Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Critical Implementation Issues in Total Quality Management

Academic journal article SAM Advanced Management Journal

Critical Implementation Issues in Total Quality Management

Article excerpt

Recently, many business magazines, newspapers, and academic journals that have praised TQM as a critical source of sustainable competitive advantage have begun to publish reports on its failure (Fuchsberg (1992), Brown (1993), Jacob (1993), Harari (1993). While many companies have demonstrated improvement in achieving high quality and business performance, others have either abandoned or reduced their efforts toward TQM programs. Frustrated by the lack of visible improvements, unconvincing results, and the reports of unsuccessful TQM efforts, some organizations have begun to question the value of TQM or view it as a distracting management fad (Ackoff (1993), Becker (1993), Bemowski (1993), Jacob (1993), Wilkinson et al. (1994).

Is the TQM age over? It is indeed a passing management fad? Or, is it a revolutionary concept making fundamental contributions to the improvement of quality and business performance? Despite the potential benefits of TQM articulated by quality gurus and consultants, and despite anecdotal success stories, the high failure rates (60%-67%) quoted in the literature have made many companies believe that TQM has not been delivering on its promises.

Why then has TQM been failing? Even though some critics argue that TQM is a faddish concept created on a flimsy footing, many published reports proved otherwise. It is generally accepted that when TQM has failed, it is not because there was a basic flaw in the principles of TQM, but because an effective system was not created to execute TQM principles properly. Nevertheless, since the implementation of TQM requires unwavering organizational commitment, substantial time and effort, and drastic changes in the organizational culture and business practices, it is important for companies to clearly understand what it takes to succeed and achieve high performance. The purpose of this paper is to examine possible answers to the questions raised here, and to provide managers with guidelines for the successful implementation of TQM.

Key TQM Principles

There have been numerous studies examining what constitutes TQM, what quality activities most directly affect business performance, what the common barriers to TQM implementation are, and what factors are critical for the success of TQM (Saraph et al. (1989), GAO (1991), Easton (1993), DDI (1993), Ernst and Young (1993), Mann and Kehoe (1994), Plimpton et al. (1996), Black and Porter (1996). Many of these studies are based on surveys of CEOs, middle managers, employees, quality specialists, and the Baldrige winners, and reflect a fairly common and pragmatic view of TQM. Although these studies have provided slightly different results, some key threads run through them. In an effort to determine if quality improves organizational performance and to identify factors critical to the success of TQM, these studies have identified a common set of principles considered essential to the success of the overall TQM program.

As frequently discussed in the TQM literature, the following have been deemed critical for successful TQM implementation: strong top management leadership and commitment, customer focus, employee involvement and empowerment, a focus on continuous improvement, supplier partnerships, and the recognition of quality as a strategic issue in business planning. The use of SPC and statistical tools, product and service quality in design, performance measures focusing on quality, actions based on facts, and the new role of a quality department and quality specialists are also considered critical. These underlying TQM principles are commonly applicable to any organization and compose a set of key determinants for a successful TQM program. Although these principles prevail in most quality improvement programs, simply adopting them will not guarantee success. It may create confusion unless they are properly implemented. While these principles appear obvious, many organizations have found them very difficult to execute. …

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