A working definition for total quality management (tqm) researchers
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A working definition for total quality management (tqm) researchers A working definition for total quality management (tqm) researchers Document Transcript

  • Working Definition for Total Quality Management (TQM) Researchers William Johnson Miller Georgia State Universin, Total quality management represents a movement which is revolutioniz- ing the way business is done in the industrialized world. Using points of agreement between the writings of the quality gurus, this paper develops a definition of TQM to serve as a reference point for those interested in doing research on this important topic. Once in a generation, perhaps, something happens that profoundly changes the world and how we look at it. Business is no different. From time to time, some- one develops a new way of operation that spreads from industry to industry. Those who adapt, prosper; those who do not, disappear. Well known examples of such processes include the adoption of the factory system in the 18th century and the assembly line in the 20th century. Without question, total quality man- agement (TQM) is an innovation on this scale. -Chase & Aquilano, 1992, p. 186With the words above from Chase and Aquilano’s widely-used production/opera-tions management text setting the stage, this paper embarks on an exploration intoa topic, which over the last ten years, has led to a revolution in the way business isbeing done in America and throughout the world. Most of us are familiar with the story of Japan’s rise out of the ruins of WorldWar II to become a world leader in the manufacturing of products. This successwas driven in large part by a focus on quality as the fundamental basis for manag-ing the organization. Deming and Juran were among the first American qualityexperts who studied this “quality revolution” in the 1950s. In the early 1970sAmerican business was surprised by the superior performance of Japanese prod-ucts and realized that something must be done to profoundly change the way theydid business in order to maintain competitiveness. As a result Deming and Juranstudied Japanese manufacturing processes and were recognized as gurus of thisrevolution. They were consulted as to implementing these processes, and the rev-olution spread to America and the rest of the world (Chase & Aquilano, 1992).Direct all corre.pmdence m: William J. Miller, Georgia State University, College of Business, Department ofManagement, PO. Box 4014, Atlanta, GA 30303.4014.Journal of Quality Management, Vol. I, No. 2. pp. 149-159 ISSN: 1084.8568Copyright 0 1996 JAI Press Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved 149
  • 150 MILLER After a decade a confusing situation existed. A number of organizations invarious industries had taken steps to transform themselves according to the idealsof total quality management. The need to change to stay competitive was acknowl-edged. The goal of “quality management” was recognized. The missing elementwas a definition of the goal and steps to be followed to obtain the goal in terms ofa any given organizational and environmental context. Change always presentschallenges. A look at the literature reveals many books on “how to” implement TQM(Aguayo, 1990; Crosby, 1979, 1985, 1989; Cullen & Hollingham, 1987; Deming, 1986; the Ernst & Young Quality Consulting Group, 1990; Garvin, 1988; Gitlow& Gitlow, 1987; Ishikawa, 1985; Juran, 1989; Mizuno, 1988; Oakland, 1989;Price, 1990; Scherkenbach, 1991) as well as a considerable number of industryspecific and general business practitioner articles which discuss the merits andimportance of TQM programs. While both of these types of writings are very help-ful in encouraging organizations to adopt TQM and to provide guidance along theway, each has a situational specific set of issues to discuss or points to make whichmay be significantly different than the others. When taken as a whole, this litera-ture can be somewhat intimidating and confusing. This potential for confusion canalmost make one wonder if, in fact, the various writers are talking about the samething when they bring up the subject of TQM. One of the primary goals of TQM is the momentous task of totally transform-ing the way business is conducted throughout the world. It is not surprising thatthere are a wide variety of approaches and potential for confusion. Each of the var-ious authors seeks to make meaningful contributions toward assisting andencouraging the growth of the TQM movement. When faced with such variedideas and approaches, a natural question to ask is “what does the research show?”The literature discussed above takes the traditional practitioners’ approach bydescribing what is being done by means of case descriptions and then prescribingbased on those results. Unfortunately, the case approach is extremely subjectiveand does not bring an objective scientific approach to examining the various issueswhich are fundamental to the TQM area. Rephrasing the above question, then, one should ask, “what does the objective(scientific) research show?” The answer to this is difficult to discover becausemanagement scientists and other