Modeling the Role of Total Quality Management in the Customer Focused Organization

Article excerpt

To obtain an advantage in the market, firms increasingly compete on four characteristics simultaneously--quality, price, delivery and flexibility (DeMeyer et al., 1989). But, the firm's ability to provide high quality is the necessary foundation for it to compete cost effectively on delivery and flexibility (Ferdows and DeMeyer, 1990). Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy that may refer to any number of employee interventions and techniques used to improve quality. Tenner and DeToro (1992) suggest that TQM is a basic business strategy to provide goods and services that completely satisfy the customers by utilizing the employees' talents while providing a positive financial return to the shareholders.

During the 1980s, managers rushed to implement TQM programs as evidence of their firms' quality problems increased (Cole, 1989). Some of these TQM programs were successful (e.g., Byrne, 1992; Pascoe, 1992; Plumb, 1992; Ramberg, 1994; Numerof and Abrams, 1994), but a large number of failures were reported (Eskildson, 1994). Explanations of these failures have primarily relied on anecdotal evidence and many questions surrounding these cases still exist (Reger et al., 1994). Currently, the lack of a well developed TQM theory hinders efforts to address why some implementations of TQM fail. Theoretical development of TQM is needed so that managers can predict the outcome of their interventions. Furthermore, objective analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of TQM as a management method requires clearly stated theory to direct inquiry and research (Dean and Bowen, 1994).

BACKGROUND

Total quality management evolved primarily in Japan with contributions from practitioners and consultants from both the U.S. and Japan (i.e., Deming, Juran, Feigenbaum, Crosby, Ishikawa and Taguchi). While there are differences between their viewpoints, these contributors borrowed from each other as the TQM management philosophy evolved, and all six accept the four major principles listed in Table 1. (See Dobyns and Crawford-Mason (1991), and Cole (1989) for brief histories of this evolution.) The first principle of TQM is that the primary goal of the company must be to satisfy customers. The second principle emphasizes that quality is the output of a system that includes the product's design, purpose, and everything necessary to provide a product to satisfy the customers. The third principle of TQM states that people are the key to quality -- there must be total involvement of everyone in the organization. And the fourth principle asserts that quality starts with top management (Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, 1991).

Table 1. TQM Principles

TQM Principles                   Garvin (1986)

1. Customer satisfaction is      1. Customer satisfaction is
the primary goal                 the primary goal

2. Quality is the output of      2. Use entire system as the
a system                         framework to examine
                                 issues about quality

3. Total involvement is          3. Worker commitment
necessary                        improves quality

4. Quality starts with top       4. Management commitment
management                       improves quality

TQM Principles                   Saraph et al. (1989) &
                                 Benson et al. (1991)

1. Customer satisfaction is      1. Emphasis on meeting customer
the primary goal                 requirements

2. Quality is the output of      2. Quality department's role
a system                         3. Product design
                                 4. Supplier quality management
                                 5. Process management
                                 6. Quality data and reporting

3. Total involvement is          7. Employee involvement improves
necessary                        quality
                                 8. Training improves quality

4. Quality starts with top       9. …