Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Discipline and Deselection in the TQM Environment

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Discipline and Deselection in the TQM Environment

Article excerpt

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary,"(1) This statement about the human condition from Federalist 51 posits a view of people which most authors of Total Quality Management have chosen to ignore. When reviewing the literature on quality management, one is struck by the absence of any mention of individuals who have problems in the work place, and the reader is left with the conclusion that "men are angels." There is an assumption that all employees with the right type of training and the proper coaching will fit into the TQM organization. Johnston, in summarizing various authors on the attitudes toward workers, stated that "under TQM, the workers are viewed as the greatest source of improvements."(2) Workers who are managed correctly will take responsibility for their work, be committed to the organization, and have ownership of the service or product. "Absenteeism and sick leave abuse are not a problem when workers feel like they are an important part of the business."(3) While this deduction is derived from MacGregor's Theory Y view of employees, work and management, it fails to provide for the prospect that some employees' behavior may not be modified by coaching and training, and that other measures, such as termination, may have to be utilized to correct the situation.

The literature assumes that the employees involved in a TQM organization manifest a love for their work and are interested in doing their best for the organization. The purpose of this article is not to engage in a lengthy debate about the merits of Theory Y, but to recognize that in most organizations, the universality of these assumptions has its limits. In many organizations, some people were initially selected who did not fully subscribe to the organization's culture nor to the work ethic. Some persons lacked basic qualities such as trust, which, as one author noted, for an organization to manage without managers, one must assume that "employees are trustworthy adults."(4) Most organizations, particularly public ones, are not created anew when they start the total quality experience. TQM is being implemented in on-going organizations that contain some individuals who lack some of the basic attributes to perform efficiently and effectively, and the organizations have failed to either correct or remove the problem employee. Without a significant modification in behavior or a severance from the organization, these individuals imperil an organization's implementation of TQM.

To fully develop the plan for discipline and how it would be conducted in a TQM organization, it is necessary to review some of the basic concepts of TQM.

Concepts of TQM

Total Quality Management, as many authors have noted, is a total philosophy for running an organization. It has as its main objective the meeting of both internal and external customer's expectations through continuously improving all processes and products. It uses basic statistical tools to measure and refine work processes. Since quality is a top-level management responsibility, they must provide the work environment and organizational conditions to allow this to occur. The refinement, measurement and improvement comes from the workers closest to the daily processes. These workers have the knowledge and experience to make these improvements.

However, unlike other processes which solicit employee input such as suggestion systems or quality circles, the quality management system takes the next logical step. Workers are organized into teams and given the power to modify and adapt the process as the team feels necessary. TQM writers argue that for the process to be successful, work groups must be "empowered" to function as a self-directed team.(5)

Table 1: Comparison Between the Working Group and the Team

Working Group                            Team

  * Strong, clearly focused leader   * Shared leadership roles

  * Individual accountability        * Individual & mutual
                                       accountability

  * The group's purpose is the       * Specific team purpose that
    same as the broader                the team itself delivers
    organizational mission

  * Individual work-products         * Collective work-products

  * Runs efficient meetings          * Encourages open-minded
                                       discussion & active
                                       problem solving meetings

  * Measures its effectiveness       * Measures performance
    indirectly by its influence on     directly by assessing
    others e. … 
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