scholars who are responsible for conducting suchresearch have not been involved in this process. To emphasize this point, RobertKaplan of Harvard University concluded-after searching through a number of 1990 operations and business journals-that “virtually no research (had been) pub-lished on the subject (of TQM)” (Bemowski, 1991, pp. 37-42). This lack of involvement by the research community has not gone unnoticedby business leaders. In 1991 chief executives of six major U.S. corporations (Rob-inson et al., 1991) advocated the need for research on TQM in “An Open Letter:TQM on Campus.” In an effort to put their money where their mouth is, IBMannounced an incentive program late in 1991, stating that they would sponsor eightawards of $1 million each to universities which took steps to incorporate TQM intotheir research, operations and curricula (IBM Corporation, 199 1).JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT. Vol. I. No. 2, 1996
  • WORKING DEFINITION FOR TQM 151 This paper has been written to assist in the process of bringing scientificresearch to bear on TQM. Among a number of topics listed in a research agendaproposal by the Deming Center for Quality Management is “developing an agreed-upon definition or model for TQM” (Bemowski, 1991, pp. 37-42). Developing adefinition for TQM which can be accepted by all those who study and deal with thetopic seems to be a very important place to start. This paper represents an effort tocontribute to that process. THE IMPORTANCE OF DEFINITIONSWith a process which involves the use of rather complex conceptual constructs, itis vitally important that definitions be developed precisely and specifically. Theconcepts associated with TQM are no different. A look at the literature reveals thatconsiderable attention has been given by most authors to define terms. Most exist-ing works have been defined in terms of case descriptions and prescribing coursesof actions to immplement TQM programs based on these result, the definitionsdeveloped tend to be rather diverse in nature. While the definitions of TQM programs serve business professionals in casespecific situations, they are not univerisal. In case-specific situations terms aredefined by “what is.” For scientific research a definition must be flexible enoughon fundamental issues to fit many situations and precise enough to permitcomparisons. This can be demonstrated by examining the research process itself. With thegenerally accepted process of scientific research, researchers seek to study specificphenomena under a number of conditions and settings with the intention of testinghypotheses. Basic concepts must have a standardized definition so that results ofexperiments performed under varying settings and conditions can be comparedand replicated. Only then can generalizations be formulated. It serves no usefulscientific purpose for researchers to compare the results of studies which disagreeon fundamental issues. Such “apples versus oranges” comparisons are useless inthe area of scientific research. The goal of this paper is to develop a definition of the concept of TQM whichis specific enough to accurately represent the concept completely and broadenough to be acceptable to individual with diverse perspective involved in thisfield. TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENTExisting Definitions One way to approach the issue is to look at specific definitions of Total Qual-ity Management as they appear in the literature and to evaluate the relative meritsof the different definitions. Before proceeding with this approach though, it is nec-essary to clarify something about the literature. JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 1, No. 2. 1996
  • 152 MILLER The field of Total Quality Management is perhaps different than many areas.It has a few individuals who have so dominated theory development and imple-mentation processes in many organizations that they have achieved a specialstatus. In much of the literature these individuals are referred to as gurus. Thispaper will borrow the use of this term for purposes of convenience, implying onlythe positive connotations associated with important philosophical leaders in thefield. Generally, the three individuals considered to merit the title of guru are W.Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and Philip B. Crosby. The contributions ofDeming and Juran have continued to significantly impact the TQM movement inthe United States as well as Japan. Crosby’s contribution to TQM is primarily cen-tered in the United States: starting with his work in the early 60’s at MartinCompany, a missile manufacturer, and later, as Quality Director at I.T.T. In 1979 heformed a consulting firm which has been influential in assisting with the imple-mentation of quality management processes in a number of organizations in theUnited States. Garvin (1992, pp. 180- 190) and Oakland (1989, pp. 28 l-305) givean overview of these contributions and comparisons of their different approaches.Oakland includes Bill Conway, a disciple of Deming, as a fourth guru, but this isnot consistent with the rest of the literature, and therefore, will not be included inthis discussion. It would perhaps shorten this