Worker Involvement – TQM

It is equally important that the techniques of total quality management be used to correct processes, rather than to blame people. Deming the pioneer of TQM believed that worker could identify many of the necessary corrections, given the appropriate knowledge and support from management. Employee involvement goes hand-in-hand with application of Shewhart’s techniques. Deming put these ideas together in a coherent system, and many consider him the founder of the quality movement. In appreciation for all that Deming did to rebuild its postwar production system, Japan named its highest quality award for him. The prestigious Deming Prize, created in 1951, is viewed as an indication of Japan’s commitment to quality.

Joseph Juran

At roughly the same time another American, Joseph Juran, also went to Japan. Juran had also worked with William Shewhart and was involved with developing the concepts of statistical process control. Some Japanese industrial leaders used his book, The Quality Control Handbook and invited him to Japan in 1954. While Juran’s ideas are close to Deming’s, the two disagree on the amount of change in management approach necessary to create a total quality system. Deming believes that the focus on quality requires nothing short of a revolution and provides a philosophy for guiding a big change effort. Juran believes that the change in quality can happen much like other shifts within a company that is, using the current framework for organizational decisions and actions. For instance, he describes a quality trilogy of quality planning quality control and quality improvement processes very familiar to managers. Juran acknowledges that managing for quality is not easy and requires important changes, but he does not believe it requires as great a managerial effort as Deming considered necessary.

Kaoru Ishikawa

While the work of Deming and Juran was important in systematizing ideas about quality and applying them to the rebuilding of the industrial base in Japan, many Japanese leaders also played key roles. Kaoru Ishikawa, for example made a series of important contributions to his native Japan. He is recognized for contributing to the emergence of quality circles, where workers meet to discuss suggestions for improvements. Many American companies initiated quality circles with hopes of emulating Japanese manufacturing success; they failed to understand however that much of the Japanese success with quality circles occurred because managers learned over time to take the workers’ suggestions seriously and to allow them to be implemented. Many US firms also failed to realize that quality circles did not emerge until the workers and managers had been trained in quality management tools and philosophy.

Another contribution of Ishikawa was his emphasis on focusing the total quality efforts on customers. He went so far as to suggest that the output of one department be given to another department as if they were customers. Such an approach fostered more intense communication and an attitude of service from one department to another, rather than the bureaucratic attitude of making one’s own department look good at the expenses of others. Motorola’s quality programs reflected the spirit of Ishikawa’s cooperative approach to quality.

Deming believed that to try for quality in everything that an organization does requires a change in philosophy. Consequently it is useful to look at his system as a total and encompassing philosophy of management.

A key imperative that underlies Deming’s approach to transforming management is that of learning to live without enemies. Fear erects barriers to improving companies, says Deming. He questions the basic assumption that high quality means higher prices, and asserts that constancy of purposes an unwavering focus on an organization’s mission coupled with statistical quality control and joy in work will drive ever improving quality forward and lower costs. Moreover, Deming believes that the manager’s job is to seek out and correct the causes of failure, rather than merely identify failures after they occur. The goal of Deming’s fourteen points therefore lies in altering the behaviors of managers and employees so that companies can become low cost, high quality, and highly productive suppliers of goods and services and places of work that honor and support the contributions of all organizational members. —