Tqm: Business At Its Best Essay, Research Paper
“You manage things, and you lead people. ”
In a way, Grace Hopper’ words are a formula for success in Total Quality Management, for she has offered equal but different approaches to things and people. Things can be manipulated, quantified, measured, and calculated, people cannot. By distinguishing between managing and leading, Hopper has given us to understand clearly that you cannot lead things or manage people – she’s right.
Hopper’s insight is universal and we are inclined to agree with it almost instinctively without having a notion of what it means in the day-to-day world. We feel like Calvin Coolidge’s wife asking what the preacher had said about sin. “He said,” Coolidge told her tersely, “he was against it. ” Now that we know that, what do we do?
In hopes of clearing away some of the fog, I offer a formulation that, I believe, says the same thing as Hopper’s version but is a little more quantified. It may not sound as impressive, but it is practical enough that we can do something with it.
It goes like this:
C + L + t1 + t2 = TQM
Customer focus + leadership + teams + tools = Total Quality Management
The notion of “customer” is as foreign to as many bureaucrats as the idea of a bicycle is to a fish. We think of a customer as someone who buys something. In Total Quality Management, the word “customer” has taken on a new meaning: the beneficiary of our work. Beneficiaries may be people or organizations; they may be citizens or they may be the people at the next desk or in the next office. Beneficiaries outside our organizations are called “external customers;” those within, “internal customers.”
Their designation as internal or external matters little. The point is that all we do is for their sake; without them, our work has no purpose. Therefore, if we are serious about quality, customers, regardless of whether they are internal or external, have every right to have their requirements, needs, and expectations met the first time and every time. So all definitions of quality — in the sense that Total Quality Management people use the word –state or imply the same orientation: giving the customers what they want. Stew Leonard, the famous dairy entrepreneur in Norwalk, Connecticut frames the issue in earthy terms we all can understand (Crosby 40):
Rule 1: The customer is always right!
Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread rule 1.
These definitions of quality imply two properties: (1) freedom from defect (the negative aspect), and (2) pleasing the customer (the positive aspect) (Rao 20). In creating a product, a service, or a piece of knowledge, the two aspects must receive equal attention. In the federal government, the negative has a tendency to be accentuated — getting rid of the defects (often under the name of “productivity,” “zero defects,” or “quality control”) without much attention to the positive — finding ways to please the customer. As a consequence, there is a tendency to become narrowly focused on issues like specifications and tolerances and overlook obvious factors like simple courtesy; arranging the work process for the comfort of the customer rather than ourselves; and getting the product, service, or knowledge to the customers when promised it — or better yet, when they want it.
When government becomes dysfunctional, bureaucrats begin to look down on the customer as an ignorant nuisance. If customers are in a rival agency, they may be ignored, have to wait, or be told what they need. If they are in the general public, they are patronized. If they are in a different branch of government, things are made complicated, generalized, and delayed, hoping they will just go away. It is forgotten that in the public sector, unlike the private sector, losing customers is a luxury that is not dealt with; one of the worst things we can do is turn them into enemies.
We need, in short, to alter the way we think about customers. An unspoken underlying assumption of Total Quality Management is a reverence for people. That means starting out with the assumption that others (customers, suppliers, and subordinates included) are worthy people, both honest and competent – and treating them that way. Most people respond to trust with trust, once they get past the suspicious wariness that our normal way of managing has bred in them. Most people react to trust by behaving in honest and competent ways. A few — about three percent–will not (Rao 16). We would do well to shape our behavior for the 97 percent.
What I am referring to here is transforming the organizational culture so that in all we do, the customer is foremost in our minds. That means that our continuous improvement efforts are aimed at quality as defined by our customers, not saving money or becoming more efficient. If we stress quality, cost and efficiency take care of themselves. In a quality culture, quality (meeting the customers needs, expectations, and requirements the first time and every time) becomes a way of life, an obsession.
So how do we create and institutionalize an obsession for pleasing customers?
First, by treating our own subordinates as people worthy of reverence — that is, as internal customers. We must assume that they are honest and competent people whose requirements are valid. The way the people in an organization feel is the way their external customers are going to feel.
Second, by asking the customers what they want. If our customers are honest and competent people, they are perfectly capable of expressing their valid needs, although we may have to negotiate with them to translate those needs into measurable terms we can work to fulfill. We can ask customers what they want, need, and expect through surveys, focus groups, having representatives on the front line to talk to them, setting up customer hot lines, and encouraging them to write letters.
