Taking a Multivariate Approach to Total Quality Management

By Westbrook, Jerry D. | Industrial Management, March/April 1993 | Go to article overview

Taking a Multivariate Approach to Total Quality Management


Westbrook, Jerry D., Industrial Management


For the first few years of its existence, it was difficult, if not impossible to define TQM. A melange of terminology evolved from private consultants and government offices.

In no particular order of succession, Deming, Crosby and Juran experienced varying levels of success with disciplined approaches aimed at dramatically improving quality of products and services and of having the effect of dramatically improving productivity and other organizational attributes. Also, during the time of these successes, specific industries were reinventing several wheels, which resulted in phenomenal successes. Motorola and its six sigma quality program comes to mind. So also does Federal Express, Hewlett Packard, L.L. Bean and others that have undertaken remarkable levels of quality or service to customers. Each found success as a function to total dedication to quality as exhibited in many ways. The last "joiner" to be included is the federal government. The Department of Defense decided that its branches and contractors must have an active, progressive TQM program. As can be expected, many of these organizations confused TQM with other similarly motivated programs such as ManTech and Tech Mod, etc. Many organizations had no idea what TQM is and wanted to know how much of it they had to do in order to maintain or acquire funding. As a result, Washington printing presses worked overtime with an infinite series of bullet charts that explained exactly what was to be done.

Many problems developed when it was discovered that the bullet charts were developed using automobile manufacturing as examples and most contractors and agencies were service oriented and did not manufacture anything.

The net result of all of these activities, successes and progress was no small amount of confusion. While not implying that the author knows more than Deming, Juran, Crosby or anyone else who is succeeding in this tough global changing marketplace, there certainly does appear to be an opportunity to categorize activities and perhaps to expand areas of successes.

The first goal is to identify the attributes of TQM. As have many of you, I have read many cubic feet of TQM material. I believe that it can all be boiled down to six attributes, as follows:

* SUPPORTIVE ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

--The successful organizations are characterized by employees who want to work together to solve their own and their customer' s problems. Culture has been identified as an organization's language, symbols and artifacts, patterns of behavior, basic underlying assumptions and subcultures. These forces are always present. They can greatly aid TQM implementation if they are exerting positive influences. Likewise, they can effectively counteract the best of systems.

* Customer Orientation--Successful organizations realize that if the customer does not succeed, neither will they. The customer is a partner to be worked with. The customer oriented organization advises the customer on better or more cost effective alternatives. And finally, the successful organizations realize that each person and unit of the organization has an internal customer to please and that this partnership is just as important as those with the external customers.

Teams--Every successful organization has learned to allow employees to work in teams. Many teams function within their own organizations while others are cross-functional. The contributions of most employees are limited. Teams, especially cross functional teams, have much more power. As the President of Eli Lily told his employees in the preamble to that organization's mission statement, "All of us are smarter than any of us."

* Problem Solving--The primary point here is not the ability to identify and solve a problem. That is the function taught in outdated industrial engineering curricula. Problem solving, rather, is a way of life; problem solving is continuous. Deming puts it well with his P-D-C-A wheel. …

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