Quality Is Personal: A Foundation for Total Quality Management

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9780029266267: Quality Is Personal: A Foundation for Total Quality Management

In this penetrating guide to involving employees in the process of total quality management, the authors make the argument that "personal quality checklists" - by which employees monitor waste reducers and value adding activities in their immediate work environment-can significantly increase individual understanding of the general concepts and implementation of top quality management. 20 line drawings.

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About the Author:

Harry V. Roberts is the Sigmund E. Edelstone Professor of Statistics and Quality Management in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago. He is the author or coauthor of more than 10 books and 60 articles on subjects related to statistics and Total Quality Management.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1



Although our primary interest is quality for the individual -- in work and in everyday life -- we begin with a brief survey of organizational quality, or, as it is frequently called, Total Quality Management (TQM). (Parts of this survey are drawn from the Report of the Working Council on Core Body of Knowledge for the Procter & Gamble Total Quality Forum of 1992.)

The working assumption of TQM is that continual organizational improvements, small and large, are not only possible but are necessary for long-term survival. Opportunities for improvement are recognized primarily by continuing reexamination of all existing constraints on the way that work is done. This reexamination is focused on all organizational processes, and it is guided by three basic ideas, which have to be sold to all employees:

1. Orient all efforts towards delighting customers and removing waste in (or constraints on) internal processes.
2. Stress team effort at all levels inside and outside the organization, including cooperative efforts with suppliers and customers.
3. Use data and scientific reasoning to guide and evaluate improvement efforts, and to hold the gains from past improvements.

These three ideas, when applied systematically, lead to management practices that are very different from traditional practices. The new practices are so appealing that many people, upon first encountering them, will insist that they have been following them all along.

The ideas of TQM lead to much more than meets the eye on first glance. And they pose a profound psychological challenge: they say that, no matter what we have done in our lives up to now, we must be prepared to find that we can do enormously better. This is gratifying in the sense that improvement is always gratifying. But it also suggests that what we have done in the past is going to look bad in the light of present knowledge. For many of us, that is hard to accept.

The detailed management tactics of TQM go beyond traditional optimization within fixed constraints to shoot at ever-moving improvement targets by relaxing or eliminating constraints. Since there is no end to opportunities to relax or eliminate constraints, improvement is never ending.

Relaxing Constraints

"Relaxing a constraint" is an abstract expression. One of the authors offers a personal example of what it means. In 1968 the author and his teenage son were jogging along a mountain trail in North Carolina when they were confronted by a large eastern timber rattlesnake who was visibly and noisily blocking the trail. They stopped abruptly about ten yards short of the rattler. The father picked up a large dead branch and advanced on the snake, intending to make him move off the trail so that they could continue the run. The son called out in alarm, "Dad, let's just walk around him!"

They took a wide semicircle around the snake and continued on their way. The rattler went on rattling, but the confrontation had been avoided. Here, the constraint was the assumption that the process of jogging demanded that they stay on the trail; the removal of the constraint permitted the run to continue without a potentially disastrous incident.

A Definition of TQM

TQM is a people-focused management system that aims at continual increase of customer satisfaction at continually lower real cost. This is a total system approach (not a separate area or program), and an integral part of high-level strategy; it works horizontally across functions and departments, involves all employees, top to bottom, and extends backward and forward to include the supply chain and the customer chain. TQM stresses learning and adaptation to continual change as keys to organizational success.

The foundation of TQM is philosophical: the scientific method. It includes systems, methods, and tools. The systems permit change; the philosophy stays the same. TQM is anchored in values that stress the dignity of the individual and the power of community action.

TQM is in one sense a highly democratic system, but it requires dedicated and informed leadership from senior management, leadership that is aware of the obstacles to successful implementation. TQM goes beyond specific improvements, however desirable these may be, to the transformation of organizations and organizational cultures from what they are today to something very different.

What Is In an Acronym?

TQM is only one of many acronyms used to label the management system that we have just described. Some of these acronyms are widely used, especially CQI for Continuous Quality Improvement. Others are specific to given companies or organizations. Three comments are in order:

* The substance that underlies the acronym is what matters.
* Labeling a given organization's activities by one of these acronyms does not in itself demonstrate that the organization is implementing the management system we are discussing.
* All the current acronyms could pass out of use without affecting the usefulness of the management system here described. An organization could implement the concepts without using any acronym at all.

Definition of Quality

This approach to TQM suggests that customer satisfaction -- even customer delight -- is a useful definition of "quality." Customer satisfaction has many dimensions, of which conformance to specifications is only one. In addition, in Building a Chain of Customers (New York: The Free Press, 1988), Richard Schonberger, distinguishes:

* performance*
* quick (some suggest "timely") response
* quick change expertise
* features*
* reliability*
* durability*
* serviceability*
* aesthetics*
* perceived quality*
* humanity
* value

The eight starred items are taken from a listing by David Garvin, Managing Quality: The Strategic and Competitive Edge (New York: The Free Press, 1988). Schonberger points out that the four unstarred items are not just variations or extensions of the first eight: they are basic and vital in their own right. Thus quality, considered carefully, includes more than has been traditionally subsumed in the term, certainly much more than conformance to specifications. Conformance to specifications is desirable -- essential -- when the specifications are aimed at achieving customer satisfaction.

But even more, quality becomes everyone's job; it cannot be delegated to inspectors or a quality assurance department. This is where personal quality fits in. This seems like a blinding glimpse of the obvious, but it does need to be discussed, elaborated, and, above all, made concrete in terms of what we do from day to day.

Manufacturing Quality and Service Quality

Much of the work and literature on TQM has been focused on manufacturing. Quality in manufacturing requires meeting or exceeding customer expectations by making products that consistently operate within customer-based specifications.

Although manufacturing quality and service quality are similar -- manufactured products are desired only to the extent that they provide services to customers -- it is easier to understand and visualize good quality in manufacturing. People nod their heads in assent when they hear about service quality, but they don't know how to go about making it happen.

From manufacturing experience, we know that managing quality has two key components: to count and reduce defects; and to measure and reduce cycle time, the time that it takes to complete a given process, such as the assembly of a car. These fundamentals carry over to services. If you do not address these two fundamentals, you will not achieve your quality objectives. Do a good job on these fundamentals, and t

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Roberts, Harry
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Roberts, Harry
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