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TQM Research Papers

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TQM (Total Quality Management) research papers, review that Total Quality Management is a significant advance over traditional Quality Control (QC) programs.  Traditional QC concerns itself with the number of final items found defective, replacing them with good items, or else negotiating the predicted failures into a supply contract. TQM, rather, seeks to eliminate defects altogether through a structured process of “root cause analysis” and “continuous improvement.”  The TQM process involves the entire organization’s horizontal personnel structure, which includes:TQM

Where QC tends to concentrate on individual points of failure, TQM views the individual points of failure as part of an overall systemic problem, and focuses on fixing the system as well as the failure points.

TQM requires the involvement and commitment of the entire company. Vertically, from the CEO down, management must allocate resources for training, group discussion, and change management. Decisions must be made which impact where money is invested in the business, what opportunity costs, (e.g. redirecting personnel and resources toward quality rather than design or product management,) are practical, and ultimately, how a company’s products or services are perceived by the market. If top management is not committed to making TQM a top priority, the efforts of those who are committed to TQM will fail to sustain a successful program.

Horizontally, TQM must be infused into all areas at the middle management and worker level. Design engineers must consider installation and maintenance. Product managers must consider manufacturing procedures. All efforts drive toward a standard of 99.9997% defect-free production.

Despite initial resistance, a number of American manufacturing firms sought to study and implement the managerial approaches of foreign competitors in order to duplicate their increased efficiency, productivity, and profitability.  Of particular interest was the highly developed managerial systems developed by Japanese manufacturers. The most ubiquitous of these, known as Total Quality Management, began to widely disseminated through the American corporate landscape in the early 1980s, initiating a sea change in the American paradigm of business leadership. This discussion will provide an overview of the principles and practices of Total Quality Management, with a particular focus on relating Total Quality Management to the realm of operations management.

The principles of Total Quality Management have been distilled from a highly complex and nuanced body of thought.  In spite of the best efforts of the hundreds of American popular business publications that have attempted to do so, Total Quality Management cannot be condensed into a few brief catch phrases. However, there is a fundamental unity of principle that can be observed in all of the workings of Total Quality Management theory and practice, and that is the necessity of inspiring deep and meaningful satisfaction among the consumers of the particular goods or services being offered.

Further, according to the precepts of Total Quality Management, this level of customer satisfaction can only be achieved and sustained through the diligent, dedicated efforts of the organization as a whole. This mandates that the arbitrary role divisions and organizational lines of demarcation that define many American corporations must be eradicated to allow the group to achieve the concert necessary to inspire profound customer satisfaction.

Although it is not politically correct today to associate certain abilities or lack thereof with different cultural traditions, many management experts point out that the collectivist heritage of Asian culture is readily apparent in the mechanisms of Total Quality Management. Conversely, because of the strongly individualistic nature of many workers within American business organizations, there is often a strongly distinctive role division that separates job responsibilities from one another, limiting the ability of some firms to achieve the degree of harmonious purpose necessary to achieve new levels of customer service.
Even despite the highly structured, horizontal organizational structure present in many Japanese business organizations, there is typically a much higher degree of empowerment at the level of individual employees. Whereas lower level staff members in many American organizations often lack the latitude necessary to achieve customer needs, this is not the case in Japanese companies, in which every position in the company is predicated upon the importance of attaining and cultivating customer satisfaction. Achieving this degree of unanimity within the organization is a major objective of Total Quality Management.

However, at the same time that customer satisfaction is of primary importance in the rubric of Total Quality Management, efficiency and cost-effectiveness are equally important components in achieving the full objectives of this managerial program. Through the assiduous application of quality improvement and process control, companies using Total Quality Management seek to eliminate all extraneous or redundant financial outlays. From the Japanese perspective, quality control is achieved through meticulous oversight of manufacturing and/or service processes.

Another closely related process that is important within the Total Quality Management approach is known as quality improvement. This refers to a period review of all of the practices and processes of an operation in order to eliminate any undue inefficiency or duplication. This, in turn, minimizes the stasis and complacency that can engender the lack of productivity that comes with the absence of systematic critical reflection. Many firms also often engage in periodic analyses of their competitors’ practices and procedures in order to potentially benefit from any advantage in the process that the competing firm may have implemented. Although the approach of Total Quality Management has obviously been beneficial for business organizations both in the United States and in Japan, as well as in many other countries where this paradigm has gained prevalence, many firms that have attempted to leverage the benefits of Total Quality Management have experienced significant problems. One phase of the process that has repeatedly proven to be difficult has been the implementation phase. While many academic and popular publications in the United States have extolled the benefits of Total Quality Management for American firms, both theorists and practitioners often underestimate the broad spectrum of challenges involved in successfully completing the implementation stage.

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