Total quality management (TQM) is a philosophical framework that involves constant control and improvement of the quality of products, services, and processes. Quality improvement concerns each person engaged into the development and consumption of products and services that a business firm offers.
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TQM is premised on four major pillars – management, suppliers, workforce, suppliers, and customers. All these premises take control of supply and demand level, as well as customer satisfaction with products and services. The main task of an organization is either to meet or exceed consumer expectations.
TQM involves nine major practices. These are cross-functional product design, information and feedback, process management, customer and employee involvement, supplier quality management, committed leadership, cross-functional planning, and strategic planning.
All these dimensions are confined to proper human resource management, organizational learning and development, and readiness to introduce constant innovation and technological advancement. In addition, TQM is also connected with Six Sigma, a new concept that also involves both quantitative and qualitative dimensions of carrying steps of quality management.
Total quality management is a complex notion covering human, product, and technological process as the basic dimensions leading to constant improvement of the quality of services and products.
Human Dimension of Total Quality Management
Quality management practices are applied in many business organizations because it contributes to the success and organizational performance. However, inappropriate implementation of strategies and resources can lead to failures in improving the quality of products and services because of a number of factors. The failures can be result of improper top management and leadership commitment, lack of employee involvement and underestimation of customer capacity in improving the quality.
Every top leadership and management will deal with implementing quality management strategies because it brings in greater benefits and profits. What is more important is that leaders of business organizations should express their full commitment and loyalty to each member of the employed environment.
The importance of leadership in an organization is especially emphasized because it influences the actual process of constant improvement and development. Samuel (2004) writes, “leadership is influencing the people so that all of them do the right things, the right way at the right time, willingly…so that the organization grows and the purpose is fulfilled” (p. 220).
In contrast, the role of managers is to follow the procedures in a right way and adhere to the established standards. Their responsibilities do not go beyond the accepted norms. Hence, effective leadership should be influential for employees to adhere to behavioral patterns that leaders use. Leaders, therefore, should have specific moral values and extreme feeling of accountability, particularly during the time of changes and crises.
Leadership commitment of top managers is revealed through their highly responsible attitude to the welfare of their subordinates who also influence greatly the quality of delivered products and services. In addition, top management should also be responsible for defining the vision, mission and value system of a company, as well as for formulating the strategic plan. Operating resources and personnel effectively is also among the main goals that leaders should undertake.
Employee involvement is a part of a business organizations strategy of total involvement of all departments and spheres. Along with supplier management and customer engagement, employee involvement also contributes to the organizational growth, as well as to maintaining favorable relations among employees, customers, and suppliers.
Total employee involvement lies in both top management and the way managers copes with its employees. The main concept of total quality management should bind both top management and subordinates to a single objective in order to create “a united force totally involved in achieving organizational goals and objectives” (Mukherjee, 2006, p. 173). An advanced form of employee engagement is employees’ empowerment.
In this respect, employee engagement is possible in case of total employee empowerment that permits employees to take measures and react to customer needs and expectation. Quality of products and services is also the main concern of employees (Mukherjee, 2006). In this respect, employees should strive to align their objectives with higher organizational goals; they should also have an authority to increase their contribution by maximizing the available opportunities and taking proper measures to meet the organizational purpose.
A business organization having no objective and missions will not succeed in producing quality goods and achieving high rates of performance and profitability. In fact, organization should realize the importance of introducing customer focus. Exploring consumer needs and concerns is the first step toward the production optimization. In order to create customer orientation, it is, first of all, necessary to consider the organizational structure.
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Absence of quality objective, the department goals will come to the forth and, as a result, the organization will not be able to follow common goals. Change to a vertical structure will blur the boundaries between the departments and unite them in their attempts to achieve common goals. Specific attention should be given to the link between the marketing department and the production department that should establish fruitful cooperation and interaction.
Customer focus creation should proceed with the introduction of the idea of ‘internal customer’ (Mukherjee, 2006). The concept is confined to the idea of introducing process as relations between product and customer. For instance, “marketing becomes internal customer for the production department, which in turn becomes the internal customer for the materials, human resources and maintenance department” (Mukherjee, 2006, 2005).
