Practical Applications of Total Quality Management (TQM) – Part I

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a philosophy of management that strives to make the best use of all available resources and opportunities through continuous improvement. TQM means achieving quality in terms of all functions of the enterprise. Many researchers attempted to analyze how IT and TQM can jointly add value to organizations and the purpose of this first post on TQM is to evaluate the practicality of TQM in an IT service. 

In this evaluation, a balance of the service management needs with the reality of bottom-line effectiveness is provided. The post also provides a list of critical success factors to consider in a change management initiative engaged by an IT service.

TQM in Practice

The essence of quality is to do it right the first time, and to satisfy customer requirements every time by involving everyone in the organization. The works of Crosby and his colleagues on the evolution of TQM cut across all pervasive philosophies of management. TQM has been a key business improvement strategy since the 1970s, as it has been deemed essential for improving efficiency and competitiveness. TQM aims to achieve an overall effectiveness which is higher than the individual outputs from the sub-systems such as design, planning, production, distribution, customer focus strategy, quality tools and employee involvement. This philosophy of management strives to make the best use of all available resources and opportunities through continuous improvement. 

As a management philosophy, TQM makes use of particular set of principles, practices, and techniques to expand business and profits and provides a bypass to enhanced productivity by avoiding rework, rejects, waste, customer complaints, and high cost. This can be achieved by emphasizing the organization’s commitment from data-driven, problem-solving approaches to quality accruing. 

The five basic pillars of TQM are: (a) top management commitment for quality enhancement, (b) customer centric advancements of processes and building a long-lasting trustworthy relationship between the organization and the customer, (c) relentless development by setting goals and deadlines, (d) benchmarking with several specific tools and quality-adding techniques, and (e) strengthening the employee base by concentrating at any stage of a process on quality, where customer satisfaction is stationed. Table 1 provides a summary of the key dimensions that constitute TQM.

Table 1: TQM key dimensions

TQM dimensions   Description
Top management leadership   Top management commitment is one of the major determinants of successful TQM implementation. Top management has to be the first in applying and stimulating the TQM approach, and they have to accept the maximum responsibility for the product and service offering. Top management also has to provide the necessary leadership to motivate all employees.
Customer relationships   The needs of customers and consumers and their satisfaction should always be in the mind of all employees. It is necessary to identify these needs and their level of satisfaction.
Supplier relationships   Quality is a more important factor than price in selecting suppliers. Long-term relationship with suppliers has to be established and the company has to collaborate with suppliers to help improve the quality of products/services.
Workforce management   Workforce management has to be guided by the principles of: training, empowerment of workers and teamwork. Adequate plans of personnel recruitment and training have to be implemented and workers need the necessary skills to participate in the improvement process.
Product design process   All departments have to participate in the design process and work together to achieve a design that satisfies the requirements of the customer, which should be according to the technical, technological and cost constraints of the company.
Process flow management   Housekeeping along the lines of the 5S concept. Statistical and non-statistical improvement instruments should be applied as appropriate. Processes need to be mistake proof. Self-inspection undertaken using clear work instructions. The process has to be maintained under statistical control.
Quality data and reporting   Quality information has to be readily available and the information should be part of the visible management system. Records about quality indicators have to be kept, including scrap, rework, and cost of quality.

 TQM and Change Management Initiative for IT Performance

A business firm achieves world-class status when it has successfully developed operational capabilities through TQM to support the entire company in gaining a sustained overall performance over its competitors. Although there is insufficient statistical evidence to conclude significant simple relationships between TQM and IT services quality performance, many studies investigated the notion that TQM practices provide approaches to improve the economic position in the service sectors in general. Both IT and TQM had, and will continue to have a significant impact on most organizations. I only regret the lack of empirical research on the relationship between the two and how they both relate to business performance.

Critical success factors for TQM implementation in an IT service are summarized in Table 2. The implementation of TQM in an IT service should facilitate the adoption of appropriate policies and procedures that enhance the eight categories of TQM.

Table 2: Critical success factors for TQM implementation

Categories Critical success factors
Leadership Top management leadership and commitment, supervisory leadership, organizational commitment.
Quality unit Role of quality unit, strategic quality management.
Empowerment Training, employees’ satisfaction, employees’ relations, teamwork structures for improvement, providing assurances for employees, education.
Supplier management Supplier quality management, supplier integration, external interface management, supplier partnerships.
Process management Product design, quality policy, quality improvement measurement systems, operating procedures, operational quality planning.
Quality of data Quality data reporting, quality information systems, technology utilization.
Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction orientation, people and customer management.
Communication Communication of improvement information, cross functional communications to improve quality.

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