Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Measuring Quality

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Measuring Quality

Article excerpt

Total quality management (TQM) has been called many other things'"quality control," "quality circles," or "qualitycentered culture." The name is not really important.

What is vital is the understanding that a true quality-centered culture is a way of thinking about and doing business that breaks with the traditional methods and offers new directions for managers and employees alike.

The greatest impediment to quality in this industry is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. What industry eventually learns is that continual arbitrary cost cutting is not an effective strategy.

A quality-centered culture is an organization-wide, standardized system of service delivery that is:

* customer-driven,

* statistically aided,

* management led, and

* constantly changing toward continuous improvement.

Unlike traditional management, which focuses on finding errors and often on allocating blame, TQM focuses on analyzing work systems and on preventive and continuous training for ongoing improvement.

A quality-centered culture is a real process of management with provable results; it is not just this year's slogan or promotion. Nor is TQM an exotic discipline, applicable only in the classroom. lf you cannot give tangible, realistic results from total quality management, you should not be talking about TQM.

If you can't define it, you can't measure it

Before quality can be managed, it must be defined. You cannot manage in general; it must be specific. You have to identify the item and condition that identifies both the customer's expectation and perception of quality. At that level, you can manage quality.

Quality has two aspects--the absence of defects and the perception of quality. Each process has innumerable points at which defects may occur. For example, in cleaning a desk, defects may occur in the dusting, streaks in the polishing, failure to replace items on the surface correctly, and so forth. Every major area in which defects could occur should be identified.

The next step is to survey clients to determine which defects are most unacceptable and to rank defects as to the clients' determination of each's impact on quality.

While ideally all defects should be eliminated, in most cases, the majority of complaints center around a relatively small number of defects. Once you have surveyed customers to determine which criteria drive customer satisfaction, you can concentrate on eliminating defects and on preventing future ones in these areas.

The perception of quality is a different matter, and the process that drives it is very different from the identification of defects. You can have a relatively defect-free environment and still have an unhappy customer.

The gap may result because the customer's expectation is higher than the service being delivered. Whether a customer is happy or unhappy is the result of the difference between perception and expectation. Focus groups and spot interviews with customers are effective in assessing customer perceptions because the interviewer can note perceptions during questioning.

Ask focus group members to rate quality on a scale of one to five. Segment and examine the extremes, either the excessively demanding or the completely satisfied, and look for patterns in the problems that the majority of people perceive. By identifying these prevalent problems and by then improving the process, you achieve success.

A simple example illustrates the point. A key executive in a corporation complained that the new cleaning contractor was doing a poor job and should be replaced. The next night, the cleaning manager sent a crew to the woman's office and did a carpet extraction, dusted and waxed the furniture, and washed the walls.

The next day, the executive again complained to management. The next night, the supervisor personally oversaw the cleaning, but again, the woman complained. …

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