Can Total Quality Management (TQM) be effective in North America?

CanTotal Quality Management (TQM) be effective in North America?

Tableof Contents

Introduction 3

Causesof Failure in TQM implementation 5

Barriersof TQM implementation 7

Overcomingthe Challenges of TQM Implementation 8

Roleof Top Managers 9

Roleof Unit Managers 11

AttainingEffectiveness of TQM 11

Conclusion 13

CanTotal Quality Management (TQM) be effective in North America?

Companiesin various sectors of the economy operate in very challengingcircumstances. In order for them to achieve their objectives, thereis need to find the best ways to handle the challenges that cometheir way. Managers and other employees in any company should beinvolved in developing new ways of improving production of goods andservices. Total Quality Management (TQM) is an approach used inmanagement that was developed by Japanese companies in the 1950s.This approach has gained popularity among many companies all over theworld. It describes a culture, attitude and way of doing things thatendeavors to provide consumers with goods or services that will meettheir needs (Hoyle, 2007). The main objective of the TQM techniquesis to increase productivity while limiting wasteful losses. It hasbeen adopted by many companies such as Motorola, Ford MotorCorporation, Phillips Semiconductor, Toyota Motors and SGL Carbon.TQM management philosophy brings together all functions in anorganization and focuses them on corporate goals and meeting clients’needs and expectations. Many American firms have embraced TQMtechniques in order to withstand the competition from Japanese firms.In order for the philosophy to work, it is important for all thefunctions of the organization to work as a team. This is done byidentifying the overall objectives of the business and finding outhow each function has to do in order to accomplish the identifiedgoals. This essay will show how it is possible to attaineffectiveness of TQM techniques in companies in North America.

Thereis no doubt that TQM can help achieve results if implemented in theright way. It has the ability to change the way things are done in abusiness and hence transform its fortunes. Studies have beenconducted confirming the fact that TQM techniques can indeed beeffective. It is worth noting that the results of these techniquescannot be attained in the short term. Studies have been conductedthat prove that TQM transformation is a lengthy process that requirescontinued adjustment to managerial approaches, attitudes and culture.Arguments have been made against the effectiveness of TQM inaccomplishing the desired objectives. Any failures associated withTQM are linked to poor implementation and not the philosophy itself.Many managers feel that they are the ones whoshould develop the ideasto be followed when implementing any changes in the business (Morfaw,2009). TQM management approach involves all people irrespective oftheir level of seniority. Therefore, when managers use a top-downapproach, they are bound to fail. The best way to implement TQM is toseek feedback about their ideas and the actual implementation on theground. When timely feedback is made available, managers are able toknow what is wrong and the steps they need to take to deal with thesituation effectively. Management should devise the bestways in whichto implement TQM techniques. Where TQM does not work, it is usuallythe management that fails to provide proper direction. This paperwill show the barriers that companies encounter when implementing TQMprograms and how to overcome them. It will show that TQM can beeffective if implemented in the right manner. The figure below showsthe ingredients of a successful TQM program

Figure1: Ingredients of Total Quality Management (TQM)

Causeof Failure in TQM Implementation

Manycompanies have tried to implement TQM programs without success. Themain reason for this is the lack of change in the attitudes andculture of the whole organization. TQM requires a total change in theapproaches used by the management. Managers must delegate some oftheir roles and authority to lower levels of management. In manycases, authority is vested in positions. When implementing TQMprograms, authority is delegated to the people with the skills andknowledge to execute what is expected (Houston, Archester,Dockstander, Steven, 1997). Everything being done should be aimed atachieving success in the long term. The organization should ensurethe employees are committed to the program from start until thedesired objectives are met. As the process of execution continues, itis important for the organization to adjust its culture in line withthe TQM objectives.

Thedifficulties encountered during the application of TQM policies canbe overcome by training the employees in the methods and philosophybeing followed. Everyone and especially the senior people in thecompany must adjust their own behaviors as well as organizationalpolicies to support of the new program. If the program lacks supportfrom the managers, there will be a gap between planning and havingthe plans implemented on the ground. Managers should invest theirtime, energy and other resources to ensure that the programisexecuted as expected (Martinez-Lorente, Angel, Dewhurst, Dale,1998). Many managers reduce their commitment especially when theydiscover that they are not getting the expected feedback. Withoutcommitment, any TQM attempt will be nothing more than a failure.

Thecommitment of the managers and all the employees is mandatory for thesuccess of any TQM program. It has been proven through research thatthe attitude of the employees is crucial to the failure or success ofany program. If the employees or even managers view the proposedprogram just like any other, then it is likely to fail. It isimportant for all the workers to be made aware of their role in theimplementation and how they are going to benefit from it. There is alot of competition in the current world and it is suicidal forbusinesses and individuals to maintain the same attitudes they havehad for many years (Nelson, 1991). Companies that fail to adopt andimplement TQM programs are soon swept out of business by the strongtide of competition.