discussion considerably if each of the threegurus had a clearly stated definition of the term, Total Quality Management. Thisis not the case. In fact, a search of the writings of all three failed to reveal a singleinstance where any of them has even used the term. This being true, a less directroute in developing a definition of TQM will have to be taken in this paper. A search of the literature reveals two definitions for TQM which may be usedas a starting point. The first is offered by Chase and Aquilano, and defined from acustomer orientation perspective: “Total Quality Management may be defined asmanaging the entire organization so that it excels in all dimensions of products andservices that are important to the customer” (Chase & Aquilano, 1992, pp. 186-187). This definition by itself, is short and to the point (which is generally desirablein a working definition). On the negative side, however, it uses the word “manag-ing” to define a term which includes “management” so it could be improved. A second definition provided by John S. Oakland in his book Total QualityManagement follows: Total Quality Management is an approach to improving the effectiveness and flexibility of organizations as a whole. It is essentially a way of organizing and involving the whole organization; every department, every activity, every single person at every level. For an organization to be truly effective, each part of it must work properly together, recog- nizing that every person and every activity affects, and in turn is affected by, others. TQM is a method for ridding people’s lives of wasted effort by involving everyone in the processes of improvement; improving the effectiveness of work so that the results are achieved in less time. The methods and techniques used in TQM can be applied throughout the organization. They are equally useful to finance, sales, marketing, distri-JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. I, No. 2, 1996
  • WORKING DEFINITION FOR TQM 153 bution, development, manufacturing, public relations, personnel, to every one of a com- pany’s activities (Oakland, 1989, pp. 14-15). While the considerable length of this second definition limits its suitability asa working definition, it does present an interesting contrast to the previous defini-tion. This definition gives greater emphasis to the inside of the organization.Looking at the first definition alone, one could conclude that total quality manage-ment focuses only on dimensions of products and services that are important to thecustomer. This implies that efforts to improve the quality of other processes withinthe organization other than those that directly impact on the customer should notbe considered as important to TQM. In contrast, the second definition fails to takethe customer into account at all, except to the extent that an “effective organiza-tion” should serve a customer’s needs more “effectively.” The exuberance of thesecond definition also implies something that is missing from the first one, namelythat TQM is larger that just an organizational program. It suggests that TQM is aphilosophy which will bring about improvements not only to the organization, butalso to individual’s lives. AN APPROACH TO A DEFINITIONSince the gurus have no commonality of definition of TQM, and since the two def-initions given lack agreement of perspective (one limited to the customer, onelimted to the organization), further steps will need to be taken in developing a suit-able definition. It is clear that no simple definition will suffice, if for no other rea-son than the term consists of three complicated words, total, quality andmanagement. To further complicate this process is the fact that TQM is supposedto result in the complete transformation of business in the world as we know it. Issues of complexity are sometimes best approached in an incremental man-ner; therefore, this definition will be put together by looking at one segment at atime: beginning with the central concept, quality, around which the other two con-cepts revolve. With each concept a look will be taken at what the three gurus sayin hopes of finding commonalities. With this method it is anticipated that a wholedefinition can be developed which will adequately describe what is meant by TQMand be consistent with what its primary “experts” have stated.QUALITY Defined The definition of quality is something that has been given considerable atten-tion in the literature. The most significant point is that it is a multi-dimensionalconcept which depends in large part upon the orientation of the individualinvolved. To give an example of the range of definitions, Garvin (1988, pp. 40-68)has identified five basic terms that constitute a definition of “quality:” transcen-dental, product based, user based, manufacturer based, and value based. In hisdiscussion he explains how individuals from different departments within the orga-nization define the concept of quality, based on their different perspectives. (For JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. I, No. 2. 1996
