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A review of total quality management in practice: understanding the fundamentals through examples of best practice applications - part III

Thiagarajan, T., Zairi, M.. The TQM Magazine. Bedford: 1997.Vol.9, Iss. 6; pg. 414 Abstract (Document Summary) This is part III of three-part series which represents a comprehensive review of the literature by discussing critical factors of total quality management in key areas often stressed in implementation case studies, and supported by quality gurus and writers. Introduction The principle of self-assessment using various models such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA), the European Quality Award (EQA) and the Deming Prize is becoming globally pervasive. Indeed, such models are found to be the best means for assessing organizational excellence and the criteria used are found to reflect the most important components of effectiveness and competitiveness. By linking means and drives such as leadership to results (ends) one could relate capability and competence to achievements. This review of the literature was therefore an attempt to map total quality management (TQM) using similar sets of criteria to those of the EQA model. More importantly, this is the first attempt at reviewing the literature from the point of view of what, how and why. Issues in implementation In an effort to understand the essentials of effective TQM implementation, the overview in the previous sections revolved primarily around the key components of TQM. However, to appreciate the complexity of TQM implementation (Glover, 1993), it is imperative that an understudying of other issues in the context of this research is developed. TQM and national culture Many assumptions are made about the cultural influences on TQM implementation. Juran (1993), for example, says that there is no need to redesign a country's culture to instil the disciplines of quality improvements. He stresses that what is needed to make TQM work is the adherence to its principles, practices and techniques. Kano (1993), on the other hand, says that one needs to take cultural background into account when implementing TQM. However, he stresses that culture is not a barrier to the implementation of TQM. A Bradford-based benchmarking study of 22 critical factors of TQM across several countries of widely differing cultures found that not all the critical factors are relevant in a generic sense (Zairi, 1994). Fundamental factors such as top management commitment, the need for a clear mission statement and focus on the customer were, however, emphasized as absolutely essential to the success of TQM across borders. TQM failures The success of implementing TQM in an organization is ultimately judged by its customers, Zairi (1994). A TQM initiative is therefore considered a failure if it fails to optimize operations to continuously add value for customer satisfaction. Given that implementing a TQM system is one of the most complex tasks which an organization might ever encounter (Glover, 1993; Kanji and Asher, 1993), it is not surprising to note that there are as many TQM failures as there are success stories (Gilbert, 1992). For obvious reasons, reports of failures in the open literature are few and far between. Several writers, however, have discussed general patterns in TQM failures (Glover, 1993). '...Given that implementing a TQM system is one of the most important tasks which an organization might ever encounter it is not surprising to note that...there are as many TQM failures as there are success stories...' Common reasons for TQM setbacks and failures are highlighted below: - The absence of, or inadequate attention to, several of the key quality factors discussed in the earlier sections (Longenecker and Scazerro, 1993). This appears as the most cited element in predicting the failure of a TQM implementation. - Failure to devise an implementation strategy that fits an organization's unique circumstances (Hart and Schlesinger, 1991). Rather a generic "off-the-shelf" model or a copy of a system that was successful in another organization was used. TQM implemented as an "add-on programme" to "business as usual" (Alloway, 1994). TQM is seen as a motivational programme, wholesale training of employees or simply the use of tools and techniques. - High expectations of quick results from TQM initiatives (Merron, 1994). Gestation period

It is generally acknowledged that the longer organizations work at TQM, the more successful they will be. Two-to-three years into implementation have been quoted in the literature as the period after which the tangible benefits of TQM are more likely to be evident (Mann, 1992). A study reported in Quality Progress (1994) showed that those organizations that have been actively implementing TQM for more than two years are more likely to have "very successful" initiatives as opposed to those that have had programmes for less than two years. Another American study, which examined 536 TQM organizations, concluded that those that had implemented TQM for more than three years had significantly better successes than those using TQM for two years or less, in three TQM outcomes, namely customer satisfaction and retention, operational results, and organizational climate (DDI, 1994). Hard and soft quality factors Reflecting on the model of TQM proposed by Oakland (1993), the review of the literature suggests that the key components that impact on TQM implementation are a synergetic blend of "hard" and "soft" quality factors. Systems and tools and techniques such as those that impact on internal efficiency (e.g. quality management systems, cost of quality and statistical process control (SPC)) and external effectiveness (e.g. benchmarking and customer satisfaction surveys) are examples of hard quality factors. Soft quality factors are intangible and difficult-to-measure issues and are primarily related to leadership and employee involvement. While Black (1993) contends that it is difficult to classify factors along soft-hard criteria, Wilkinson et al. (1991) highlight that it has a practical reality by referring to experiences at the Co-operative Bank plc and Black & Decker UK. At the Esso Research Centre UK, quality process is also seen in terms of "hard" and "soft" (Price and Chen, 1993). The "soft" quality factors may best be seen as issues discussed under leadership, internal stakeholders management and policy. They are issues that impact on maximizing organization-wide support and involvement in attaining the quality goals of an organization. They may be seen as "internal marketing" issues (Wilkinson and Witcher, 1992). They include: - senior executives commitment and involvement, actively demonstrated; - comprehensive policy development and effective deployment of goals; - entire workforce commitment to quality goals of the organization; - supervisors, unit heads and divisional managers assume active new roles; - empowerment; - effective communication; - internal customer supplier concept; - teamwork; - system for recognition and appreciation of quality efforts; and - training and education. It is evident from the list that "soft" factors are long-term issues, something that cannot be switched on and off, and therefore, must be emphasized and addressed accordingly in an organization's TQM implementation plan. '...the effective manipulation of the "soft" factors must be supported by the "hard" factors...' There is a good chance that the TQM process will end up in failure if there is insufficient attention to "soft" factors (Wilkinson and Witcher, 1992). It would be expected that "soft" factors would all rate highly in terms of criticality and emphasis in the TQM implementation process. While the effective manipulation of the "soft" factors is essential to the attainment of the quality goals of the organization, they must be supported by the "hard" factors to manage, track and improve the journey towards achieving the goals. They include: - Benchmarking. - Performance measurement. - Management by fact. - Managing by processes. - Self-assessment. - Quality control tools and techniques. - Cost of quality process. - Documented quality management system. - Supplier management. - Customer management.

Some writers describe the above factors as tactics rather than strategies (Pegels, 1993) and those that extend the power of TQM in an organization (Black, 1993). In Ramirez and Loney's (1993) study, the majority of Baldrige winners perceive these types of factors as important not essential to the success of TQM. Conclusion This review has demonstrated that there is a vast array of literature on TQM and its key components. Previous literature reviews tended, however, to be presented in anecdotal and impressionistic ways. This effort is, however, more systematic and has tried to present the body of the literature in a co-ordinated supportive approach by linking in all the key elements. By covering theory, concepts and applications this makes a real contribution to understanding: - What is the importance of individual elements? (Why?) and how are they implemented in practice? - What benefits have been derived from using these elements? A further attempt through this review, was to discuss wider issues of implementation, such as cultural differences, the need for a gestation period, failures and the reason why, and the need to consider TQM from the point of view of "hard" and "soft" issues.
Full Text (1852 words) Copyright MCB UP Limited (MCB) 1997 T. Thiagarajan: Senior Quality Manager, based at Palm Oil Research Institute (PORIM), Malaysia. M. Zairi: SABIC Chair in Best Practice Management at the University of Bradford, UK

References
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