Itis the duty of the management to inspirethe change they want in theperformance of their activities. The need of adopting TQM should beout of desire generatedwithin the organization. Some firms make thewrong decisions by adopting TQM plans just because other firms aredoing it. This is the wrong reason and it will lead to frustrationand failure. There should be proper understanding of how thetechniques can impact productivity and performance. Where there ispoor understanding of the program among the people expected toimplement it, there will be low commitment (Pfeifer, 2002). It hasbeen found through research that manyfirmsadopt new managementtechniques in the hope that they will get quick results or impresstheir investors or the public. This is wrong and will cause theprogram to be abandoned early.

Whena company decides to implement TQM, it should be sure about it. Themanagers should analyze the problems at hand and the best possiblesolutions that can be used. Managers should be fully committed in theimplementation of the program. Managers who are not committed willoften delegate the work to lower level managers who will not do agood job since they are not committed fully. The importance of themanagers being fully involved is that it will give them a chance toknow how far their plans are from reality. If left to the employees,some of the harsh truths about the plan will never be known by themanagers (Houston, 1997). Without the actual facts, it will not bepossible for the managers to make the right decisions to ensure thatthe program is implemented smoothly. Managers who delegate thecrucial parts of the program will only be informed of successes andnot the difficulties being encountered during implementation.

TheBarriers to TQM Implementation

Dependingon the way the TQM program is designed, the top managers may neverknow what really happens on the ground (Houston et al, 1997).Therefore, they will not find the best solutions to the challengesidentified since they will never be aware of them. In most of thefirms that have failed to implement TQM successfully, thefollowingare the main hindrances that have been noted

  1. Ambiguous strategy and unspecified priorities.

  2. Poor leadership style

  3. Ineffective top leadership

  4. Unsatisfactory coordination

  5. Poor management in the lower levels of management

  6. Poor communication channels

Theseproblems are encountered by all firms that aiming to embrace TQM. Inorder to have a grip on the process, managers must have a clearintention of developing a new system. This should be followed byproper coordination of all the activities believed to deliver the setgoals. While doing this, it is important for the managersto getfeedback regarding how their actions or inactions may be hinderingthe whole process. When management identifies the need to implementTQM, it must have a clear direction (Hoyle, 2007). This dependson howthe top management team is effective. The top managersmust identifythe objectives they are going to pursue and their priorities. It isimportant for them to own and be committed to the program for it tobe successful. The top leadership has to agree on the need of havingthe new system so that the rest of the employees will see themworking as unit and speaking with one voice. Unless they agree andcommit themselves to the plan, they will end up hiring consultants orleaving it in the hands of other members of staff without theauthority to execute the plan properly.

Overcomingthe Challenges of TQM Implementation

Itis indeed possible to implement TQM methods effectively in anyorganization. Managers in any organization are responsible for thequality of goods or servicesthey produce. The quality of products orservices is greatly influenced by the kind of management in theorganization. It is difficult to implement scientific managementmethods in an organization whose management is ineffective. Managersare the oneswho have the capacity to design methods suitable to thephilosophy they have in mind (Martinez-Lorente et al, 1998). This isnot easy to achieve because of the huge rift between reality andmanagement ideas. One challenge that senior managers in anyorganization face is to know if their leadership or that of otherleaders at other levels is effective. This requires an approach thatwill help them have new ideas on organizing the activities in theirbusiness. The process of organizational change takestime and isimplemented in phases or through the organization. Every level ofmanagement has a clear role to play in the envisaged implementation.

Figure2: An effective TQM strategy

Roleof top managers

Whenit is time to have organizational change, top managers should have aclear understanding of the reason behind implementing TQM. Theprocess should be in line with corporate objectivesand values. ManyTQM programs often fail because of poor execution. Failure can beavoided by determining if TQM is indeed necessary for the aspirationsof the firm. This can be achieved by holding consultations across alllevels of the organization (Pfeifer, 2002). There has to be anagreement among top managers that indeed TQM is what can help achievethe success being desired by the firm. The circumstances of eachorganization determine if TQM is relevant or not. A company withdifferent units may require implementing TQM in some of them and notin others. Implementation of TQM is also very important to consider.The top managers should not force the decision down the corporateladder. Instead, they should find ways that will inspire a continuousprocess of implementation. High but attainable performance goals andthe mode of measuring progress should be set for established. Whilesetting these standards of performance it isimportant to involvethose who will be involved in order to make them committed to theprocess. The goals set by the team should meet all the objectives ofthe firm.

Themanagers of the organization should start implementing TQM on a smallscale. Instead of overhauling every operation in the organization,the managers should identify a section in the organization whoseobjectives are in line with the TQM strategy. The environment shouldbe ripe for the implementation. This will provide an opportunity forthe managers to experiment with TQM before implementing it on alarger scale (Morfaw, 2009). Success attained in the smaller unitswill be used as models for the rest of the firm. The successfulimplementation should then be spread in other sections of the companyby holding meetings with managers at other levels of management. Itmight take some time before the desired results are attained. In theend, the process will achieve the desired results for the entireorganization.

