This paper is a case study of Total Quality Management at Alliant Health System. It explains Alliant’s TQM strategy, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the actions Alliant took in implementing this strategy. A key component of Alliant’s TQM strategy is the creation of Patients Care Centers (PCCs). The paper suggests ways that could help Alliant successfully create PCCs.
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It further highlights some strengths and weaknesses of Alliant’s TQM, including a comparison of Alliant’s TQM system with that of Recline Healthcare. The paper is concluded by drawing important lessons from Alliant’s TQM system that could help other organizations effectively implement TQM.
Alliant’s Strategy for TQM
Alliant understood that it had to change its mode of operation to meet the rising demand for quality healthcare. It, therefore, decided to focus on delivering quality services to its clients, based on the philosophy of TQM. Its TQM strategy focused on improving efficiency. It achieved this by continuously improving the quality of services while reducing costs.
Alliant developed a comprehensive TQM action plan within its strategy, which underscored teamwork and planning as fundamental features required in advancing the quality aspirations of the organization. However, teamwork started deteriorating, and in March 1993, the company had to take corrective actions. The company assigned some management roles to the teams to enhance their effectiveness.
As a result, an environment that allowed feedback, personal growth, and variety bolstered the performance of the employees. This quickened the turnaround of Alliant into a client-oriented institution due to increased “job involvement” by the employees.
Strengths and Weaknesses in Alliant’s TQM System
The steps were taken by Alliant to implement its TQM strategy exposed several strengths and weakness of the company. The TQM strategy, exemplified in the PCCs approach, took most of the functions and services closer to the clients. As a result, the PCC teams were able to respond more effectively to client needs.
The customers got the quality they demanded easily, as opposed to the previously centralized system. About employees, the PCCs approach increased their involvement and appreciation of the organization’s quality vision. The introduction of the PCCs also resulted in reduced labor costs because the organization was now using a linear management structure.
In as much as Alliant’s goal was to achieve efficiency by instituting a TQM system, some negative effects arose. The shift to PCCs as centers of operations required more money to construct ten additional admission areas for these centers. This increased Alliant’s expenses and reduced its short-term profitability. Alliant also witnessed high employee turnover after the implementation of the TQM system.
The restructuring came with additional responsibilities for team leaders. For instance, in the Women’s Pavilion PCC, the number of team leaders reduced from nine to six after three of them had resigned. The team leaders resigned because of role ambiguity and work overload.
The establishment of the PCCs reduced Alliant’s administrative efficiency. For instance, the first established PCC took almost all the staff from the centralized departments. There was also evidence of a lack of support from the low-level employees during the transition to the PCCs. These employees never understood how PCCs would improve service delivery to clients.
Suggestions on Implementing Patient Care Centers (PCC)Successfully
A review of Alliant’s strategy of establishing PCCs as centers of operation revealed some gaps in the implementation of TQM. In order to implement the PCC strategy effectively, it was important for Alliant to clarify the strategy’s significance to its employees at all levels. The process of establishing the PCCs should have equally been gradual in order to address cost concerns resulting from the construction of new structures.
Alliant could have avoided the high employee turnover if the introduction of the PCC system of management was gradual. Therefore, it was necessary to retrain team leaders and to clarify their roles within the organization before fully rolling out the new system. This would accord them ample time to comprehend and readjust to its new demands.
The administrative inefficiencies occasioned by the introduction of the PCCs were avoidable if the organization retained some functions in a centralized department. The centralization of functions such as transportation of goods and dietary services could reduce the organization’s expenses while enabling the specific PCCs to focus on their core businesses.
Comparison of Alliant’s TQM with That of Recline Healthcare
The TQM system adopted by Alliant was slightly different from that of Recline Healthcare. However, some components were similar. The table below compares Alliant’s TQM system with that of Recline Healthcare.
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Table 1: Comparison of the TQM system of Alliant Health Services and that of Recline Healthcare
Important Lessons for Organizations on How to Implement TQM by Addressing Organizational Culture and Structure
TQM is all about the quality demanded by customers. Reid and Sanders (2012) called it “customer-deﬁned quality” (p. 137). While implementing TQM, companies must take organizational culture and their internal structures into consideration. Organizations can draw vital lessons on TQM from how Alliant implemented change.
Organizational restructuring should be incremental. The rapid organizational culture change instituted by Alliant resulted in high employee turnover. When introducing change, it is important to note that change is often a new thing to long-serving employees in the organization. Organizational culture and structure usually shape employee’s work routine and habitual assumptions on how to work (Higgins, 2005).
Based on Alliant’s experience, teamwork can help in bolstering the performance of individuals. However, it is always important to reinforce teamwork with incentive mechanisms, team training, and peer reviews. The case of Alliant shows that teamwork without institutionalized motivation leads to failure. Therefore, a comprehensive plan on how to sustain teamwork is necessary.
It is also important to note that organizations need to involve all employees in the process of restructuring their operations. The case of Alliant shows that the low-level staff often can be a barrier to organizational restructuring if they are not involved. On the other hand, top-level managers can also sabotage the process if they feel that it threatens their existence.
In spite of everything, the restructuring of Alliant’s management style into a linear one resulted in more participation from the staff. The linear management structure reduced bureaucracy and improved the quality of services. There was greater involvement of the teams in management roles after the institution of the PCCs, which hastened the delivery of services to the clients.
Higgins, M. C. (2005). Career Imprints: Creating Leaders Across an Industry (1st ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Reid, R. D., & Sanders, N. R. (2012). Operations Management: An Integrated Approach (5th ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.