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During the late 1980s there were two main
Quality awards – approaches to quality in an organization that
recognition or model? gained worldwide predominance – ISO 9000
and total quality management (TQM). The
former consists of an internationally harmo-
nized set of quality standards. The degree of
George P. Laszlo compliance of an organization to ISO 9000
can be measured through a compliance audit,
which activity itself is governed by published
ISO standards.
Enterprises that successfully pass such
audits then achieve an internationally-recog-
nized ISO 9000 registration status. TQM is a
quality-oriented approach that consists of
applying a selection of quality management
The author techniques throughout the organization with
George P. Laszlo is a Partner at Management M+, the aim to increase profitability through cus-
Interactive Management Consultants, Montréal (Québec), tomer focus. There is no specific internation-
Canada. ally-recognized standard that specifies what
constitutes the ideal TQM approach. There is
Abstract no uniform set of guidelines as to how the
The recognition of the successes obtained by organizations application of TQM should be measured.
using the total quality management (TQM) approach has There is no registration agency that can attest
been made historically through quality awards. The validity to an international standard of recognition for
and applicability of the criteria used in such evaluations as achievements through the implementation of
well as the consistent impartiality of the adjudication TQM. However, it is widely accepted in the
processes are what determine whether such recognitions field of management that progress through
are meaningful or mere token awards made in the name of the application of the principles of TQM can,
quality. The major internationally recognized quality
and indeed must, be measured.
awards of the European Community, Japan, The USA and
However, TQM measurements vary
Canada use evaluation criteria which are similar in nature.
depending on the application, and as such
The common aim is to publicize organizational excellence
there exists no universally applicable set of
achieved through TQM and to provide worthy examples
standards. Moreover, progress through the
for other enterprises to follow.
application of TQM methods can only be
measured by monitoring process improve-
ments and the variation of outcomes and
results. Consequently, the evaluation of the
degree of success achieved through TQM
involves the review of the overall organization-
al success.

National quality awards

With the advent of the trend towards econom-
ic globalization and the concurrent increase in
international trade, the need to compete on a
worldwide scale is recognized by government
agencies in numerous countries. Initiatives
have been launched to assist local industries
in improving their competitive edge, such as
the funding of studies to identify key factors of
The TQM Magazine
Volume 8 · Number 5 · 1996 · pp. 14–18 success and to find ways to disseminate this
© MCB University Press · ISSN 0954-478X body of knowledge to business organizations.
Quality awards – recognition or model? The TQM Magazine
George P. Laszlo Volume 8 · Number 5 · 1996 · 14–18

National quality awards are sponsored by States in product and process quality has been
government agencies to emphasize the challenged strongly (and sometimes success-
economic fact that survival in global competi- fully) by foreign competition, and our
tion requires improvement to world-class Nation’s productivity growth has improved
status. The evaluation criteria are publicized less than our competitors over the last two
to provide guidelines to organizations to decades…”.
measure their progress. The public recogni- The Act of Congress then includes specific
tion of outstanding achievements by award mention of poor quality costs, quality
winners is to provide examples of the benefits improvement and improved productivity,
of applying the principles of TQM to other strategic planning for quality and quality
organizations. improvement programmes, commitment to
excellence, improved management under-
Japanese Deming prize standing, and other concepts that are familiar
Japan recognized in the early 1950s the bene- to the readers of quality and management
fit of using a quality-based approach as a publications.
competitive advantage in the global market-
place. Product quality and the focus on cus-
‘…American businesses were vulnerable
tomer satisfaction has propelled Japanese
to global competition and needed to
consumer goods, from cameras and electronic
defend themselves – the US
equipment to automobiles, to become indus-
Government business advisors
try benchmarks on a global scale. Corre-
suggested the use of quality
sponding profitability increases of the Japan-
management tools…’
ese manufacturers boosted the entire Japanese
The Japanese Deming prize is awarded to This Act of Congress was basically a declara-
organizations that excel in the application of tion of war on poor quality by the United
the now-familiar PDCA (plan-do-check-act) States Government. American businesses
cycle. The effectiveness of the enterprise is were vulnerable to global competition and
evaluated from the following perspectives: needed to defend themselves – the US Gov-
plan (policy, organization and management, ernment business advisors suggested the use
education and dissemination), implementa- of quality management tools. Much publicity
tion (profit management, and cost control, surrounded these awards and several hundred
process standardization and control, quality thousand copies of the criteria were distrib-
assurance, etc.), results and future planning. uted over the years to organizations for the
It is evident that the Japanese Deming purposes of information, self-evaluation, or
Prize criteria encompass all business func- for use as application guides for the award.
tions. Award-winning status is reserved for Through this wide exposure, the Malcolm
organizations that demonstrate overall success Baldrige National Quality Award criteria
that is not limited only to certain aspects in became familiar to those interested in criteria
isolation such as product quality or profitabili- for the evaluation of TQM progress even
ty. The currently used expression “total quali- outside the USA.
ty management” was originally known as The Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award
“total quality control” and was coined based criteria framework has seven categories within
on the requirement of the Japanese Deming four basic elements: driver (leadership),
Prize to demonstrate the presence of a quality system (information and analysis, strategic
approach throughout the organization. quality planning, human resource develop-
ment and management, management of
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality process quality), measures (quality and opera-
Award – USA tional results) and goal (customer focus and
On 20 August 1987 US President Ronald satisfaction).
Reagan approved and signed into law the The award criteria are intended to empha-
“Malcolm Baldrige National Quality size the key requirements to provide increased
Improvement Act of 1987”. Its text starts as value to customers through the optimization
follows: “… the leadership of the United of overall productivity within the
Quality awards – recognition or model? The TQM Magazine
George P. Laszlo Volume 8 · Number 5 · 1996 · 14–18

