During the 1980s and into the 1990s, total quality management (TQM) which focuses on managing the total organization to deliver quality to customers, was at the forefront in helping managers deal with global competition. The approach infuses quality values throughout every activity within a company, with front line workers intimately involved in the process. Four significant elements of quality management are employee involvement focus on the customers benchmarking and continuous improvement.
Employee involvement means that TQM requires companywide participation in quality control. All employees are focused on the customer; TQM companies find out how others do something better than they do and then try to imitate or improve on it. Continuous improvement is the implementation of small, incremental improvements in all areas of the organization on an ongoing basis. TQM is not a quick fix, but companies such a Motorola, Procter & Gamble and DuPont have achieved astonishing results in efficiency quality, and customer satisfaction through total quality management. TQM is still an important part of today’s organizations. And many companies pursue challenging quality goals to demonstrate their commitment to improving quality. For example Six Sigma is a highly ambitious quality standard popularized by Motorola that specifies a goal of no more than 3.4 defects per million parts. Numerous companies including DuPont, Texas instruments, General electric and Nokia pursue Six Sigma quality standards.
New management thinking for turbulent times
All of the ideas and approaches discussed so far in this article go into the mix that makes up modern management. A recent book on management thinking indicates dozens of ideas and techniques in current use that can trace their roots to these historical perspectives. In addition, new concepts have emerged to address management challenges in today’s turbulent world. Organizations are experimenting with new ways of managing that more adequately respond to the demands of today’s environment and customers. Two current directions in management thinking are the shift to a learning organization and managing the technology driven workplace.
The learning Organization
One of the toughest challenges for managers today is to get people focused on adaptive change to meet the demands of a turbulent and rapidly changing environment. Many problems have no ready made solutions and require that people throughout the company think in new ways and learn new values and attitudes. This requires a new approach to management and a new kind of organization. Managers began thinking about the concept of the learning organization after the publication of Peter Senge’s book. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of learning organizations. Senge described the kind of changes managers needed to undergo to help their organizations adapt to an increasingly chaotic world. These ideas gradually evolved to describe characteristics of the organization itself. There is no single view of what the learning organization looks like. The learning organization is an attitude or philosophy about what an organization can become.
An organization in which everyone is engaged in identifying and solving problems enabling the organization to continuously experiment improve and increase its capability.
The learning organization can be defined as one in which everyone is engaged in identifying and solving problems, enabling the organization to continuously experiment, change and improve thus increasing its capacity to grow learn and achieve its purpose . The essential idea is problem solving, in contrast to the traditional organization designed for efficiency. In the learning organization al employees look for problems, such as understanding special customer needs. Employees also solve problems which mean putting things together in unique ways to meet a customer’s needs.
To develop a learning organization managers make changes in all the subsystems of the organizations Three important adjustments to promote continuous learning are shifting to a team based structure, empowering employees, and sharing information.