  • 154 MILLERexample, marketing takes a user based orientation, while engineering and manu-facturing takes a manufacturing based orientation toward quality.) Garvin proceedsto further describe quality (making the task of developing a simple working defi-nition even more difficult) by identifying eight dimensions across which productquality can be viewed: performance, features, reliability, conformance, durability,serviceability, aesthetics, and perceived quality. It should also be recognized that Garvin has devoted most of his attention toquality as it relates to the manufacturing sector. Parasuraman, Zeithalm, and Berry(1988) have identified an entirely different set of dimensions for service industries.These has been identified by: tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, andempathy. With the basic understanding that quality is a multi-dimensional concept let uslook at what the gurus have to say. Deming’s discussion of quality follows: What is quality? Quality can be defined only in terms of the agent. Who is the judge of quality? In the mind of the production worker, he produces quality if he can take pride in his work. Poor quality, to him, means loss of business, and perhaps of his job. Good quality, he thinks, will keep the company in business. All this is as true in the service industries as it is in manufacturing. Quality to the plant manager means to get the numbers out and to meet specifications. His job also, whether he knows it or not, continual improvement of processes and con- tinual improvement of leadership . The problems inherent in attempts to define quality of a product, almost any product were stated by the master, Walter A. Shewhart. The difficulty in defining quality is to translate future needs of the user into measurable characteristics, so that a product can be designed and turned out to give satisfaction at a price that the user will pay (Deming, 1986, pp. 168-169). To summarize then, quality for Deming is itself something relevant only to theindividual who is judging and will represent different things to different people(echoing Garvin’s point above that quality is a multi-dimensional, perspective-based concept). Important characteristics which are also involved in the qualityconcept are meeting specifications, continual improvement, and designing andproviding products which provide satisfaction to the customer. To emphasize this last point, Gitlow and Gitlow (1987, p. 35) who explicateDeming’s philosophy define quality: “Quality must be thought of as a customer-oriented philosophy. Quality should be defined as ‘surpassing customer needs andexpectations throughout the life of the product.“’ Presenting a different perspective, Crosby defines quality as follows: The first erroneous assumption is that quality means goodness, or luxury, or shininess, or weight. The word ‘quality’ is used to signify the relative worth of things in such phrases as ‘good quality,’ ‘bad quality,’ and the brave new statement ‘quality of life.’ ‘Quality of life’ is a cliche’ because each listener assumes that the speaker meansJOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1996
  • WORKING DEFINITION FOR TQM 155 exactly what he or she, the listener, means by the phrase. It is a situation in which indi- viduals talk dreamily about something without ever bothering to define it. That is precisely the reason we must define quality as ‘conformance to requirements’ if we are going to manage it . “ Requirements must be clearly stated so that they cannot be misunderstood. Mea- surements are then taken continually to determine conformance to those requirements. The nonconformance detected is the absence of quality. Quality problems become non- conformance problems, and quality becomes definable. All through this book, when- ever you see the word ‘quality,’ read ‘conformance to requirements”’ (Crosby, 1985, p. 17). Based on this discussion, according to Crosby, quality is conformance torequirements, which seems to be closely allied with Deming’s reference to “meet-ing specifications.” Implied in this, although unstated, is to whom the requirementsare directed: the customer. In a later work Crosby (1989, p. 76) mentions “cus-tomer requirements” as the goal to which one strives in pursuit of quality. Juran provides the most detailed and probably most helpful definition of qual-ity for our purposes. He states: Reaching agreement on what is meant by quality is not simple. (The dictionary lists about a dozen definitions.) For managers, no short definition is really precise, but one such definition has received wide acceptance: quality is fitness for use. This definition provides a short, comprehensive label, but it does not provide the depth needed by managers to choose courses of action. On closer examination we discover that fitness for use branches out in two rather different directions (Juran, 1989, pp. 15-16). The two branches of quality Juran refers to are product features that meet cus-tomer needs and freedom from deficiencies. With this definition of quality thecharacteristics emphasized by Deming (designing a product which will meet orsurpass customer requirements) and Crosby (avoiding nonconformance problemsor deficiencies) are both included. For the purposes of this paper, then, fitness for use, to the extent that it impliesthat products and services produced by an organization are designed to meet therequirements of the customer and are actually made to match those standards, canserve as a definition of quality which is consistent with the ideas of the gurus, andtherefore, this component of the definition of TQM is provided.TOTAL Defined In order to understand the total aspect of TQM, a second look at Japan in the1950’s can be taken. Feigenbaum developed the concept of “Total Quality Con-trol” (TQC) by which quality improvement is taken from its traditional place onthe shop floor to spread its influence throughout the organization (Garvin, 1988, p.183). Feigenbaum states: JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1996
