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The total quality approach

  The words "total quality" were coined after World War 11 when General Douglas MacArthur sent Dr. W. Edwards Deming to Japan to help rebuild its economy. After pondering how to best aid the Japanese, Deming introduced a concept called Statistical Quality Control, also known as Total Quality Management (TQM) or Total Quality Leadership.

The Japanese adopted Deming's concepts, and he is globally recognized as the person who enabled the Japanese to rebuild so quickly and to become one of the top industrial and technological powers in the world.

Deming's approach wasn't overly complex. In essence, he offered an alternative way of viewing organizations, organizational cultures, and people. His writings, based on four beliefs and a set of 14 points, form a common sense, but seemingly elusive management philosophy. His beliefs are transferable to even very small businesses and organizations that are concerned with high quality performance and service delivery.

Deming's Four Beliefs

PSYCHOLOGY: All people are purposeful, cognitive beings with an intrinsic desire to learn and be innovative. Each individual has the right to enjoy his or her work and be successful. Managers should hire people with appropriate attitudes and behaviors and also seek deliberately to train new employees and existing employees in accordance with high quality performance indicators.

SYSTEMS: All organizations should be viewed as systems whose activities must be aimed at fulfilling the mission of the organization. The task of management is to optimize the whole. All staff and all departments are crucial to total quality management, and all should unerringly pull in the same direction with carefully laid down job descriptions. Ensure your policies, products, and anything else that influences customer perceptions are TQM friendly. 

PERCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: Knowledge is constructed within a framework of beliefs. Everyone in the organization needs to understand and work within the same framework. Just as employees are expected to know an organization’s mission and purpose, so, too, should each employee know service expectations and be trained to achieve them. Differing perceptions of what is expected is a prescription for different service delivery (some may not be good).

CAUSES OF VARIANCE: 80-90 percent of variation from expected outcomes is a result of problems within the organization, or system, not to the people in the organization. To lessen occurrence of variation, change the system/organization. This means that it is up to managers to design service structures and operating systems and to ensure that unwanted variances are quickly identified and corrected. Poor service is a sign of a loss of focus by management.

As with systems, causes of variance are management controlled. For example, in this listing of quality service criteria, note how many are under the control of management, not rank-and-file staff and yet it is often staff who catch front-line blame from customers and users of services and products:

  • Price/value for money
  • Consistency
  • Accessibility
  • Reliability
  • Staffing levels
  • Staffing qualities
  • Health and Safety
  • Security
  • Cleanliness/hygiene
  • Availability
  • Provision for individual needs
  • Ambience

Deming's beliefs emphasize the need for managers to value people and to create a positive philosophy and culture. His beliefs also place responsibility for inferior product or service squarely on the shoulders of managers themselves. Deming was convinced that effective business management requires specific knowledge, and he cautioned against winging it with ill-considered or superficial management strategies and plans. He said:

 "Hard work and best efforts, put forth without guidance of profound knowledge, may well be at the root of our ruination... We are being ruined by best efforts directed the wrong way. We need best efforts directed by a theory of management."

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