Hence, the shift in evaluation the production process permits the managements to achieve customer satisfaction. In this respect, to meet customer needs, it is necessary to produce goods and services “…that are of right quality, in right quantity and made available at the right time, right place, and at the right price” (Mukherjee, 2006, p. 150).
Within this context, the idea of internal customer becomes beneficial for the business organization because it successfully meets two objectives – fulfills the marketing functions and provides necessary customer orientation.
Supplier Quality Management
As soon as the product has been manufactured, the question of distribution comes to the forth. Supplier quality management, therefore, is the next step in improving quality of produced goods and services. Managers and employees should give especial attention to this production link because suppliers can provide them with valuable knowledge and experience concerning place and terms of deliver.
The role of supplier should not be underestimated as it influences the competing position of a firm in a business environment. Supplier is also involved into the deliver of the materials that will be used in manufacturing goods and, therefore, the choice of suppliers is indispensible for ensuring the highest quality. The significance of including supplier in a production chain is enormous because this entity is endowed with a great number of responsibilities.
For instance, supplier is liable for tracking the material costs that are implemented at various stages of production. Much responsibility is also imposed on suppliers in terms of information exchange between customer and organization. The quality of information flow, therefore, depends largely on the suppliers’ awareness.
Product Dimension of Total Quality Management
Process is an inherent component of successful organization’s functioning, along with people, structure, and control mechanisms. In this respect, process management is another important dimension of total quality management that consists in fulfilling activities leading to desired outcomes.
Process management also involves means and techniques assisting to the accomplishment of organization’s goals. Finally, process management allows organization to deliver and create value for a customer (Madison, 2005, p. 2). Workflow and information exchange are regarded as the basic processes taking place at an organization.
Control mechanism also shape the part of process management. They involve mechanical, electrical, and statistical procedures that allow the employees to measure and enhance the quality of products. The importance of control mechanism in process management lies in the necessity of introducing changes to the production process, as well as to the control mechanism itself. Finally, process analysis is an effective way to diagnose the performance and define the gaps in the production process.
Cross-Functional Product Design
The development of a new product design is also a part of total quality management. This process is accomplished through gathering cross-functional team working on single product development. Cooperative work performance, therefore, positively contributes to the development of new product design (Sorli & Stokic, 2009).
It is also important for a team to involve members from different department to provide an in-depth evaluation of the proposed product, including customer needs, organizational capacity, cost effectiveness, and potential revenues received from selling the product (Sorli & Stokic, 2009). Research and development can be regarded as another integral component of successful cross-functional product design.
Product design and development should always be associated with constant improvement and innovation. Designers should engage their theoretical knowledge and experience to integrate into creating a product that would meet customer requirements and increase organizational goals (Sorli & Stokic, 2009). More importantly, they should rely heavily on the external environment and competitive environment.
Organizational Processes and Role of Total Quality Management
Information and Feedback
Effective leadership and management should rely on effective interaction, information and feedback system. Managers should be able to successfully communicate with their subordinates and apply to a reward system to encourage employees increase organizational capacity. Importantly, feedback received from various stakeholders is also crucial for introducing the corresponding changing to the marketing and production process (Rawlins, 2008).
Finally, external customer feedback provides a better picture of market potential, as well as supply and demand rates of a launched product. Marketing department should be concerned with the accurate and responsive information exchange between other department to make sure that all problems, gaps, and pitfalls have been taken into consideration before a new product line is launched.
Establishing effective communication system is another important dimension of total quality managers that ensures constant control of information input and processing (Rawlins, 2008). Managers and employees should be encouraged to draw as much new information about potential markets and customer to be able to introduce changed to the manufacturing process and increase the organizational performance.
Developing a strict mission, vision, and philosophy provide an organization with accurate directions and solutions to improvement and high performance.
