While I agree that Quality improves organizations, businesses, and individuals, Total Quality Management (TQM) as a system for improvement loses its effectiveness based on the present culture, business methodologies, and globalization of markets.
TQM has invaded countless industries and is a favorite “buzz word” of top executives and managers, TQM concepts are rarely fully implemented other than posters, memos, and press releases. While the basic concepts of TQM are inherently internal to each of us, the moniker of TQM continues to be an elusive goal that everyone in business “loves to talk about” but never successfully implements. This approach involves guaranteeing that an organization functions with a commitment to quality and continuous improvement in meeting its consumer’s needs. With any type of change there will always be a number of bumps in the road which slow down the process that can help a company increase the workers morale, production, profits, and an over all positive environment to conduct business.
The Culture: The culture of today is not ripe for change. Individuals, both managers and workers alike are impatient, expecting results over night. These unrealistic cultural expectations make implementing any quality system a challenge in itself. Consumers are tired of false promises and are impatient for immediate results and the best for less. As years pass, generations pass on the wisdom of the previous lessons learned in hopes that their mistakes can be prevented by passing on wisdom gained through experience. While lessons in business remain timeless, the goals and implementations are not always so apparent in their application based on changing environments and consumers. In today’s society, a day rarely passes that has not been tainted with a slew of television infomercials which promise the impossible and go so far as to 100% guarantee results and or satisfaction. Today’s individuals demand overnight express delivery or they are quick to change to an avenue that offers such type of service. In a new world where internets make online global shopping lightning fast results must be immediate. Because we as a culture have become accustomed to having everything immediately, we are less likely to be patient enough or consistent enough to benefit from the concepts of TQM as outlined by Dr. Deming’s fourteen points. The TQM system is not one that lends itself to an overnight turn around. TQM is a gradual system that works to realign organizational cultures towards quality and process improvement. As managers do see the immediate value of such a system, they are always expecting immediate results and total commitment based on the fact that memos were published and distributed, meetings were held, and a newly formed TQM department circulated the newsletter. The culture of today does not want to commit to a system that doesn’t offer overnight results. This culture wants results like its food…fast and low quality. Think of how the McDonald’s slogan epitomizes the culture of today—“over one million served.”
Business Methodologies: Today, methodologies around business focus on quick results and flawless quantifiable execution at the speed of light. Because methodologies are such, patient transition or goal transformation is not consistent with today’s business norms. As the computer age has swept both housholds and businesses alike, the speed and accuracy at which millions of transistors and microcircuits operate dazzle scientists while ensuring the success of one business and marking the failure of another to keep up with the blazing pace that dominates the business world. If a business can quickly leverage its resources it can keep up with the pack, otherwise today’s norms predict failure. Like the functions of a microchip, quantifiable standards have focused directly on the bottom line-“profit.” While TQM presents an indirect method of approching the same goal. Mathematics and Physics point to a direct approach, much like an accountant works to maximize profits by adjusting numbers and calculating. TQM also works against the more traditional business models with centralized leadership under where an elite group directs and organizes all efforts for the masses to execute. In all cases TQM requires the organization to evaluate itself. Organization examination is often mentioned as the most critical element in the TQM process. With this technique utilized a company can measure all aspects of its output in relation to the mass input. These all include all external and internal inputs from the accountant to the delivery truck driver. All members and service providers must be looked at so as to acquire a complete overall view of the performance of the given organization. In most cases weaknesses are not something Executives want to focus on, so they perform weak internal evaluations. In any change program you must comprehend where you are before you can chart a course for where you want to be. Therefore, before executing TQM, or another program it is important to add the total value of the organization in terms of its current quality or performance class and too define the level of performance or quality you wish to achieve. Without the full involvement of key players, the method is not as effective as it could be.