organization. The adjudication process is (strategic direction and leadership involve-

designed to permit the evaluation of any ment), customer focus (voice of the customer,
quality system for manufacturing and service management and measurement of customer
companies of all sizes, types of business, in relationships), planning for improvement
any context. (development and content of quality improve-
ment plan, and quality assessment), people
Canada Awards for Business Excellence focus (human resource planning, participato-
The Canadian Ministry of Industry launched ry and continuous learning environment),
the Canada Awards for Business Excellence in process optimization (definition, control, and
1984 with prizes awarded for achievements in improvement), and supplier focus (partner-
each of the following categories: innovation, ing).
entrepreneurship, environment, industrial
design, invention, marketing and small busi- European quality awards
ness. The success of the Canada Awards and Based on their recognition of the emerging
those of the US Malcolm Baldrige Awards requirement of quality as a means of business
brought about the total quality category to survival as well as a competitive edge, in 1988
recognize outstanding achievement in overall 14 of the leading western European compa-
business quality through a commitment to nies formed the European Foundation for
continuous quality improvement starting in Quality Management (EFQM). By 1992, at
1989. Over the years the total quality category which time the European Quality Award was
has become Canada’s premier business hon- introduced by the EFQM, it had nearly 200
our. members representing most business sectors.
There are nine criteria in the European
Quality Award: leadership, policy and strate-
‘…There are six catagories for the
gy, people management, resources (financial,
evaluation criteria: leadership,
information, material, application of technol-
customer focus, planning for
ogy), processes (identification, management,
improvement, people focus, process
review of parameters, improvement through
optimization and supplier focus…’
innovation and creativity, implementation and
evaluation of benefits), customer satisfaction,
Emphasis is placed on the total involvement people satisfaction, impact on society, and
of all business functions and all employees, on business results.
the competitiveness of the products or ser-
vices in the marketplace and on the high level Comparison of national awards
of customer satisfaction. There are six cate- A comparison of the national awards of Japan,
gories for the evaluation criteria: leadership the USA, Canada and Europe show similarity

Table I Comparison of national quality award criteria

Japan USA Canada Europe

Leadership Policy and Leadership Strategic direction Drive TQM
administration and involvement
Planning Plan and future Strategic quality plan Plan and quality Policy and
improvement strategy
Customers Services and Customer satisfaction Customer Customer
relations relationships satisfaction
Employees Labour and Human resource Participatory Release
personnel development environment full potential
Processes Company wide Process Process Continuous
management optimum improvement
Suppliers Vendor relation Supplier quality Partnering In leadership
Results Effects Quality and operations In each area Total business