In order to properly evaluate the position of a business firm, specific attention should be given to understanding its current position through diagnosing its perspectives for future development. The key components of strategic planning, therefore, include mission, vision, values and strategy. Each of the components is of high significance for the adequate and stable development of an organization.
Strategic planning should also involve analysis and synthesis of information received from customers. The information can reveal both negative and positive experience of customers to define which elements of the production process should be changed. Therefore, strategic planning should always be in a state of constant development and improvement.
According to Mukherjee (2006), “the strategic quality plan bridges the gap between where the organization is and where it wants to reach in the long run” (p. 139). In this respect, the mission of the organization is closely associated with its value system whereas the vision is regarded as a long-term objective of the organization. In addition, vision should be SMART, namely, “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound” (Mukherje, 2006, p. 139).
The next step of strategic planning involves identification of target audience that will allow the organization to reach its goals. In this respect, the strategic planning process should involve assessment of customers’ needs to define how well the organization can meet these needs. The effectiveness of strategic planning will influence on the total quality management in a business organization.
Synthesis of cross-functional activities is an important dimension of total quality management of product and services due to the greater commitment to customer needs and concerns. In particular, isolated work of advertising, promotion, research and development, and marketing department does not provide company with a competitive advantage over other business organizations because it will hamper the cooperation between managers.
In this respect, cross-functional planning involves horizontal exchange of information between managers (Shultz et al., 2009). Well-organized work and interaction between the departments can contribute to immediate response to customer supply and demand rates, as well as integrating new concepts and strategies on improving the overall quality of organizations’ production.
Six Sigma: Practices, Experience, and Methods
Six Sigma is an advanced concept of total quality management in business organization that implies both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluating the production success and customer demands. Its orientation on improvement and development, as well as constant innovation is possible through measuring the existing numerical and qualitative data, as well as predicting possible outcomes of specifically implemented strategies.
The concept of Six Sigma differs a bit from the total quality management because its focus is made on the analysis of possible errors, defects, and pitfalls that organization might face while implementing a specific product line. In statistical terms, Six Sigma denotes “…standard deviation, a statistical measurement of variation, the exceptions to expected outcomes” (Thomsett, 2005, p. 6). The idea of Six Sigma takes its roots at Motorola company in the 1980s and was introduced by Mikel Harry.
The engineer started examining variation in outcomes and company’s internal processes; he soon realized that measuring variations made it possible to advance the working systems (Thomsett, 2005). The procedures sought to change procedures in order to improve the overall performance for a long-term period. In a few years, the Six Sigma concept became popular among other recognized companies.
Six Sigma prioritizes cost savings because they shape an important element of quality control, which should guarantee effective, permanent, and rewarding quality activities (Thomsett, 2005). Cost-effectiveness, however, should be congruent with the development of effective workforce potential that would enhance the organizational performance through creativity and innovation.
Overall, the presented strategy is aimed at achieving excellent in quality service, as well as at measuring possible deviation from the idea. It also provides perspectives for adding value to a product of service. Therefore, the concept of Six Sigma is sophisticated and technical complex.
Total quality management (TQM) embraces a complex unity of processes, targets, and stages and is aimed at enhancing the overall organization’s potential, as well as constant improving and innovation. Therefore, the given discipline covers a number of dimensions, including human resources, organizational learning and development, and product design. All these dimensions are crucial for development of an extensive quality management network.
Specifically, human dimension consists in full leadership commitment, employee training and engagement, customer orientation, and supplier quality management. Product design focuses on the cross-functional product design and process management. Finally, organizational structure deals with such elements as strategic planning, cross-functional planning, and information and feedback control.
Aside from the presented dimensions, TQM introduces new models and techniques in sustaining quality of product and services, including the concept of Six Sigma, which involves identification of possible errors and defects of product manufacture that can be eliminated for a long-term period.
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Samuel, L. S. A. (2004). Total Quality Management. US: PHI Learning.
Shultz, D. E., Barnes, B. E., Shultz, H. F., and Azzaro, M. (2009). Building Customer-Brand Relationships. US: M. E. Sharpe.
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