Ireland embraces the quality factor –companies see the value of ongoing improvement

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 1 December 2004

Citation

(2004), "Ireland embraces the quality factor –companies see the value of ongoing improvement", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 8 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/mbe.2004.26708dab.002

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Ireland embraces the quality factor –companies see the value of ongoing improvement

Ireland embraces the quality factor –companies see the value of ongoing improvement

Adapted from Walsh, A., Hughes, H. and Maddox, D.P. (2002), "Total quality management continuous improvement: is the philosophy a reality?", Journal of European Industrial Training, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 299-307.

But there are some who miss the point

When a number of companies were questioned to determine the extent to which total quality management (TQM) had been developed within Irish organizations, some said they had already concluded their TQM initiatives – a pity really because it merely demonstrated that they had totally missed the point of the TQM philosophy of continuous improvement.

Fortunately, they were not in the majority, with most companies indicating that they were at an interim stage in TQM development, with some illustrating a high level of understanding of the process. But there was more bad news. Of 51 companies which said they had implemented TQM initiatives, only 60 percent had evaluated the results, indicating a lack of commitment on their part to TQM programs, of which an integral part is feedback and measuring results.

Some companies also confused TQM with the pursuit of a quality award, such as ISO 9000. While such awards will include activities and ideas similar to those in a TQM philosophy, they can not be considered a substitute for a comprehensive TQM initiative.

Well on the way to success

However, organizations with ongoing TQM initiatives demonstrated that they had developed comprehensive programs and had a thorough understanding of the principles, those at an intermediate stage in TQM development already realizing some results and being well on the way to success.

Further cause for optimism stemmed from an examination of a number of techniques which underpin TQM philosophy, indicating companies' success in TQM efforts and concluding that these techniques are therefore suitable for Irish organizations – even though most of the respondents were multinational subsidiaries, suggesting that some wholly-owned Irish companies may not be fully aware of what TQM involves or are skeptical of the benefits.

It is widely accepted (but not always put into practice) that, if TQM is to be successful in an organization, senior management must actively support it and recognize it as a long-term process. Encouragingly, managers in the Irish organizations under scrutiny appeared to recognize this, and as a result placed more importance on long-term strategies and objectives than short-term results.

A wish to accelerate efforts

This was the case even when it was noted that benefits had already arisen in one area of the TQM process. Although these companies had changed the direction of their TQM program, it was a change of emphasis based on a wish to accelerate their TQM efforts.

Clearly, companies operating in Ireland see quality as a critical success factor and, consequently, wish to maintain a strong emphasis on quality in each of their organizational activities. Many of them had developed their own quality strategy, which blended established TQM concepts with their own organization's culture and competencies in order to produce a strategy that is best suited to their individual circumstances.

Aidan Walsh et al. say: "Developments in technology and information media have raised the levels of customer awareness of products and services. Quality has become one of the foremost factors influencing consumer decisions. Failure to reflect quality in their daily activities is a weakness which organizations must avoid if they are to succeed in their chosen markets."

Factors for philosophy

They advise that the following factors are kept in mind when implementing and developing a TQM philosophy:

  • Planning. All proposed TQM programs should be properly planned, monitored and reviewed.

  • Education and training. Employees should be comprehensively educated in TQM principles and given the time to put this learning into practice. TQM cannot be taught by instruction alone. It is through continuous practice and observation that the real learning process takes place.

  • Motivation and commitment. Senior management must motivate employees and actively show commitment to proposed TQM activities at all times.

  • Information. Employees must be provided with all the information they require to successfully implement the TQM program.

  • Time. Management must be patient. A TQM philosophy cannot be put into practice overnight, but will take several years to develop, and should be constantly evolving. Employees must be given the time to appreciate the usefulness of TQM methods and to understand the benefits that these methods can bring about.

  • Cost. A TQM program may require substantial investment. Management should view this investment as long-term and consider this against the benefits that are likely to accrue in years to come.

  • Change management. The transition period involving the implementation of a TQM strategy must be managed carefully. Enthusiasm for TQM concepts and methods must be maintained until they are accepted as part of the organization's culture and way of life.

They warn of the temptation for organizations to allow complacency to dilute the effectiveness of their TQM strategies, saying: "Organizations should take all measures to ensure that they keep pace with all developments in the area of quality management. It is most important to remember that successful TQM strategies are based around the concept of continuous improvement."

Comment

This review is based on "Total quality management continuous improvement: is the philosophy a reality?" by Aidan Walsh, Helen Hughes and Daniel P. Maddox of the Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland, who examined the practice of TQM within companies operating in Ireland. Their study of mainly multinational subsidiaries indicated that many organizations had embraced the concept of TQM, affording it the full backing of management and resisting the temptation to look for short-term gains from what is essentially a long-term program. Although it was evident that some companies did not fully understand the concept of TQM, the majority of respondents indicated that their programs were successful. Concluding that the TQM philosophy is suitable for adoption by organizations operating in Ireland, several recommendations are made for their successful implementation.