  • 156 MILLER Total quality control’s organization-wide impact involves the managerial and technical implementation of customer-oriented quality activities as a prime responsibility of gen- eral management and of the main-line operations of marketing, engineering, production, industrial relations, finance, and service as well as of the quality-control function itself (P. 13). In Japan, Feigenbaum’s ideas were transformed into a different version ofTotal Quality Control which has been referred to as “Company-Wide Quality Con-trol” (CWQC) (Garvin, 1988, p, 191). The primary difference betweenFeigenbaum’s TQC and the Japanese CWQC is that instead of quality being theresponsibility of an elite group of professionals in the quality control department,the Japanese version requires all individuals in the organization to be responsiblefor quality. In addition, CWQC focuses on continuous improvement and a strongcustomer orientation (Garvin, 1988, pp. 19 I - 192): two concepts which were men-tioned in the above discussion of quality. Deming’s 14 points, as they focus heavily on taking steps to transform theorganizational culture to support the quality management system, are strongly con-sistent with this notion of involving everyone in the organization in the process ofcontinuous improvement. Such concerns as driving out fear, removing barriers,and providing training to all are just a few examples of this (Deming, 1986, pp. 23-90). Crosby’s support of this notion of everyone’s involvement in the quality pro-cess can be seen by looking at the second point of his “Quality Vaccine:” theprocess by which management brings a new orientation toward quality to theorganization. The second point, “education” is described as: “the process of help-ing all employees have a common language of quality, understand their individualroles in the quality improvement process, and have the special knowledge avail-able to handle antibody creation” (Crosby, 1989, pp. 7-10). Clearly it can be seenthat Crosby’s perception of quality management includes everyone in theorganization. Juran’s support for the involvement of everyone in the organization is evi-denced by his use of a pyramid with strategic quality management at the top,operational quality management in the middle, and the work force and quality atthe bottom by which his quality management system is implemented (Juran, 1989,p. 177). Chapters 6,7, and 8 of his book, Juran on Leadership for Quality, are orga-nized along these lines. Juran (1989, p. 17) brings another aspect to total which further clarifies theconcept, with respect to our discussion of the quality and the need to design a prod-uct or service which will meet or exceed customer requirements. Since the totalconcept involves everyone in the organization, a question which must be asked ishow can employees who do not deal directly with customers become involved inthe quality process? The answer to this is provided by the concept of the customersbeing identified as both external and internal. With this notion of customers beinganyone for which one produces a product or provides a service, involvement in theprocess of quality management can indeed be considered total.JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 1. No. 2. 1996
  • WORKING DEFINITION FOR TQM 157MANAGEMENT Defined According to Webster, two definitions of management are “the art or act ofmanaging: the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)” and “judi-cious use of means to accomplish an end” (1981, p. 691). With the first definitionit is apparent that management in TQM can be seen as a means of conducting (orrunning a) business. Most importantly this brings out that TQM is management ofthe entire organizations, and as such, control of this process resides at the top orstrategic apex of the organization. Management at the strategic level is customarilyfocused on a long range perspective. Deming’s first point is that top management is responsible for taking actionwhich will allow TQM to proceed (Gitlow & Gitlow, 1987, pp. 13-26). SimilarlyCrosby’s first step requires the commitment (in word and deed) of senior manage-ment to the quality process (Crosby, 1989, p. 101). Finally Juran, as mentionedabove, focuses on top management in his discussion of the strategic quality man-agement at top of the pyramid (Juran, 1989, p. 177). The second definition of management above, relating to the means to accom-plish an end, brings out the aspect of TQM upon which the primary disagreementsbetween the gurus occur. Each of the three