Focused Management: A Business-Oriented Approach to Total Quality Management

Article excerpt

One of the most talked about subjects today in the world of management is total quality management (TQM). There are several reasons for the unprecedented acceptance of this management approach.

In recent years, managers have been extensively exposed to the achievements of Japanese and Western firms that have implemented TQM.

Managers are only too well aware of the increasing competitive pressures in the world market. It is clear today that these pressures are due largely to the increased competitive advantage of those firms that have successfully implemented TQM.

The Department of Defense (DoD), the institutions of the European Community and large and small firms throughout the world insist that their suppliers implement TQM. Regulations like the DoD's DoD-5000 and the European Community's ISO 9000 expedites the process.

DANGERS OF FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT TQM

Though the present openness to the notion of TQM seems to be potentially advantageous to the Western economy, incorrect implementation can be very harmful. Organizations that fail to properly implement TQM run the risk of failing to keep up with competitors who successfully manage the quality of their processes, goods and services. As they become less competitive, they gradually disappear from the world market.

THE QUALITY REVOLUTION

One hears much today about the so-called quality revolution, though quality has been the subject of scientific debate for close to a century now. The revolution is in the approach of treating quality not as a mere technicality, but rather as a focal management issue. The principles of TQM are:

* Quality is achieved through correct processes, the emphasis being on continuous improvement of processes and the responsibility for improvement resting mainly on management;

* Most quality problems arise from incorrect processes, and very few can be attributed to poor workmanship;

* The right way to achieve quality is to control the process by collecting data and analyzing them by means of statistical tools and charts at every stage. The wrong way is to check the quality only at the end of the process;

* Workers should be encouraged to be involved in and responsible for the quality of their work;

* The process will be improved by teamwork in locating, analyzing and solving problems;

* Management needs to be involved and lead the way in achieving quality. The functions of the manager are to train and guide workers in the correct performance of their jobs;

* The norm is awareness of and respect for the achievements;

* The customer is the focus; and

* The organization works only with quality suppliers.

Emphasis is on improving work processes and procedures anywhere, including marketing and sales processes, production processes, development and engineering processes, financial management processes, personnel or accounting.

"Doing it right the first time" is of utmost importance if the organization is to reduce uncertainty and improve its performance. Despite the obvious and clear messages outlined above, about half of the organizations that. start TQM find themselves disappointed, dissatisfied with the results or admitting a total failure in the process.

The trend is to blame the commitment and involvement of managers. In too many cases, it is the implementation philosophy that is to be blamed.

EVERY MANAGER HAS OWN DEFINITION

Since it is a multi-faceted managerial notion, TQM is usually inadequately defined. Everyone can get a different idea of its essence, and the individual's background and depth of involvement and understanding will affect his perception of the subject.

Some managers come from a quality control background. They are convinced that the aim of TQM is to improve the quality and reliability of the organization's processes, goods or services using statistical tools.

Those with a background in organizational behavior or psychology believe TQM means a change in organizational culture that finds expression in cooperation, team meetings, improving worker satisfaction and improving organizational communications. …