customer loyalty is not driven by the existence of your booked seat, but if the flight is overbooked, or someone else is sitting in your seat, you’ll be very dissatisfied.
    2. Performance (Satisfiers): The better these features are executed, the happier the customer. These features are correlated with customer satisfaction and generally with price.
      Airline Example: The more legroom you have the happier you are; The faster the flight the better; The sooner you get your luggage the better; “The more the better
    3. Excitement (Delighters): Customers won’t notice or be unhappy if these feature aren’t present, but they’ll be unexpectedly delighted if they are. The caution is that over time, these can turn into expected “Must Haves.”

Airline Example: You don’t expect a free upgrade to first class but you’ll be utterly thrilled to get one! And then the next time you fly, you’ll be just a little disappointed if it doesn’t happen again…

Kano-Model_GoLeanSixSigma.com

The Kano Model

The Kano Model is used to by product design teams as well as Lean Six Sigma practitioners to prioritize which elements of customer satisfaction to focus on first. It’s key to nail down the basics before focusing on the improving key ‘Satisfiers.” “Delighters” should be approached with care since 1) Competitors can quickly copy them and 2) They often morph into “Basics.” Remember when power steering was all the rage? How about airbags? Even heated seats are becoming standard. Dr. Kano’s model foretold all of that.

He is an Award Winning Educator:

He won the Deming Prize and the Deming Lecturer Award

Dr. Kano has written many books, most notably, The Guide to TQM in Service Industries, that delve into all aspects of customer loyalty and quality as defined by the customer. He taught at The Tokyo University of Science for 35 years and received numerous awards for his work. Aside from the Deming Prize and The Deming Lecturer Award, he has been honored by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and the American Statistical Association (ASA). His work started over three decades ago and he’s honored because it continues to be relevant.

Little Known Facts:

  1. He is Professor Emeritus at Tokyo University
  2. He was a student of quality great, Kaoru Ishikawa

Dr. Kano At the Bahama Bistro:

Quote of the Day:

“Did he study the ‘Vol’Kano?”

Putting Dr. Kano into Action:

  • “Okay – let’s hear you apply the Kano Model to the Bistro”
  • Our customers don’t just get the “Basics” – they’re “Satisfied” and “Delighted!””

We hope Dr. Kano knows his model is alive & well and still being taught everywhere. Process Improvement teams have long appreciated this model, but now Agile Teams and UX (User Experience) professionals have mined his original research to build better products and better serve their customers. Impressive!

Happy Birthday Dr. Kano!

Elisabeth Swan

Elisabeth is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at GoLeanSixSigma.com. For over 25 years, she's helped leading organizations like Amazon, Charles Schwab and Starwood Hotels & Resorts build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.