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TQM Best Practices: 9-ICIT
In 2004 the annual conference on ISO 9000 and TQM (9-ICIT) was held in Bangkok, Thailand and the theme, quite appropriately, was “TQM best practices” to emphasis further development of ISO 9000 and TQM in the new millennium. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (Thailand), and the Hang Seng School of Commerce (Hong Kong). It was supported by a number of internationally renowned universities and institutions such as Asahi University (Japan), European Centre for TQM (UK), National Quality Institute (Canada), University of Luleå (Sweden), Chulalongkorn University (Thailand), National University of Singapore (Singapore), School of Business of Monash University (Australia), Shanghai Academy of Quality Management (China), Emerald Group Publishing Limited (UK) and the Hong Kong 5-S Association (Hong Kong), to name just a few. The conference aimed at considering the impact of ISO 9000 implementation on TQM, providing a forum for the identification of the contemporary development in the theories and practices of TQM, and more importantly sharing of experience. During three days, 80 papers – some of extremely high quality – were divided into eight areas of activities that are important in the development of ISO 9000 and TQM. These streams covered TQM best practices and quality award (12 papers), ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 (12 papers), 6-Sigma, BPR and benchmarking (eight papers), 5-S, QFD and quality tools (eight papers), leadership and organisational development (seven papers), total quality learning and knowledge management (ten papers), best practice in manufacturing, health and public (eight papers), and best practice in services and education (11 papers). Turning to the nationality of presenters, the 9-ICIT was presented by delegates from 20 countries, with the UK having the highest number of presenters (16 presenters), followed by China – HKSAR (13 presenters), Thailand (eight presenters), Malaysia (eight presenters), China – mainland (six presenters), and New Zealand (four presenters).
9-ICIT 2004 was fortunate to feature keynote presentations from a series of internationally renowned academics, who were invited to the conference to deliver their expert opinions on specific issues of ISO 9000 and TQM. Among these were: Professor Yoji Akao – founder of QFD – of the University of Asahi (Japan); Professor Douglas Hensler, W. Edwards Deming Distinguished Professor, of the University of Colorado, USA; Professor Mike Donnelly of the Paisley Business School, UK; Professor John Dalrymple of RMIT, Australia; Professor Pervaiz Ahmed of the University of Wolverhampton, UK; Dr H.S. Chui (President) and Professor Sam Ho (Dean) of Hang Seng School of Commerce, Hong Kong; and Professor Bengt Klefsjo of Luleå University (Sweden). The practitioners’ viewpoint was put by senior industry figures including Professor Alastair Walker, CEO of the Software Process Improvement Laboratory (Pty) Ltd, South Africa.
The 9-ICIT was opened by Thailand’s Minister of Industry. The Minister welcomed the delegates and was particularly pleased to host the conference for further development of Thailand. Then, in memory of Prof. Surasuk Nananukul (the TQM pioneer in Thailand), Professor Kano, the Japanese quality expert, delivered a speech which received considerable attention from the audience. During a thorough presentation, Kano strongly advocated the customer focus of TQM and was strong on the need for understanding customers’ requirements and, in particular, the use of value-added element under the guidance of TQM precepts. Professor Sam Ho of Hang Seng School of Commerce (Hong Kong) and Professor Prasert Suttiprasit of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (Thailand), the conference co-chairs, expressed their and their team’s gratitude to the delegates and colleagues who gave their time and support over an exceptionally busy year (Ho and Suttiprasit, 2004).
The main part of the conference then began with four parallel sessions. Of the 12 papers presented in the “TQM best practices and quality award’ track, Douglas Hensler presented a paper entitled: “Bridging aims and outcomes: a simple approach to strategy best practice” (Hensler, 2004). Based on the work of Jensen and Meckling, Hensler addressed the drawbacks of the previous research in defining the daily observable outcomes such as decisions, behaviours, deliverables, and people’s interactions, discussing the negative implications of such neglect for the organisations. In more elaborate language, central to Hensler’s argument is to reconsider the organisation’s approach to the strategic planning process. In doing so, Hensler suggests defining the aim set consisting of purpose, vision, mission, and strategy and then moving directly to the outcomes set consisting of decisions, behaviours, deliverables, and the daily activities that the aim set expects. Once the strategic planning process establishes the two ends of this strategic intent, Hensler notes, leaders can bridge the gap by an appropriate organisation design. The implication of such simple approach is clear: effective and efficient organisation. Another paper in this track, was presented by Peter Kia-Liang Tan of the London Metropolitan University entitled “Best practice in business”. Throughout the paper, Tan points to the importance of benchmarking and attempts to help readers to understand benchmarking, not through copying another company’s approach, but using presuppositions, assumptions, goals and the rules of behavioural and physical sciences to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
The second track of the conference “ISO 9000 and ISO 14000” had 12 presentations. Of particular interest of these papers was the one entitled “Understanding the new generation ISO 9001:2000 with visual and conceptual representations” by Michael Song, Director of Computerlink, UK. Song’s intention in the paper is to help managers and their organisations to adopt the demands of ISO 9001:2000 through introducing a visual framework, a sense-making tool, with a set of “visual grammar” and a set of logistical abstraction.
