Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Implementing TQM in Higher Education Institutions: A Strategic Management Approach

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Implementing TQM in Higher Education Institutions: A Strategic Management Approach

Article excerpt


In recent years, "Total Quality Management" (TQM) has received much attention all over the world. It is claimed that the TQM approach has and will change the way business is conducted (Gilks, 1990), and is often compared to the revolutionary developments such as introduction of factory, assembly line, etc. (Elmuti and Kathawala, 1996). Challenged by global competition, U.S. companies, both in the service and manufacturing sector, are embracing TQM. TQM is also making inroads in government; because of a presidential Executive Order several federal agencies have adopted TQM (Burstein and Sedlak, 1988). However, higher education institutions--universities and colleges--have been slow in adopting this approach (Artzt, 1993). In this paper, we present a model for implementing the TQM in higher education institutions.


The concept of quality is not new to the humankind; we have always, subconsciously or consciously, carried out actions to ensure quality so "that a product meets a desired or specific standards" (Lundquist, 1998). However, the definition and the scope of quality have continuously evolved over time. From the 1920s through the 1950s, this concept was driven by developments in the field of Statistical Quality Control that had a great impact upon shop floor management. During this period, however, quality control was viewed as an exclusive responsibility of the quality control department. In the late 1950s quality began to be recognized as an organization-wide responsibility. Feigenbaum (1956) coined the term "Total Quality Control" to describe this phenomenon. Subsequently, as pointed out by Rehder and Ralston (1984), the term "control" was replaced by "management" to overcome the negative connotation associated with the word "control." And, thus, the term "total quality management" came into existence.

Today, total quality management (TQM) is viewed variously as a philosophy, which emphasizes that quality is responsibility of everyone in an organization; as a process for managing change; as a strategy to improve organizational competitiveness and effectiveness; as a value system that emphasizes striving for quality in product or services; and an approach to doing business that covers the whole organization. TQM has been also described as a management "unification" process (Stuelpnagel, 1989) that emphasizes teamwork and employee empowerment. Employees at all levels are organized and motivated with knowledge and responsibility for managing and improving organizational processes. Thus, TQM is far more than simply statistical quality control and quality assurance. It is concerned with "changing the fundamental beliefs, values and culture of a company, harnessing the enthusiasm and participation of everyone," (Atkinson and Naden, 1989) with the ultimate goal of doing the job right first time (Tang and Zairi, 1998).

As a customer driven strategy, TQM focuses upon the organization's desire to satisfy customer expectations (Marchese, 1993). With the blessings of and commitment from the top management, this strategic approach to TQM encourages and motivates employees to participate in continuous improvement of the product, service, and operations (Willis and Taylor, 1999). Statistical process control (SPC) and Quality Circles (QC) are integral parts of the TQM philosophy. The use of SPC in TQM emphasizes that the management focus upon the processes, and not just the output. The use of QC empowers the employees through participation in managing and improving organizational processes.

The principles of TQM, as discussed above, have been clearly summarized by Hendricks and Triplett (1989) as follows:

TQM is a strategic, holistic, ongoing approach to organizational improvement.

It demands management leadership in establishing total quality as a way of life.

It is driven by a clear vision for the future and a blueprint for action. …

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