recommends different methods forbringing the concepts of TQM to the organization. The purpose of this paper is tofocus on the similarities rather than the differences between the gurus; therefore,the discussion here will be limited to a statement that the management conceptinvolves a set of specific steps toward accomplishing the goals of transforming theorganization. The relative value of the different specific tools prescribed by thegurus can be judged better later after the process of objective scientific researchhas been underway for some time. A DEFINITION OF TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENTBased on the foregoing discussion, the following definition for TQM can be pos-tulated: An ongoing process whereby top management takes whatever steps nec- essary to enable everyone in the organization in the course of perform- ing all duties to establish and achieve standards which meet or exceed the needs and expectations of their customers, both external and inter- nal. Thus, a definition has been developed which is based those concepts whichare commonly shared by the preeminent authorities or gurus in the field. It isoffered as a contribution to the effort to bring a more scientific, research-oriented,theory developing, hypothesis testing approach to the study of TQM. Definitionsof this sort are an important starting point. Others involved in the field are invited to critically evaluate the above defini-tion so that inadequacies can be resolved and general agreement can be reached onthe issue. In addition these individuals are challenged to continue this process with JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT. Vol. 1. No. 2. 1996
  • 158 MILLERfurther efforts of definition formulation, as well as theory, proposition, and hypoth-esis development. Such efforts are very much needed with regard to encouragingthe research process in this area of study which is having such an extensive impacton organizations throughout the world. It should be mentioned that this definition has been developed from a purelytheoretical basis without taking into account TQM as it is actually being practiced.An alternative approach to understanding TQM would be to identify certain orga-nizations that are generally accepted as practicing exceptional quality managementand then study the characteristics and practices shared by such organizations. As aresult of this process a definition could be derived that defines TQM in terms ofspecific characteristics, approaches, and practices. A few issues that might need tobe considered are specific characteristics of organizations (size, financial situation,industry), approaches to managing quality (formal process as recommended byDeming, Juran, or Crosby versus modified programs, approach to implementation-top down versus bottom up, amount of time involved in the process), and practices(SPC tools, team development, management support, extensive training, qualitycircles, employee empowerment). The benefit of such an alternative approach to a definition would be that itwould account for the gap between the intentions of those who implement TQMand the reality of such implementations. To a considerable extent, however, TQMwhile intended for application in real organizations is largely based on ideals thatorganizations must strive continuously to achieve. The theory-based definition ofTQM developed in this discussion is an appropriate place for researchers to start. In addition to the development of definitions such as the one presented here,researchers must develop and test models of quality management. Such modelsshould identify characteristics, approaches, and practices utilized by organizationsthat successfully manage quality. There is considerable need for a clearer under-standing of which quality management practices are most important under whatcircumstances. For example, some organizations may use SPC tools and otherquality management techniques extensively, yet might not make changes to estab-lish a culture consistent with that recommended by TQM theory. On the other handother organizations might have a culture consistent with that of TQM, yet mightnot utilize SPC tools and other specific quality management techniques. It has yetto be proven empirically whether (contrary to theory which would suggest thatboth are required for TQM) either of these approaches may under certain circum-stances lead to the successful management of quality. Models should also be developed and tested that examine the impact of qual-ity management in terms of quality performance and overall organizationalperformance across a number of organizations. It is possible that as result of thedevelopment and testing of these models gaps might be found not only between theideals of quality management theory and actual practices but also between theexpected impact of quality management practices on quality performance andorganizational performance. The definition of TQM presented here can perhapshelp focus interpretation of such gaps and enhance understanding which can leadto better research on the management of quality in organizations.JOURNAL OF QUALITY MANAGEMENT, Vol. 1, No. 2, I996
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