In the third track of the conference eight researchers presented their work on “6-Sigma, BPR and benchmarking”. The session started with John Dalrymple’s presentation, illustrating the application of the UK benchmarking index to enable SMEs to benchmark their financial and non-financial performance against a peer group of companies of similar size and industry sector. Particularly, Dalrymple reports on the use of the UK benchmarking index in a sample of fifteen SMEs in Mauritius and one enterprise in Thailand as examples of enterprises from developing countries. The conclusion that Dalrymple came to is to suggest the usability of the UK benchmarking index in providing valuable insights to the users and to provide an indication of the areas of greatest need for improvement. Other papers of interest were: “The power of Six-Sigma methodology – MMAIC” by Wu Nengquan of Sun Yat-sen University and Dongfeng Chen, Associate Director of Procter & Gamble (China) and “Strategic imperatives and the pursuit of quality in the US airline industry” by Dawna Rhoades and Blaise Waguespack of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida, USA. Nengquan and Chen’s paper, for example, illustrates DMAIC as the most important Six Sigma methodology for business performance improvement. However, it appears that the model has not been used properly and hence implementation of the model seems too complicated. Rhoades and Waguespack’s paper discusses the rise of low-cost carriers in the US air travel and the fact that while they compare well with their traditional counterparts in safety quality, they have not achieved consistent comparable basic service quality.
The fourth track of the conference (“5-S, QFD and quality tools”) of eight papers started with Yoji Akao’s presentation on, “Product quality and work quality”. Taking a case study approach within a telecommunication construction setting (an extension to papers presented at the 6th and 8th ICIT) Akao clarifies basic concepts of product quality and work quality. This presentation was followed by Samuel K.M. Ho’s paper entitled “TQM best practice: from 5-S to 6-Sigma”. In his presentation, Ho gave strong support to and guidelines for 5-S as the first step towards TQM for establishing and maintaining quality environment in an organisation. It should be noted that 5-S was first rooted in Japan and later Ho has improved and defined its terms in English and Chinese which led to the world’s first 5-S Audit checklist. In particular, Ho concludes that 5-S is an effective quality management tool to facilitate the successful implementation of other quality improvement systems. Another interesting paper in this track was presented by Auckara-aree and Akkharaprathomphong of the University of Chulalongkorn, Thailand. Taking a case study approach and using balanced scorecard methodology, the authors developed the key performance indicators for a plastic factory.
“Leadership and organisational development” was the fifth track of the conference with seven papers and started with “Quality and good practice HR” by Alan Brown of the University of Edith Cowan, Western Australia. Brown’s paper focuses on the importance of the human side of quality and its development as a prerequisite for a successful and sustainable quality culture. In doing so, Brown compares the idea of one-size-fits-all with the contingency notion of using whatever the situation requires. As a consequence, Brown has come up with a number of additional aspects as elements of good HR practice. Strong linkage between performance management and quality, leadership development, and pay levels linked to performance parameters are examples. Of particular interest in this session was the paper by Alastair Walker. Walker presented his model of enterprise and individual performance measurement which was developed through his experience of managing and operating a university-based research enterprise over the period 1987 to 2000 as well as its applicability to a wider range of enterprise type and circumstances. In a similar vein, and in line with theme of the track, Abdel Ahmed on behalf of R. Al-Rayes and Mohamed Zairi of the University of Bradford, UK, clarifies the obvious gap that exists between the average and excellent organisations, illustrating the strengths of the EFQM Excellence model as a means of benchmarking and self-assessment tool. In doing so, the key findings from a study of 45 UK-based companies were also provided.
“Total quality learning and knowledge management” was the sixth track of the conference with ten presentations. The session started with a paper entitled, “The good, the bad and the ugly: the many faces of quality’ by Pervaiz Ahmed of the University of Wolverhampton, UK (Ahmed, 2004). The paper elaborates the concept of positive and negative, as extrinsic and intrinsic forms of organisational quality in terms of positive and negative quality, and goes onto develop a SEEE diamond framework. This framework sets out a quality philosophy from a stakeholder-centred perspective. Furthermore, Ahmed highlights the fundamental deficiencies of popular frameworks and methodologies such as self-assessment, benchmarking and best practice. In another presentation, a detailed analysis of the nature of complaint management has been set out by Palmira Lopez-Fresno, a director of corporate quality, illustrating the issue of complaint management in the interest of quality improvement. In doing so, Lopez-Fresno developed a model considering three key elements at the macro level as critical to establish an effective complaint management function. These are commitment from top management, culture, and communication.
