Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Total Quality Management: An Opportunity for High Performance in Federal Organizations

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Total Quality Management: An Opportunity for High Performance in Federal Organizations

Article excerpt

This article presents an argument for the new federal government Total Quality Management (TQM) initiative by showing that TQM principles and practices should be foundational considerations when refocusing national attention on the challenges of the 1990s and beyond. Nothing less than a major American culture enhancement is required to sustain and improve the standard of living desired by most Americans. TQM reinforces the positive philosophies, values, behaviors, and norms organizational development academicians and practitioners have long known to be significant in attaining high levels of employee satisfaction and organizational performance. We now have an organizational language called TQM that integrates what we know can work. We need to learn the talk, and then, walk that talk.


A number of directives and guidelines are in place that require the federal government to begin quality and productivity management initiatives. The most current ones, with focus on the Department of Defense, include:

1. Executive Order 12637, Productivity Improvement Program for the Federal Government, April 1988, states: "There is hereby established a government-wide program to improve the quality, timeliness, and efficiency of services provided by the Federal Government."

2. OMB Circular No. A-132, Federal Productivity and Quality Improvement in Services Delivery, April 1989, states: "The objectives are to make continuous, incremental improvements and implement quality and productivity management practices in executive departments and agencies."

3. DoD Directive (Draft), Total Quality Management, June 1989, states: "TQM is the vehicle to drive out waste and maximize the effectiveness of overall DoD performance. This includes improving efficiency and effectiveness, innovation, productivity quality of worklife, and providing products and services that satisfy or exceed customer requirements at a cost that represents best value.

The comments that inevitably are made include: "Isn't this just another one of those management and productivity programs that have previously failed to make a significant impact?" and "Government is different than industry. What they do won't work here" and "You'd have to change the culture around here if you want to see any improvement." The responses to these concerns are, respectively, No, Yes and No, and Yes.

This article will show that the TQM motto of "Doing the right thing, right the first time on time, all the time; always striving for improvement, and always satisfying the customer" is right for our time and is doable. Individuals, private and public sector organizations, and the nation are well served by learning the TQM language and modifying our cultural philosophies, values, behavior, and norms to include the demonstration of TQM principles and practices. What distinguishes TQM from other improvement programs that have been tried with limited success over the years is an unflagging dedication to the following:

1. Focus on customer product and service satisfaction;

2. Recognizing quality as a presence of value rather than the absence of defects;

3. Top management participation, direction, and support;

4. Employee involvement and responsibility;

5. Effective and renewed communication;

6. Cross-functional orientation and teamwork;

7. Analysis of management systems and procedures using standards, measures, and fundamental statistical techniques;

8. A long term commitment to continuous process improvement;

9. Rewards and recognition for performance;

10. Workforce training-awareness, management, skills;

11. Achieving organizational discipline for practicing the new behaviors every day, forever; and

12. Developing a supporting organizational culture.

Emphasis in TQM is on behavior rather than attitude, participation rather than observation, measurement rather than guessing, integration rather than separation, multiple approach rather than one right way, rewarding rather than punishing, motivation rather than apathy, growing rather than stagnating, doing rather than saying, and win/winning rather than win/losing. …

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