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Is Total Quality Management (TQM) a major or minor change in your organisation?
Created on 2020-08-31 20:29
Published on 2020-08-31 21:02
The above question was one of my research survey questions. The title of my research was: ‘An investigation and comparison of attitudes of managers towards TQM’.
This article is written as a request from Mr Mohamed Salaheldin, PhD Industrial Engineering. Quality and Energy Efficiency Improvement Manager, who is interested in the topic of Total Quality Management (TQM). In this article, I will share the findings of my research, which was ‘An investigation and comparison of attitudes of managers towards TQM’.
This is not recent research, but, surprisingly, it is still relevant and resonates with many mangers and organisations trying to implement TQM. This was my postgraduate research ‘An investigation and comparison of attitudes of managers towards TQM’. The companies were based in the UK.
The sample of the study was manufacturing companies, and I also interviewed TQM consultants and TQ managers.
Why I chose this topic? TQM is an essential organisational tool that focuses on continuous quality improvement of products and services and pays attention to ‘internal’ and ‘external’ customers. But, very few studies looked at the psychology and attitudes to TQM, that is, how do employees and managers feel about TQM and what was their attitude towards it? As human beings, our attitudes are important – to a person or a thing.
In psychology, ‘attitude’ refers to a set of emotions, beliefs and behaviours, it could be toward an object, person, thing or also an event. As TQM is a philosophy, a way of work and serving customers, it is to do with organisational culture, therefore, understanding and finding out attitude towards TQM in organisations (public or private companies) should be a priority for organisations.
TQM is essentially about the culture of an organisation.
Organisations need people and TQM can only be successful through people with the right attitudes to TQM and those leaders who understand what the TQM philosophy is about.
The importance of psychology in TQM was highlighted by Deming, in his ‘system of profound knowledge’, he describes four interrelated parts, emphasising that it is also necessary to understand human interactions.
1 Appreciation for a system
2 Knowledge of statistical theory
3 Theory of knowledge
4 Knowledge of psychology
There is a spectrum of different aspects of attitudes in TQM, such as attitudes to quality, customer, zero defects, participative management, training etc.. I had to be selective because to look at all the areas would be beyond the scope of my research.
I will mention here the following 8 areas that I carried out my research survey:
1 The change to TQM
4 Employee participation
6 Areas which managers felt the training was important
7 The best things about TQM
8 The worst things about TQM
It will not be possible to share everything here in this article.
For those readers who are interested to learn more about TQM, please send me a message. I am designing bite-sized programmes for the learning organisation.
But, these are some insights and key takeaways that I am sharing here and hope this will be helpful.
A. All organisations have internal culture and this influences the behaviour of people working in the organisations. Becker (1982) defines organisational culture as ‘a system of shared meaning held by members that distinguish the organisation from other organisations.’
This system of shared meaning is a set of characteristics that the organisation values and this is important to remember.
B. A strong culture in an organisation is characterised by the organisation’s core values being intensely and widely shared. Here is the thing which is very important – I teach this to leaders, if employees accept the core values, the greater their commitment is to those core values, the stronger the organisational culture becomes! Leaders need to examine the core values – they must be meaningful to employees so that they can accept the values!
This also depends on the strategies of the organisation regarding managing change and supporting employees.
C. Considering the definition of organisational culture, TQM culture can be viewed as a system of ‘shared meaning’ for organisations and its people who believe in TQM principles.
As TQM means that quality awareness and practice must extend to all aspects of an organisation’s activities and should not be restricted to just unacceptable products or services, it, therefore, extends not only to all customers (internal and external) but also to suppliers, sub-contractors and stakeholders.
D. Internal customer can be a new concept for many employees. Leaders need to make sure this is understood by everyone and the relation of this with regards to the ‘quality chains.’
Throughout the organisations, whether it is manufacturing, banks, retail stores, hospitality, health sector, there is a series of ‘quality chains’. There is a danger of this being broken at any point by one person or one piece of equipment, not meeting the requirements of the customer, ‘internal or external’.
So, failure in any one part of the chain may create problems elsewhere, leading to yet more failure and more problems.
E. TQM is, therefore, about chains of quality inputs and outputs throughout the organisation, leading to ‘zero defects.’ Hence, the attitude in TQM organisations is that every job and process must be carried out right, first time, every time.
F. People need training in various aspects of TQM and managing change. It is important to remember that whenever a change is initiated – ‘resistance’ is normal. Leaders need to understand the ‘emotions’ of resistance and help people move to new levels of excellence and service, allowing mental and emotional adjustment, leading to ‘psychological empowerment’ (Huq, 2015).
Summary of conclusions.
The conclusion of my study was that there still existed a large gap between the philosophy of TQM and the attitudes of the people in the sample interviewed, with regards to the indicators in my survey, which did not match with the TQM principles, particularly, what the ‘quality gurus’ described it to be.
There were differences in attitudes and understanding of the aspects of TQM in both organisations. For example, number one in the survey, which was, ‘the change to TQM’, 60% of managers in both the case studies, agreed that TQM was a minor change – this suggests that the attitude to TQM was seen as minor, despite the several new concepts in TQM, such as, ‘internal and external customer’, ‘zero defects’, ‘right first time’, ‘quality chain’.
Managers did not grasp that TQM is a major change. This could be that there was a lack of understanding of how to implement TQM, or that managers were not consulted during the decision-making process from the beginning and they felt excluded and disempowered. Employee participation and empowerment was not seen something that was taken seriously by senior management.
There were several ‘worst thing about TQM’ from my survey scale, such as, the attitudes of senior management who seem to give TQM ‘lethargic’ support and employees did not like TQM associated with buzz words and slogans and the fact that many remarked TQM was lip service, suggests that there are dangers of TQM being seen as a fad.
However, there were some positive remarks in the area of ‘best things about TQM’, where some middle managers felt very enthusiastic about teamwork, employee participation, empowerment and leadership, but it needs to be highlighted that this was not how senior management felt.
Unsurprisingly, my research also revealed that there was a considerable demand by managers, for training in stress management and people management, and so the current conclusion highlights that not a lot has changed, even today, these areas, that is, stress management and people management are still on high demand.
It will be interesting to know in the current times, during the pandemic and the digital era, what are the difficulties and problems organisations are facing with regards to TQM? Does attitude to TQM matter? What do you think?
Please share your thoughts.
Becker, H.S. (1982) Culture: A Sociological View. Yale Review, Summer, 1982.
Deming, W. E. (1986) Out of the Crisis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study.
Huq, R. A., (2016), The Psychology of Employee Empowerment. Concepts, Critical Themes and a Framework for Implementation. Routledge. London. UK.
Thank you for reading, until the next #HuqPost
© Dr Rozana Huq, August 2020
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