The seventh track of the conference focused on best practice in various organisational settings such as manufacturing, health and the public sector, with eight presentations. The session started with a paper entitled “Cusp not crisis: ‘changing to deliver’ in Scottish government” by Mike Donnelly of the University of Paisley Business School, Scotland. Through an exploratory research investigating the expectations held by Cabinet Ministers of officials and the reciprocal expectations these senior civil servants have of Scottish Ministers, Donnelly has identified three themes to be key future challenges for the organisation. These are getting the culture and behaviours in the organisation right, meaningfully engaging with stakeholders in designing services and developing policies around customer needs, and getting the internal processes and structures – the hard wiring – right to support these. Other papers of interest in this session focused on the quality journey of a Thai-based SME (Ladawan Krasachol), implementation of current process model in production industry (Prasert Suttiprasit), and service quality measurement in a healthcare setting (Satya Chattopadhyay). Krasachol, for example, reports on a longitudinal study of a Thai company who started a TQ roadmap and the many tangible and intangible benefits they have obtained. Suttiprasit talks of the advantages of the current process model (cPM) such as helping companies identify the important processes, understanding the interactions within the system of processes that subtract value, and also verifying what improvements are necessary. In case of the successful application of such a cPM, Suttiprasit argues, teams reduce defects, raise customer satisfaction and improve bottom-line financial results. Chattopadhyay through a questionnaire survey of two various contexts measures and compares the service quality in healthcare in the USA and Kyrgyz Republic. In doing so, Chattopadhyay discusses the research findings and its implications for policymakers of the Kyrgyz Republic healthcare system.
The eighth track of the conference was “Best practices in service and education” with 11 papers. Of particular interest was Chu’s paper on “Customer service quality standard”, followed by Chui’s presentation who reports on how an education institution in Hong Kong adopts TQM as a means of restructuring the management of the school and discusses the implications of such adoption in terms of value-added performance. Thawesaengskulthai follows a very similar line, concentrating on quality assurance for higher education in the context of Thailand as a result of Thai Government’s decision regarding the National Act for Educational Reform in 1999. Thawesaengskulthai takes more of a practical approach to the research findings, arguing that such quality assurance system is a roadmap to providing higher quality at Chulalongkorn University.
Furthermore, the conference featured six workshops (tutorials) addressing the extremely important issues of Deming’s writings and the efforts made since then to extend Deming’s ideas, application of QFD in successful implementation of ISO 9000 from the founder’s perspective, i.e. Yoji Akao, 5-S auditor training, ISO 9001 process auditing workshop, current integrated management system (cIMS), and customer service quality standard. Speakers had a range of interests, most notably Douglas Hensler, Yoji Akao, Sam Ho (creator of 5-S auditing checklist and founder of the HK 5-S Association), Alastair Walker (editor of ISO/IEC 15504 Part 1 “Concept and cocabulary”), Prasert Suttiprasit and Jason Chu (University of Hong Kong).
In line with similar TQM-oriented conferences across the world, the papers presented in the 9th ICIT conference have shown that as quality-driven companies have been confronted by global competition, struggled with recession and searched for excellence, so the approach for managing their TQM initiatives has tended to change. TQM is giving way to senior management as the primary internal change agent for quality improvement (Dale and Cooper, 1994), followed by empowering the workforce through delegating responsibility to those actually carrying out the job (Wilkinson et al., 1997) for the purpose of meeting and exceeding customers’ needs and requirements. What the work presented at this international quality management conference strongly suggests is the muddle and confusion that still surrounds the theory and practice of TQM. As Pervaiz Ahmed concludes in his paper: “… some companies, despite winning prestigious awards, such as Baldrige, EFQM, Deming Prize and others, exhibit superficial progress to quality excellence”.
Central to the study of organisations, whether profit or non-for-profit ones, are the so-called people-based issues (i.e. management and employees) of quality which are noticeable by their absence from the TQM literature. As Hensler said: “At the root of this problem is the failure by leadership to design an organisational structure that binds the aim set with the outcomes set.”
To add to this Hensler borrowed a quote from Michael Jensen and William Meckling: “Understanding human behaviour is fundamental to understanding how organisations function, whether they are profit-making firms, non-profit enterprises, or government agencies.”
This is also consistent with what Wilkinson (1994) demonstrated over a decade ago: “Quality management faces its biggest problem in ‘soft’ areas such as workforce management, and there is little discussion on how the people side of the TQM should be developed”. (For further details, see Wilkinson et al., 1998; Flynes, 1999.)
To counteract, Hensler, for example, talks in terms of Deming’s writings and, in particular, moving beyond Deming and add to what Deming suggested. Put simply, despite the gloomy tone of TQM tangible outcomes, there is, it is argued, an exciting opportunity for TQM organisations that understand the gurus’ writings on TQM. In Out of the Crisis, for example, Deming (1986) provides a full account of his thinking on the primacy of management’s role in improving quality and productivity and demonstrates what managers do wrong and how costs, dependability and quality must be improved. In fact, Deming provides a theory of management that gets to the roots of the problems of industrial competitiveness, which face management today (see Schwinn, 2002). We must acknowledge that our management paradigms may not be complete without consideration of his message and adding to, Hensler says, what TQM gurus suggested. What Deming and other quality gurus argue is that the key to success is to identify the management culture before attempting to install TQM and to take steps to change towards the management style required for it.
Ebrahim SoltaniDepartment of Management Science, Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK
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