Many managers begin with the assumptions that where is a quality problem, the workers or some individual (manager or worker) is to blame. One of the hallmarks of a TQM approach is the questioning of assumptions. TQM implies that when there is a quality problem it begins in the boardroom and in the offices of the senior managers and others who do not take quality seriously enough. Deming is considered as a pioneer of Total Quality Management. For instance, Deming believes that until the system that is the cause of a particular failure in quality can be identified, management cannot do its job. It is every manager’s job to seek out and correct the causes of failure rather than merely identify failures after they occur and affix blame to someone. Probably the most famous of all Deming’s sayings is that 85 percent of an organization’s problems come from the systems and 15 percent from the workers.
When asked why Ford had made such progress on quality, Deming responded that the senior managers believed it was the most important part of their job, and acted on that belief. At Motorola, then CEO Robert Galvin ensured that quality issues were placed first on all executive board meeting agendas. He would leave shortly after quality issues were discussed before company financial performance was briefed. Galvin insists he spent 50 percent of his time on quality issues. The former CEO of Xerox, David Kearns, would hold up product launches for the most minor quality flaws, despite protests from sales organization. Roger Milliken, the CEO of Milliken and Company made certain that senior management, himself included, received comprehensive quality training before training lower level employees.
Having the support and attention of senior management remains a necessary condition for making TQM work in an organization, but without empowered employees it won’t go very far. Empowerment stands for a substantial change that businesses are implementing. It means letting employees make decisions at all levels of an organization without asking for approval from managers. The idea is quite simple: people who actually do a job whether it is running a complex machine or providing a simple service, are in the best position to learn how to do that job the best way. Therefore, when there is chance to improve the job or the systems of which a job is a part, people should make those improvements without asking for permission.
In 1985, there were 23 people in Velcro’s quality department. Most employees believed that quality was the responsibility of the quality department. To change this attitude top management empowered rank-and-file workers with the authority and tools necessary to improve quality. Velcro management opened channels of communication with workers on the factory floor. Quality became everyone’s job. By 1988, waste had been reduced by over 73 percent as a percentage of total manufacturing expenses. During the same time period, the number of people in the quality department dropped to 12 and their responsibilities shifted from inspection to teaching coaching and empowering.
The new GM Saturn plant in Tennessee represents GM’s all-out effort to out do Japanese competitors by implementing American TQM. Decisions are made by teams of people who will be affected by the decision. Every decision must receive at least 70 percent support from all of the team members; failing this, all parties must bring additional facts to the meeting. If the company does not meet its quality goals all members including managers, can lose up to 20 percent of their pay. In addition, employees can receive rewards for exceeding goals.
Seattle-based Satisfaction Guaranteed Eateries empowers its front line employees to take responsibility for actions once reserved for managers. Employees of the company’s five restaurants have been given the authority do what it takes to satisfy disgruntled customers. This policy, applying even to bush boys, allows front line employees to order free drinks or even pick up the entire dinner check for dissatisfied customers.