Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Universities, Competitiveness and TQM: A Plan of Action For

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Universities, Competitiveness and TQM: A Plan of Action For

Article excerpt


The concept of competitiveness is one that is gripping our society and indeed societies all over the world. Universities must be relevant to the society and that means they must grapple with the problems that are significant to the society. Being relevant means facing up in a number of ways to the whole question of competitiveness. Universities can do this in three different ways--in their education, in their research, and in their internal management behavior.


The crux of competitiveness comes down to productivity. Those companies and those countries that are going to be the most productive are going to be the companies and countries that survive most effectively in the international markets that we have now developed and are developing in the world. Productivity is not a simple matter to measure nor is it a simple phenomenon for which to prescribe appropriate behavior. Productivity, of course, is meaningful only in relationship to some standard of quality.

What happens in our society is that consulting firms and consultants have developed a number of techniques and systems that they believe can increase productivity for firms. Most of the systems that are being sold to corporations involve a good deal of education of the work force as well as the executives and are generally based on some variant of the Japanese "just in time" inventory system. Great effort is being made to reduce cycle times for production of different models and for the development of new models. Again, we are influenced by the Japanese ability, particularly in automobiles, to go the whole cycle from designing to manufacturing automobiles in a time period that seems to be one-half or less of the time that it takes American automobile manufacturers. This phenomenon seems to exist in a number of modules.

One of the themes that has become extremely widespread is the whole notion of total quality management or TQM. TQM is particularly interesting because it requires a change in culture and is almost a management philosophy in itself.

The heart of the philosophy is a recognition of the extreme importance of the consumer. Firms embracing TQM want to be the preferred supplier of customers that they deal with, whether they be other firms or retail customers. That means that more study is being given to what the consumer wants and to show more basic consideration for the customer. Such a shift, and it is a shift for most American firms, requires a significant change in attitudes. The customer and quality must become ingrained in each employee from the assembly line to the front office.

It is a philosophy that requires a great deal of attention to the employees. The employees must understand the objective of TQM and this means that they must understand their jobs well and how their particular jobs fit into the total manufacturing process. This kind of understanding requires management dedicated to communicating effectively with employees throughout the organization and it requires a management attitude that recognizes the tremendous importance of employee contributions, both in terms of ideas and actual competence.

Different firms become imbued with different aspects of TQM and view the process differently. In all firms, however, it is clear that a change in the culture of the organization is required and that top management must have the vision of what is involved in TQM and in the kinds of things that must be done in order to portray the vision of this new approach properly. There has to be a change in attitude on the part of management itself with respect to the role of the workers in the organization. There clearly is a decentralized aspect of TQM that is not necessarily consistent with traditional management attitudes.

It is also clear that other relationships of the supplier-customer nature in the organization must be recognized and nurtured. These relationships include the connection between school systems and corporations. …

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