Quality awards – recognition or model? The TQM Magazine
George P. Laszlo Volume 8 · Number 5 · 1996 · 14–18

in purpose – economic viability and the ability organizations within the community for their
to compete in global markets. There are also TQM journey to enhance their position in
basic similarities in the evaluation criteria as global competition. Consequently, if winners
each of the national quality awards aims to are not chosen based on genuine business
recognize successful TQM approaches based successes based on the implementation of the
on customer focus in all functions that result principles of TQM, a false signal is provided
in greater profitability and overall business to the business community.
achievements (see Table I). Several cases have been documented where
past Quality Award winners encountered
Adjudication process major problems in subsequent years. The
The applicants for the national Quality Award inference has been made that success in TQM
in each country are evaluated by a panel of either resulted in financial problems for the
examiners in accordance with the guidelines organizations, or did not prevent such out-
provided to them during the examiner train- comes. Closer scrutiny of such case histories
ing sessions which are based on the published reveals no such connection between financial
awards criteria. Organizations which are complications and the application of TQM
considered to be finalists based on their scores principles. A divergence from TQM-based
obtained on their written applications receive methods at critical times is often made
site visits by site examiner teams who then by management erroneously thinking “to
rate the applicants based on their overall concentrate on more pressing matters”.
merit. Indeed, continued application of TQM meth-
Examiners are chosen based on their per- ods will enhance profitability, as that aspect is
sonal experience and knowledge related to the one of the fundamental keys within the TQM
application of TQM principles. Group train- approach.
ing sessions and team selection further serve to
ensure that the adjudication process is fair and
‘…it is important to recognize that each
consistent, and is free from personal bias. This
company is different due to its people
aspect of the quality award process is critical to
and culture – even at different
assure applicants and the general public that
locations within the same
the award has real meaning and is not merely
an “honourary” recognition given out in the
name of quality, without any real merit.
Sometimes during the adjudication process
the examiners are faced with the dilemma that
Using quality awards as guidelines to
even the top applicant for the year did not
progress sufficiently in their implementation
The national quality awards publish detailed of TQM principles to reach world-class status
guidelines to their criteria and disseminate for their achievements. Such situations can
these in large quantities to organizations both create a crisis for the credibility of the national
for the purposes of self-evaluation and for use quality award process itself. Declaring no
in the process of completing the application award winner in a given year may be consid-
for the national quality award. The Canadian ered to be discouraging to other organizations
national awards organizers also provide a brief within the local community. However, it is
self-evaluation checklist to determine whether also a reminder that the aim of the award is
an organization is sufficiently advanced on the not to be a competition to recognize the best
road to TQM to consider making an applica- local enterprise, but to promote the need to
tion for the quality award. Case histories of compete on a global scale by publicizing
past quality award winners are published to examples of world-class achievements in
provide examples on the application of TQM TQM.
to other organizations. The use of past winners as role models and
Publicity and references to past quality the use of the national quality award criteria
award winners is intended to serve not only as as self-evaluation checklists is widely encour-
recognition of their achievements, but also to aged and is one of the goals of the quality
provide world-class guidance to other awards.
Quality awards – recognition or model? The TQM Magazine
George P. Laszlo Volume 8 · Number 5 · 1996 · 14–18

Nevertheless, it is important to remember relative advances made in the application of

that the implementation of TQM principles TQM principles within various organizations.
always involves a key ingredient that is a Such criteria vary among different countries
variable – people. Since attitudes and human and evolve over time as TQM consists not only
interactions are an integral part of any TQM of a collection of quality tools and techniques,
approach, it is important to recognize that
but also of management methods that change
each company is different due to its people
owing to cultural differences and to progress.
and culture – even at different locations with-
The applicability of specific TQM methods in
in the same organization. A custom approach
is a key element for the successful utilization any enterprise is dependent on the business
of TQM principles in any organization. context and the organizational culture.
Owing to cultural differences, the specific
application of TQM methods tends to vary Further reading
with location. Examples of successes in TQM
cannot be copied and strictly followed as Canada Awards for Excellence, Entry Guide, National
Quality Institute, Ottawa, 1996.
recipes, but should be used to increase the
basis of knowledge in quality management The European Quality Award, Entry Guide, EFQM, Eind-
practices. Specific methods need to be select- hoven, 1992.
ed based on their pertinence and applicability Hakes, C., The Corporate Self Assessment Handbook for
for each business context and organizational Measuring Business Excellence, Chapman & Hall,
culture. London, 1995.
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Award Criteria,
ASQC, Milwaukee, WI, 1992.
Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, H.R. 812: Public
National quality award criteria are intended to Law 100-107, Government of the United States of
provide impartial bases of comparison for the America, Washington, DC, 1987.

Well, are they a bit of fun, like the Oscars, or are they a model? Or are they both? And why have differ-
ent models evolved? And if they are a model (as certainly the EFQM one was conceived to be) should
the model be revisited? How often? By whom?