Role of top management in continuous improvement


Total Quality coupled with Continuous improvement is a mindset. Identifying problems is half solving the problems which again linked with a mindset. Total Quality management has its seeds in cultural change. Cultural change for Total Quality means creating an atmosphere of improvement free from blame and fear, where individuals can concentrate on applying their minds towards continuous beneficial changes.

Almost every company finds a scapegoat—their own culture, when they begin to lose established markets or their profitability and turnover graphs look down. Cultures cannot be changed with slogans and the good intentions of management. It requires individuals to expose the weakness in their own department and sections at the cost of ridicule, and look upon these weaknesses as problems needing creative solutions. This cannot be the act of a few individuals, but each and every member of management must necessarily go through this process.

A core group of professionals called ‘Facilitators’ belonging to various functional areas of the organization are formed to propel the activity for achieving Total Quality Management. The facilitators take the risks accept the ridicule, and the pressures of traditional organizations, including politicization, as a part of the process of meaningful change. A manual from each department is prepared which is called ‘Process of eliminating losses’ (PEL). This manual reflects the act of courage of individuals to expose their weaknesses and use this as a reference point for improvement and growth.

Top management cannot ignore these cases which can amount to a few million dollars for some organizations. PEL gives the basis on which to act and bring beneficial changes. While traditional Accounting system have stood the test of time as instrument of financial control, they have not been able to unearth the costs of not doing the right things right the first time. But the accounting system will continue to play tits role in holding onto the gains, once achieved.

To sustain and add fuel to the process of continuous improvement, management must take policy decisions to reward the Right Behavior. Management must be alert in identifying the wrong behavior and taking necessary action if such behavior is detrimental for total quality management.

In terms of Total Quality it means the following:

1. Management must reward performance, not non-performance.

2. Group performance, not individual performance must be rewarded, since conditions have now arisen where revolutionary improvements to complex problems cannot be made by one individual.

3. Though money is a motivator in the short run, the REAL motivators for individuals arise out of genuine acceptance of their contributors, by making a virtue of it.

4. An executive is paid a salary to do his job. Rewards, however, must be given only for improving past performance with a mindset that does not accept present levels, however high they may be, as acceptable tomorrow’s job.

5. No management can preach what it does not practice. Too many people see through this too fast.

This process of Total Quality is not just a theory. Quality cannot be delegated. It is an intrinsic function of top management. If you delegate it, you will kill it. The top management and the heads of department must act on the PEL manuals compiled by different functional areas taking them as the basis for evolving a company wide Annual Quality Improvement Plan, to put into motion and sustain a culture which values continuous improvement.

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