CHAPTER SIX: STRATEGIES
When "Good Enough" Isn't Good Enough,
Core Ideas of Total Quality
© by Ends of the Earth Learning Group 1998
Linda Turner and Ron Turner
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Total Quality approaches are based on the four key concepts of: commitment to
continuous improvement, adoption of a customer focus, systems thinking, and
The strategies used vary significantly, in part because no two organizations are
identical, and in part because people of good will don't always agree as to the best
W. Edwards Deming consolidated his thoughts into 21 recommendations which Deming labeled his "Fourteen Points and Seven Deadly Diseases" (Out of the Crisis). Deming's writings are used by many organizations who self-describe themselves as Deming advocates. Deming commented once, though, that in spite of his worldwide renown, no one had adopted all of his recommendations.
CHANGES IN LEADERSHIP STYLE
Leadership's role in Total Quality is to take charge of creating the new organizational culture that encourages continuous improvement and a customer focus.
This usually means that leadership will delegate more decisions than in the past, use teams and consensus decision making for the most important issues facing the organization, spend more time on long range strategic planning, and spend less time on day-to-day operations.
Along with these changes, there typically is a flattening of the organizational chart with fewer supervisors overall. The typical American non-TQM organization has one boss for every seven workers. Advanced Total Quality organizations have only one boss for thirty-two workers.
USE OF DATA
Once the significance of variation is understood, the need for more data becomes self-evident. Instead of "shooting from the hip" with the assumption that even a little data can reveal special causes, everyone in the organization is expected to start patiently gathering more data before implementing changes.
This requires training in data collecting tools and analysis of data.
Some of the more common tools that are taught include flow charts, fishbone charts, SPC charts, check sheets, and Pareto Graphs.
There are also several varieties of planning tools that leadership usually masters as well, such as Hoshin Planning and SWOT Analysis. Moving to fact-based decision making requires more than simple commitment. Ongoing training in the tools must also take place.
Perhaps the most significant data that will start being used in decision making is data regarding customer satisfaction. Instead of assuming that they know what customers want, organizations will start asking customers on an ongoing basis questions about customer current needs, future needs, and how well the organization is meeting needs. For problem solving in general, teams and leadership will have to the master the habit of asking, "Where's the data?" Decisions will be delayed in order to get the right kinds of information. No longer will shot-gun decisions be permitted.
Systems thinking leads inevitably to the conclusion that there must be more teamwork. These teams will consist of a combination of functional work groups that may include self-managed (or self-directed) teams and cross-functional work groups that include all departments and offices involved in a single process.
EVALUATION SYSTEMS, PAY, AND PROMOTIONS
This is the area of most controversy among Total Quality consultants. Deming advocated giving up the annual evaluation and with it merit pay and Management-by-Objectives (MBO). Deming felt they only created fear and put roadblocks in the way of learning and taking a systems approach to problem solving.
Many Total Quality organizations have refused to go along with Deming in this regard. Nonetheless, they usually try to take into account some of Deming's concerns. Bonus systems are frequently instituted that weight group efforts more than individual efforts. Evaluation systems have moved toward 360 degree evaluations that bring in feedback from peers, subordinates, and customers as well as from supervisors.
Most Total Quality organizations will also shift from having many specialists to having generalists who can cross-cover one another. This leads to pay systems with fewer calibrations and pay levels. This sometimes leads to narrowing of the gap between the highest and lowest paid people in the organization.
As the total number of supervisor slots shrink, people sometimes are rewarded with pay raises for moving sideways in organizations. This encourages cross-functional thinking and helps break down departmental barriers.
Continuous improvement requires time and education. Most Total Quality organizations will commit to higher training budgets and will take time out of the work day for training. A minimum of two hours per week should be set aside for training and meetings. This means reduced production hours, but in the long run the trade-off is more efficient people and systems.
Adoption of a customer focus will mean much more attention will be given to customers than in the past. This may include better, more comprehensive warranties. It may include ongoing feedback about how things are going. It will also probably include development of long term partnering relationships when possible.
As part of the organization's customer focus, complaint resolution systems are usually developed both for taking care of customer problems as well as for identifying areas in which improvement efforts need to be focused. Frequently as part of training in customer relationships, the relationships with internal customers also change. In this regard, the same basic principles used in regard to external customers are applied to internal customers.
Typically Total Quality strategies call for reduced numbers of suppliers in order to
reduce the variation of inputs being used as well as to make it easier to develop long
term relationships in which continuous improvement is pursued.
Supplier certification programs may be started in which suppliers must demonstrate
they have adopted a customer focus, are committed to continuous improvement, and
have started documenting how well their processes are functioning.
Supplier-partners are those firms that are closest to their customers. Partners participate in planning and sit on many cross-functional improvement teams. In exchange for guaranteed business, these partners usually open their books to customers in order to assure the customers that the suppliers are not exploiting their single-supplier relationship.
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