Magazine article Risk Management

Six Wrong Turns to Avoid on the Rigorous Road to Total Quality Management

Magazine article Risk Management

Six Wrong Turns to Avoid on the Rigorous Road to Total Quality Management

Article excerpt

The principles embodied in Total Quality Management have driven through the American business landscape with Indianapolis Raceway intensity. But while the discipline of continuous improvement can be demonstrated easily in manufacturing processes, it has only been in recent months that service industries such as insurance have recognized the advantages of climbing on the quality bandwagon.

By now most American executives are familiar with the quality movement. But the track record has been uneven. Too often, the movement loses direction. Here are some of the common dead-end approaches to guard against.

(1) Talking--not walking--the line

Too often top management pays lip service to the total quality management philosophy. Nothing will undermine the effort faster. Today's work force has been exposed to different management dictums and experiments at the chief executive's whim and fancy. No doubt they'll be wary about making any type of commitment early in the program. Too many times they've been burned when, in times of crisis, top management reverts to its old ways of knee-jerk, autocratic decision making. Instead, top management must eat, live and breathe total quality management in every decision, remembering that every decision they make will be viewed against this new grid.

Again, remember the old saying that what you do shouts in my ear so much louder than what you say, In other words, it's what we do--after we state what we believe--that is important. One case of management reversion to the old school mentality can undermine months and even years of progress.

Management must go out of its way and trust the process--even to the point of showing that past decisions were wrong. TQM successes, however small, need to be recognized early--and often That sends positive reinforcement to the work force.

(2) Myopia

Too often, the past gets in the way of the present and the future. Top management fails to recognize the urgency of the situation. They feel they cannot mandate change and force the issue unless there is a crisis And, too often in their own minds, a crisis does not exist. On the surface, everything is going well.

We must convince them that a crisis does indeed exist and that within that crisis are the seeds for a quality transformation.

(3) Looking for TQM in all the wrong places

All too often, top management buys into TQM for the wrong reasons. They view it as a quick fix to boost profit margins, to beef up market share, to perceptually satisfy customer demands Certainly TQM will accomplish these objectives--and more--but in time. The focus must be in the right place. This means improving processes and doing the right thing, then doing things right, It's about empowering your work force. It's about teamwork. It's about the rigid discipline of statistical process control. It's about total devotion to a principled, centered management philosophy.

The truth is that total quality management cannot be treated as a fad. Or the latest management obsession It's a revolutionary way of doing business that is essential for navigating today's business currents. …

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