Dr. Deming’s methods in the 1950’s were instrumental in building Japan’s business infrastructure after World War II, but his methods were only successful based on the absense of any type of established business culture. Total Quality Management has become a cardinal concern of management. Much of this attention was initially focused on the auto industry, which experienced declining sales and increasing product disappointments. Companies in other industries also became concerned. Some of these ideas were original explored in this country in the ’80s due to deficient sales and decrease in market share. Both of these can denote death for even considerably large companies like IBM or General Motors. It was GM that analyzed Japanese industries and introduced TQM here with the Saturn car. GM decided that since they might lose some sales because of the expansion of the Japanese car manufacturing, they should study the methodologies that this old world culture could put quality autos on the market that out sold US autos. GM found that the Japanese had less middle management and more teams of employees that were self controlled. The teams were responsible for the perfection of the products that were made, instead of having quality control inspectors. The teams were given the authority to hire and fire its members. With this innovative knowledge, GM tried an experiment that eventually became the Saturn car. To this day the Saturn car assembly is still seen as an experiment for GM to use and harvest some of the inspirations so as to enhance its other factories. Thus, the Total Quality Management system went became popular with the idea creeping into all types of organizations. Saturn has yet to pull in an overall profit, but the solid sales still captivate business analysts. So while the people of Japan were committed to coming together to work towards creating an Industrialized Japan, Dr. Deming’s methods are less effective in a corporate culture that evolved from older hierarchical corporate structures copied from military organizations. In the military structure, the overall effectiveness of any particular association is directly proportional to the functioning of its members. As an organization increases in size the individuals lose sight of the concept of teamwork. To maintain the competitive edge a corporation must remain flexible. Different styles of organizational structure have been experimented with. Much of the framework of the organization is determined by the type of business, goals, and even the social environment. Our armed forces today reflect this idea. Traditionally the military has used a rigid organizational structure. A well defined chain of command is used to delegate responsibilities, even to this day. This style requires more managers with general management abilities. Managers are concerned with the problem at hand; they focus on what has to be done. Leaders on the other hand, notice what has to be done, but spend their time figuring out how to get it done.
In the previous structure the subordinate’s job is to follow instructions from the higher level. This behavior has been reinforced by a high level of discipline, required for battlefield operations. As technology has redefined combat operations, so has the organizational and management style changed.
Business cultures have moved away from the original organizational models by flattening out layers of mid-level management, but quantitative measures of business performance still dominate the landscape. High level managers sometimes view TQM as more of a hindrance than a tool. The idea to give up authority and power to those who may abuse it scares executives to the point that while they want the proposed results, they are not so inclined to put the consistent effort forward to get there over a period of time. For established large organizations, physics predicts that the force needed to change the course and direction is directly proportional to the size of the organization. For smaller or new organizations, cultures and new ideas are more easily applied and modified. Because of today’s business culture, TQM is less effective.
Globalization of Markets: The business world as a whole today exists as a patchwork of global entities working together as a whole, because markets are so closely tied, change is more difficult. As the business world shifts and adjusts, trends such as TQM take time and concerted effort for implementation. Globalization hinders the concepts of sweeping change while the day’s profits are the bottom line goals. Globalization a new word that has not been defined by most of the modern dictionaries, maybe because its a new concept that has just been introduced to the world after the fall of the communist regime. Another reason and the most probable one for this lack of definition to the term globalization is that its a term with so many aspects related to it. All these new aspects created are new opportunities and problems for business leaders and analysts to pursue and deal with. Organization’s are transforming and will continue to do so in order to survive in this complex environment. Because change is occurring so rapidly, there is a necessity for new ways to manage focusing on product quality and individual involvement. The pressures of the cut-throat market place has push companies’ backs against a wall and to compete on a global scale new ideas have to be explored. The purpose of a TQM program is to amplify the effectiveness of the organization. During an age of downsizing and restructuring, many American companies are determining that they must learn to manage more effectively. The management is running on an older system which add to workers that call out more sick days and abuse the companies production procedure. Organizational problems decoding means that all members of an organization participate in cultivating a vision and improving the corporate cultures. Managers and Executives are less likely to commit to loss of control, when the risks outweigh profits, but business leaders are more than willing to claim TQM implementation and hold meetings for propaganda and publicity.
Global markets unlike those of previous time present new pressures that deter any type of experimentation when older systems work. Today’s managers are being challenged to provide leadership in new and changing environments. Customers, competitors, employees, and stockholders are all placing anxieties on management for innovation and change at a rapid pace. Change is a scorning process. Every organization exists in a endless state of adapting to change. Downsizing changes are usually caused by external competitive forces, whereas other changes to work operations emerge as a result of shifting forces within the organization. Many management analysts feel that political forces prevent adapting to this increasing rate of change and therefore become reactive organizations reacting drastically after problems come to light—preventing improvement in the original direction.
TQM is a concept that would appear to be a foundation of developing an idealistic representation of business organizations, however, because of cultural issues, bussiness methodologies, and globalization, TQM remains as more of a “buzz word” than a system.