Both of these steps, revering subordinates and asking for customers’ evaluation, are scary. Both are likely to make us hear things we would rather not hear.
I did not say it would be easy.
Once we know what the customers want and understand the gaps between their requirements and our performance, we are ready to charter quality improvement teams to start into the improvement process. Quality improvement teams using the prescribed statistical tools are the hallmark of Total Quality Management. An organization that can boast that 10 percent of its people are on teams at any given time has successfully begun the Total Quality Management journey. An organization that has 60 to 80 percent of its people on teams at any given time has completed the cultural transformation to quality (Berk and Berk 14).
A quality improvement team is a group of five to eight people drawn from across the organization (not all from one element unless the task is not cross-functional) who are the experts in the work process–that is, they are the people who actually do that work (Rao 23). They are chartered by the Quality Council (itself a quality improvement team made up of the top five to eight people in the organization) to solve a particular problem or improve a work process. They study the work process assigned them, discover ways to improve the process, propose their improvement to the Quality Council, test their solutions, pilot their solutions, and finally implement them.
Do quality improvement teams really achieve results? A team at Florida Power and Light saved the company $450,000 a year in cash flow by eliminating billing delays. A team at Xerox saved the corporation $4.4 million by streamlining construction and distribution of price lists. Also, at Motorola, a team found a way to reduce the time to fill orders from 45 days to two hours (Berk and Berk 30).
It can be explained that teams work so well for two reasons. First, when organized and managed properly, they are the best means yet discovered to solve work problems and improve work processes. Second, they cause people to take ownership of their work and take pride in their achievements. Teams are, in other words, the best way we know of to empower people (Hellriegel 226).
Teams working on cross-functional processes, those that cut across the organization and involve several work units, reap the greatest benefits, at least in the beginning (Rao 6). Disproportionate shares of organizational problems lie between the cracks–at the crossover point between work units where misunderstanding, hostilities, rivalries, and everyday indifference stunt quality and make re-work a standard procedure.
None of these changes, however, can happen overnight. Before we can charter quality improvement teams and expect them to succeed with the kind of results mentioned earlier, organization members must believe that they can trust management. Beyond that, once teams are chartered, they need four things: training, facilitation, leadership, and support.
Training is in four aspects: skills (being sure that the people know how to do their jobs right the first time and every time), the statistical tools (the touchstone of Total Quality
Management), interpersonal dynamics (fundamentally, we are cultural individualists; we often do not know how to work effectively together), and the principles of Total Quality Management (Gitlow and Gitlow 21). Without effective training in each of these aspects, quality improvement teams can be expected to fail.
Facilitation is a skill that requires special training. It means, simply put, helping a group get where it is going. It does not mean telling the group where it should be going. That, arguably, is the leader’s job. A good facilitator only does two things: (1) helps the group through interpersonal bogs and impasses, and (2) offers help with the techniques and tools of Total Quality Management (Crosby 22). As members of an organization become more experienced in working in teams, facilitation becomes less important. In the beginning, it is often critical to success.
Teams also need leadership – not management, leadership. A good team leader pulls the team along in the direction it already wants to go. Where the facilitator must be neutral, the leader is passionately involved in the outcome. The leader is able to hold up a beacon pointing the direction, lighting the route, saying repeatedly to the team members, “Just look what we can accomplish if we work together!” Team leadership is also a skill, but if the leader is passionately committed to the team’s goal, the requisite skill will generally emerge.
Finally, teams need the visible support of top management. Thus, in the most successful Total Quality Management organizations, the Quality Council meets regularly with the teams to see how they are coming, to show their interest, and to learn from the teams. The face-to-face meeting absolves the team of requirements to write up reports and truly empowers the teams by a demonstration that top management will take the time to listen and to encourage.
Throughout, we can see the kind of differences in productivity that can be made within organizations that adopt a Total Quality Management approach toward its business aspirations. With its focus on customers, teams, leadership, and the right tools, an organization that puts forth enough effort can transform itself into a customer service, and thus, a profit powerhouse. Now, while this feat may take a few years to fully accomplish considering its scope, finally achieving a universal TQM mentality among all members virtually guarantees success within any organization, reminding us once again that You manage things, and you lead people.