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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
TQM is alive and well
There has been much discussion in recent years about the “fall” of TQM, particularly in the USA, where colleagues inform me that TQM is viewed as “dated”. How has this state of affairs arisen?
In the 1980s TQM was viewed as a “silver bullet” or panacea for whatever ailed an organisation. It was never going to live up to such high expectations, and many organisations that embraced the TQM doctrine were disappointed with their financial performance. TQM is both a philosophy of management and a range of tools and techniques that enable organisations to better satisfy their customers, both internal and external, and involves everyone in the organisation. In other words there is a “hard” and “soft” side to TQM, and in the words of Tom Peters, the soft side is hard with regards to implementing TQM successfully.
The other “problem” with TQM was that there was not a “one-sized model fits all” version. Organisations could learn about TQM but had to adapt it before they could adopt it. This required a deeper understanding of what TQM was about. This probably more than anything led to many organisations turning their backs on TQM. The “demise” of TQM was hastened in the late 1980s and early 1990s when for some inexplicable reason the word “quality” was superseded by the word “excellence” and the one-size fits all excellence models were born. Companies now aim to be “excellent”. However, as Tito Conti wrote some years ago, the problem with excellence is that by definition excellence is for the few, not the many. Any organisation can become a TQM organisation. But not all organisations can become excellent. However, excellence models of themselves cannot bring about improvements in performance. They are diagnostic tools. Once the health (or otherwise) of an organisation has been determined, the improvements have to be made, and this is done by using the hard and soft aspects of TQM.
A number of recent publications have given advocates of TQM hope for the future. In a recent paper by Williams et al. (2004) in the International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, three key trends were identified that suggest that TQM will remain an important issue on the agenda of top management. These included:
increasing pressure from the internet to create excellence at the operational level;
the need for better measure of performance; and
the increasing number of networked organisations.
TQM, they argue, will have a role to play in the realisation of all three.
More recently still, an article by Singhal and Hendricks (2005) in the September 2005 edition of Quality World published results of research that suggests that for long-term performance improvements, organisations should embrace TQM. It seems that reports of the demise of TQM have been premature.
Dr Alex DouglasEditor, The TQM Magazine
Singhal, V. and Hendricks, K. (2005), “Back in stock”, Quality World, September
Williams, R., van der Wiele, T., Iwaarden, J. and Visser, R. (2004), “TQM: why it will again become a top management issue”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 603–11