Roadmap for TQM

TQM, which involves a huge transformation in an organization, is an initiative about the entire organization’s quality, which refers to organizational excellence in whatever the organization chooses to have as its mission. Product or service quality may only be one of the results. A general roadmap for a TQM initiative may be as depicted.

TQM flows from the organization’s vision, mission and values. TQM is largely about ‘leadership’. It is basically about the top leaders causing other ‘leaders’ to be produced at all levels. It is about this team of leaders to imbibe a uniform organizational culture and values conducive to the production of required business results. The business results have to be planned, which means there should be a strategic plan drawn up prior to the start of the TQM initiative. Other point to note is that TQM is an ongoing activity. As the market changes, as the customer preferences change, the organization has to steer itself in accordance. As the top square in the figure shows, customer satisfaction and the key business results for the organization have to be simultaneously produced. One is not at the cost of the other.

Points of caution in TQM implementation:

1. TQM implementation should not be a half hearted activity. Full commitment from all levels of employees is essential for its success. Commitment is continued pursuit of goals/ tasks under all circumstances.
2. TQM requires the employees at all levels to undergo attitudinal, informational and skills training. Training the managers as well as the other non-managerial staff is essential to TQM’s proper implementation.
3. TQM should be a clearly directed activity with a definite goal towards which the organization would slowly but surely move. Therefore, there should be strategic plans and specific attainments chalked out. The goals should be clearly measurable for their quantum of realization. There should be clear metrics of the same.
4. TQM should be focused on the customer. Complete satisfaction of the customer is the aim. Other factors should not confuse or dilute this aim.
5. TQM is an ongoing activity, because the requirements/preferences of the customer may change.
6. TQM should also not lose its sights on key business results. Focusing on the customer can only be done if the organization is able to survive and produce sufficient returns on investment. As is amply clear, without an undiluted customer focus, the organization’s business results would suffer in the longer run, if not in the short run. Full attention to both customers and key business results is essential.

Criticism of TQM:

Despite TQM’s objective being pursuit of organizational excellence it has been criticized for a gradual change towards what the customer desires. Therefore, while it is radical in its aim of total customer satisfaction, its approach seems incremental. TQM is criticized on the count of not showing the same sense of urgency as Six Sigma which attempts at drastic changes.

Another criticism is that TQM is rather vague or imprecise in defining as to what needs to be achieved Total customer satisfaction as an objective is fine. But, does a TQM program translate that into exact requirements? TQM is accused of being platitudinous in this respect.

Another criticism is ‘general’ in nature. It is about the goal of any program of quality improvement. It says that any such program including TQM, attempts to reach the quality level expected by the customer. Accordingly to the critics, the customers may not know to expect better. Sharply new improvements in product performance or its features (or the services that go along with it) have rarely occurred through these basically ‘quality related’ initiatives. Noritaki Kano’s model may be referred to in this regard. Kano distinguishes between ‘basic quality’, ‘expected quality’, and ‘exciting quality’. Basic quality is that level of quality which the customer takes for granted (‘unspoken’ wants). If it is not met, customer will be dissatisfied; but, if it is provided, she does not become happy either. Expected quality represents those expectations which the customers consider explicitly. Not meeting these expectations also results in customer’s dissatisfaction. As the fraction of satisfied expectations increases, the customer dissatisfaction decreases. Thus, up to the expected quality level the situation is similar to the hygiene factors in Maslow’s Hierarchy. Exciting quality is that which is ‘unexpected’ by the customer. She is pleasantly surprised by the presence of those factors that belong to ‘exciting quality’.