Key Elements of Total Quality

The total quality approach was defined in Figure 1.2. This definition has two components: the what and the how of total quality. What distinguishes total quality from other ap­proaches to doing business is the how component of the defi­nition. This component has several critical elements, each of which is explained in the remainder of this section and all of which relate to one of the components of the three-legged stool in Figure 1.1.

1. Strategically Based

Total quality organizations have a comprehensive strategic plan that contains at least the following elements: vision, mis­sion, broad objectives, and activities that must be completed to accomplish the broad objectives. The strategic plan of a total quality organization is designed to give it a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace. The competitive advantages of a total quality organization are geared toward achieving world-leading quality and improving on it, con­tinually and forever.

2. Customer Focus

In a total quality setting, the customer is the driver. This point applies to both internal and external customers. External customers define the quality of the product or ser­vice delivered. Internal customers help define the quality of the people, processes, and environments associated with the products or services.

3. Obsession with Quality

In a total quality organization, internal and external custom­ers define quality. With quality defined, the organization must then become obsessed with meeting or exceeding this definition. This means all personnel at all levels approach all aspects of the job from the perspective of “How can we do this better?” When an organization is obsessed with quality, “good enough” is never good enough.

4. Scientific Approach

Total quality detractors put off by such concepts as employee empowerment sometimes view total quality as nothing more than another name for “soft” management or “people” man­agement. Although it is true that people skills, involvement, and empowerment are important in a total quality setting, they represent only a part of the equation. Another important part is the use of the scientific approach in structuring work and in making decisions and solving problems that relate to the work. This means that hard data are used in establishing bench­marks, monitoring performance, and making improvements.

Long-Term Commitment attempt to adopt the total quality approach. This is because they look at total quality as just another management innova­tion rather than as a whole new way of doing business that requires an entirely new corporate culture. Too few organiza­tions begin the implementation of total quality with the long­term commitment to change that is necessary for success.

5. Teamwork

In traditionally managed organizations, the best competitive efforts are often among departments within the organization. Internal competition tends to use energy that should be focused on improving quality and, in turn, external competitiveness.

Continual Process Improvement

Products are developed and services delivered by people using processes within environments (systems). To continu­ally improve the quality of products or services—which is a fundamental goal in a total quality setting—it is necessary to continually improve systems.

6. Education and Training

Education and training are fundamental to total quality be­cause they represent the best way to improve people on a con­tinual basis. It is through education and training that people who know how to work hard learn how to also work smart.

7. Freedom Through Control

Involving and empowering employees is fundamental to total quality as a way to simultaneously bring more minds to bear on the decision-making process and increase the ownership employees feel about decisions that are made. Total qual­ity detractors sometimes mistakenly see employee involve­ment as a loss of management control, when in fact control is fundamental to total quality. The freedoms enjoyed in a total quality setting are actually the result of well-planned and well-carried-out controls. Controls such as scientific methodologies lead to freedom by empowering employees to solve problems within their scope of control.

8. Unity of Purpose

Historically, management and labor have had an adversarial relationship in U.S. industry. One could debate the reasons behind management-labor discord ad infinitum without achieving consensus. From the perspective of total quality, who or what is to blame for adversarial management-labor rela­tions is irrelevant. What is important is this: To apply the total quality approach, organizations must have unity of purpose. This means that internal politics have no place in a total quality organization. Rather, collaboration should be the norm.

A question frequently asked concerning this element of total quality is “Does unity of purpose mean that unions will no longer be needed?” The answer is that unity of purpose has nothing to do with whether unions are needed. Collective bar­gaining is about wages, benefits, and working conditions, not about corporate purpose and vision. Employees should feel more involved and empowered in a total quality setting than in a traditionally managed situation, but the goal of total quality is to enhance competitiveness, not to eliminate unions. For exam­ple, in Japan, where companies are known for achieving unity of purpose, unions are still very much in evidence. Unity of pur­pose does not necessarily mean that labor and management will always agree on wages, benefits, and working conditions, but it does mean that all employees work toward the common goal.

9. Employee Involvement and Empowerment

Employee involvement and empowerment is one of the most misunderstood elements of the total quality approach and one of the most misrepresented by its detractors. The basis for involving employees is twofold. First, it increases the likelihood of a good decision, a better plan, or a more ef­fective improvement by bringing more minds to bear on the situation—not just any minds but the minds of the people who are closest to the work in question. Second, it promotes ownership of decisions by involving the people who will have to implement them.

Empowerment means not just involving people but also involving them in ways that give them a real voice. One of the ways this can be done is by structuring work that allows employees to make decisions concerning the improvement of work processes within well-specified parameters. Should a machinist be allowed to unilaterally drop a vendor if the vendor delivers substandard material? No. However, the ma­chinist should have an avenue for offering his or her input into the matter.

Should the same machinist be allowed to change the way she sets up her machine? If by so doing she can improve her part of the process without adversely affecting someone else’s, yes. Having done so, her next step should be to show other machinists her innovation so that they might try it.

10. Peak Performance

When effectively practiced, total quality allows every aspect of an organization to operate at peak levels. This means that all personnel and processes are operating at their best. Peak performance is essential to organizations that operate in a global environment where competition is intense, constant, and unforgiving.

Source: Goetsch David L., Davis Stanley B. (2016), Quality Management for organizational excellence introduction to total Quality, Pearson; 8th edition.

1 thoughts on “Key Elements of Total Quality

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