TheRole of Unit Managers

TQMcannot be implemented successfully if the units are ignored. Topmanagement must consider the quality of unit managers. There willdefinitely be gaps in the implementation stage between what isdesired and the actual results. Unless the managers have the rightmanagement skills, there will be problems. It is therefore importantto evaluate the suitability of section managers in implementation ofthe program. Section managers may be more enthusiastic to report onthe successes of the implementation than on the challenges they face(Nelson, 1991). It is important for the managers to be aware of thedifficulties encountered so that the right steps can be taken toensure the implementation is on course. Section managers should beengaged in an open and transparent manner that will help learn andimprove their capabilities during the process.

AttainingEffectiveness of TQM

Thefollowing are the principles that can lead to the effectiveness ofTQM in improving the quality of management and productivity.

  1. Discuss the suitability of TQM with section managers. Unit managers should ensure that the TQM as proposed by top managers fits in the goals of their sections. Unless they are sure about this, attempting to implement it will only create more problems. It will help them understand the idea and commit themselves to it rather than implementing it to comply with the directives issued by top management (Pfeifer, 2002). Where there is a conflict between TQM objectivesand the goals of the unit, discussing the problem with the top leadership in the company to help section leaders have a better understanding of TQM objectives. In the absence of discussions, the unit managers will miss the chance to learn about the program and be committed to it.

  2. Form a task force to guide the process. Implementation of TQM will be faced with various problems along the way. There should be a task force that will identify and suggest ways to deal with the problems. This is a way of proving that the leadership in the company is serious about the changes. Therefore, the employees will be committed to give their best towards the success of the program (Nelson, 1991). When the management is focused on shaping the program along the way, it will be on its way to having successful implementation.

  3. The process of collecting data from the units is very important. Top management shouldbe made aware of the harsh facts of the program. This is the only way through which any issues threatening the process are discovered and discussed out in the open. There should be a sincere way in which top managers get to learn about what is happening on the ground regardingimplementation of TQM (Hoyle, 2007). When the process of holding discussions is made clear, everyone in the firm is assured that the management is concerned about the whole process of implementing TQM. The people involved in the whole process should feel safe to discuss the tough issues surrounding the implementation process. Top management should be willing to accommodate the views and concerns of the people in the lower levels of management without victimizing anyone even when they are criticized. The task force selected to gather informationaboutthe process should not give their opinions but instead report what they find during their interviews.

  4. Any barriers to the implementation of TQM should be identified and dealt with effectively. Managers are often quick to identify a solution to any problem that they encounter. While this is right, it might hinder the leaders from taking a deeper look into the problem and design a solution that will eliminate it. The gaps in the implementation process are complex and they require the involvement of all the people concerned. The best action plan cannot be devised by a single person or the top managers alone. It requires the involvement of other managers in the concerned sections (Morfaw, 2009). A process to help diagnose and discuss the problem should be identified and used in such a case. When difficulties are encountered, the managers may tend to withhold the implementation of the important actions and focus on the more urgent ones.

  5. Many managers like to implement change from the top. This has its own advantages but many not work in some cases. In order for TQM to be a success, the managers should get feedback on the quality of the program from section managers who will be responsible for the actual implementation. The feedback is gotten through the taskforce that pointed at the need to have the changesin the first place (Hoyle, 2007). By listening to the feedback, they appreciate the differences that will emerge between their ideas and the actual implementation. It is a chance for them to prove that the plan of action they have designed is valid and viable. This reinforces the value of dialogue in the entire process of implementation of TQM.

Inconclusion, TQM is a long term process that requiresmanagement tohave the necessary skills to implement it. The attitudes, culture andbehavior of the company determine the success of TQM. There are manyfirms in various parts of the worlds that have adopted TQM. Theprocess was initially used in Japan before it spread to other partsof the world. The fruit of TQM will be realized by the firm if themanagement is able to deal with various problems that emerge alongthe way. Since the process will involve a change in the way of doingthings, it is important to involve the employees in the process. Thiswill help them accept it and reduce their resistance to the changesit will surely bring about. The gains of TQM cannot be ignored. Withthe increased completion in every sphere of business, there is needto improve performance. The gains will be enjoyed by the employees,customers and even the owners of the business. But for this tohappen, everyone has to make adjustments and sacrifices (Morfaw,2009). Top managers may have to delegate some of their authority tounit and departmental managers. On their part, employees will beexpected to take more responsibility. During the transition process,there will be some differences with the top management. Thesedifferences can be resolved or avoided through regular discussionswith the concerned unit managers. Since the process is continuous, itwill help to ensure the level of motivation among the employees isvery high always.


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