Despite the growing interest in public-sector Total Quality Management (TQM), little research has been done on the state level. This pilot project examines TQM in Florida state agencies by reviewing the evolution of quality initiatives; discussing the structure of the state's approach; analyzing the implementation of core quality elements; and concluding with reasons for the success or failure of department efforts.
Until recently, many public-sector organizations showed little interest in the quality revolution affecting business.1 The monopolistic nature of government seemed to protect it from the problems that stimulated concern for quality in private enterprise. Indeed. some doubted the practicality of quality principles in the public service (Swiss, 1992; Durant and Wilson, 1993; Battle and Nayak, 1994; Shoop, 1991).
This has begun to change due to the interest of senior leaders and serious financial problems (Brough, 1992; Carr and Littman, 1990). By the nineties, a majority of state governments as well as federal agencies had adopted TQM in at least some of their functions (Kravchuk and Leighton, 1993; Milakovich, 1992; Chen and Sawyers, 1994). Despite a number of obstacles that have been encountered in introducing and maintaining quality programs, this trend appears to be growing (Berman, West, and Milakovich, 1994).
There is surprisingly little research, however, dealing with quality initiatives in the public sector. What has been done has focused either at a macro level (i.e., all jurisdictions as a whole, e.g., Berman, West, and Milakovich, 1994) or the micro level (ie., concentrating on a single program or department in one jurisdiction, (e.g., Bowman and French, 1992). In contrast, analyzing multiple agencies can combine the best features of macro and micro work by presenting both comparative and in-depth data on TQM implementation issues. This is especially useful since quality initiatives can be difficult and expensive (Katz, 1993; Gilbert, 1993).
Accordingly, this pilot project included nine state agencies in Florida (Agriculture and Consumer Services, Insurance, Transportation, Labor and Employment Security, Revenue, Corrections, Environmental Protection, Education, and Health Care Administration) said to be most involved in quality efforts. The latter three were later ommitted because they had very limited programs. The data were collected in spring 1995, primarily through semi-structured, one-to-- three-hour, confidential interviews with officials (n= 10) involved in departmental quality initiatives. Pertinent internal agency documents and the minutes of the government section of the non-profit Tallahassee Quality Council were also consulted.
TQM implementation is explored below by: reviewing the evolution of Florida's quality management system; discussing the structure of the state's quality initiative; analyzing organizational use of TQM core elements (strategic planning, open system approaches, continuous process control, training, teams, and empowerment); and concluding with the reasons for the success or failure of quality strategies.
As is true with most states (Berman, West, and Milakovich, 1991), Florida's interest in quality is a recent development. With the exception of the Department of Transportation (DOT), no agency had a comprehensive approach until the nineties (French, 1994). When Governor Chiles advocated civil service reform in 1991-1992, the Department of Administration was assigned to bring TQM to state government.2 The legislature called for quality principles to be developed in all agencies and gave authority to two departments to develop pilot projects. Finally, the state-sponsored Sterling Council was created to present awards to exemplary public and private organizations at its three-day annual showcase, workshop, and .pm1 conference.
Despite these initial efforts, neither the legislator nor the governor seemed to recognize the complexity of the task. …