Magazine article Training & Development

Choosing a TQM Consultant

Magazine article Training & Development

Choosing a TQM Consultant

Article excerpt

A lot of total quality management training suppliers and consultants are out there. How do you find the one that's best for you? Asking the right questions may help.

The president of a rapidly growing electronics company was perplexed by the proliferation of total quality management suppliers and consultants.

"Where were all these people during the past 15 years when quality went to hell?" he asked. "Now, everybody claims to be a quality expert. Where did they get their experience?"

Are quality training suppliers and consultants cashing in on the latest trend? Or are they skilled professionals who've simply been waiting for people to recognize their services? And how do you select the right one for you?

The president of the electronics company reviewed several proposals from different suppliers. The materials included standardized training modules from nationally known companies, claims of quality certification from trainers who didn't seem to have much experience, and hefty three-ring binder programs from the training departments of large corporations.

"How can I tell which of these programs is for real?" he wondered. "They're expensive and I can't afford to waste money."

If you're a training purchaser, you may feel just as confused. A way to help sort out the options is to ask yourself several questions:

* Do we really need TQM training? * Do our managers need coaching? * How much help should a training supplier provide? * What kind of training do we need?

Basically, you need to know what you want from a total quality management program and what you need.

Do we really need TQM training?

It's important to know what your organization means by "quality." Your organization may need other kinds of training.

One way to find out whether your organization truly needs quality training is to conduct a management or operations audit. If you hire a training supplier or consultant without conducting an audit first, the trainer may incorporate a management audit instrument into the first training session, no matter what the subject is.

Do our managers need coaching?

Many people say that they want training because they believe that it will lead to behaviorial changes. It's true that training may trigger behaviorial changes, but training alone rarely meets an organization's needs.

To achieve quality results, managers must continually reinforce quality training. To accomplish that, they must be competent in TQM skills.

Before organizationwide training begins, managers should participate in a competency assessment of their TQM skills. If managers are competent, employee training is appropriate. If managers aren't competent, employee training is premature.

For example, when quality circles first appeared in Japan in the 1950s, they focused on engineers and managers rather than on all employees. The engineers and managers learned about quality materials and practiced what they were learning. Then they applied the knowledge to their work problems. In other words, before they implemented total quality training throughout their organizations, the leaders developed their own competence with quality tools.

The electronics firm president mentioned above chose a coaching and guidance program that included training orientation for his entire staff. In general quality sessions during the coaching stage, employees accepted the program's concepts because they saw that managers were making changes.

Clearly, the top-down approach is essential to a successful total quality management training program in any organization. …

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