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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Consistency and transformation in the quality movement
About the Guest EditorSu Mi Dahlgaard-Park Lic. Econ., Dr. Phil., is currently a professor at the Institute of Service Management, Lund University, Sweden. Her research areas have been Quality Management, Organization Theory, Learning and Knowledge Management, HR and Organizational Change. Within these areas she has published numerous research papers and books. She is co-founder of the International QMOD (Quality Management and Organizational Development) Conference and is serving as associate editor and member of editorial boards for several academic journals, among others, TQM Magazine, European Quality, Strategic Change Management, The Asian Journal of Quality, Euro Asian Journal of Management.
Consistency and transformation in the quality movement
The papers in this special issue have been selected from the annual QMOD International Conferences (Quality Management and Organisational Development). The principal aim of these conferences has been to provide a unique international forum where participants freely exchange knowledge and experiences on the multidisciplinary nature of research and practice of business issues related to quality management and organizational development.
Business environments are constantly evolving towards higher complexity. Hyper competition, increasing importance of intangible assets, cultural and ethnical diversity, and focus on quality of life, gender, organizational ecology, corporate governance and sustainability are all emerging issues which challenge today’s management.
Along with these new challenges there is a growing focus on the role of the quality approach, and many researchers as well as practitioners have tried to incorporate these challenges into the framework of a new quality approach. As is well-known the framework of quality has constantly evolved in accordance to environmental changes and due to the absorbing and adaptable capability the quality approach has “received” many new names.
“Outsiders” who are not able to catch the red tread throughout the various evolving features and multiple names of quality have coined the quality approach as another management fashion or fad, while “insiders” prefer to use the word “quality movement” (Dahlgaard-Park, 1999; >Cole and Scott, 2000). When using the term “quality movement” an essential characteristic is its moving and transforming character, like any other living systems. It has been argued that the quality approach came to possess “multiple faces” through the ongoing evolution processes during the last several decades (Dahlgaard-Park et al., 2001). Mechanical, normative, rational, humanistic, cybernetic, deterministic, culture reforming, systematic, holistic management system are some examples of the multiple faces of the quality approach obtained throughout the 80 year history of the quality movement. If the quality approach continues to move and transform itself several more “faces” are expected to be added and thereby provide more nutrition for criticism. However, at the same time the transforming characteristic is the strongest indication of vitality and possibly the best survival strategy of the quality movement because a successful transformation requires both a maintaining ability (morphostasis) and renewing/improving ability (morphogenesis) (Dahlgaard-Park and Dahlgaard, 2006). The selected papers in this special issue show these capabilities of the quality movement.
In this special issue, I have tried to capture a snapshot of the current quality movement. One characteristic of the current quality movement seems to be related to learning and knowledge issues. As Morgan (1986) and other organization theorists have pointed out the quality approach is essentially based on learning principles. Core principles of the quality approach such as continuous improvement, focus on facts, employees, customers, and processes are all closely related to learning principles. In other words, learning and knowledge management were not perceived as a separate phenomenon, but were perceived as an integrated part of quality management. However, during the 1990s learning and knowledge management has emerged as a separated research field with its own terminologies. The emergence of this “new field” has awakened an interest among researchers to explore explicitly the relationships and “joint venture” possibilities between the two fields. Several selected papers in this special issue are concerned on this subject.
Su Mi Dahlgaard-Park investigates and discusses learning and knowledge management issues in reference to ancient as well as modern and contemporary literature in her search of root sources of the subject. Through a literature survey from Confucius and Dewey to Deming and other recent researchers known within the framework of learning and knowledge management literature Dahlgaard-Park identifies some epistemological commonalities as well as differences between theoreticians through out the historical development of the subject. Based on the analysis she points out the importance of a holistic approach of learning and meta skills in terms of learn-to-learn skills.
While Dahlgaard-Park is searching on the root sources of learning and knowledge management, Spender focuses on the processes of getting value from knowledge management activities. He argues that in order to create real values from various knowledge management projects in organizational context managers need to consider the meaning attached to data. When managers do not pay attention to the human factors and the complex of meaning people attach to data KM projects will have high risks for failure.
Another remarkable trend within the quality movement is related to the growing popularity of six sigma and lean thinking. Originated from two different organizational practices, Motorola and Toyota, the way of understanding and interpreting as well as practicing these systems vary depending on the actors’ views. Many researchers have begun to reflect on these two concepts and their affinity to the quality movement.
Tony Bendell challenges this issue by investigating the origins and nature of the six sigma and lean approaches seen from a process improvement perspective. After reviewing and comparing the two approaches, some strengths and limitations are identified. Based on his analysis Bendell suggests a holistic six sigma-lean approach as an integrative methodology. According to Bendell, this new holistic approach will encapsulate the two often “separated” focus areas, that are reduction of waste (lean) and reduction of variation (six sigma), and the combined approach will enhance process improvements.
Dahlgaard and Dahlgaard-Park examine the main principles and philosophies behind lean production and six-sigma quality and their affinity to TQM. Through investigations of the origins, historical developments, key principles and processes they identify and discuss similarities as well as differences between these three quality improvement approaches. Their conclusion is that both lean production and six-sigma quality are rooted in TQM and the Japanese practices of TQM, and hence should be understood within the framework of the quality movement. The identified advantages of lean production and six sigma, as simple and clear road maps, can best be utilized when they are used to assist and support the overall principles and aims of TQM. When they are used separately, companies’ quality programs may be unbalanced in terms of too much focus on tools and techniques. To avoid this danger they argue for the importance of a systematic implementation of TQM aiming to build the right company culture, where the human factor is considered to be the foundation.
Similarities and differences between TQM, six sigma and lean have been further considered and examined critically by Andersson, Eriksson and Torstensson. They systematically investigate and compare the three management systems regarding methodologies, tools, effects and criticism in a self-reflective manner. Their conclusion is that the three management systems have many similarities especially concerning origin, methodologies, tools and effects, but they found also some differences concerning theory, approach and criticism.
Another main actor in the quality movement, Tito Conti, tries to integrate the quality approach and systems thinking in his effort to “create” a better paradigm for creating value for people, organizations and societies. The linking point between the two approaches can be found in relations, which according to Conti have not been sufficiently recognized. He emphasizes in his paper that in order to better fulfill organizational purposes, that are creating values for customers, stakeholders as well as the organization itself, a clear and correct representation of purposes in all organizational critical factors is important. One way to do that is to examine all internal relations including the formal and informal subgroups from a value generating perspective. Conti examines this aspect through the so-called “value generation cluster”. Here we see some connections to Motorola’s six steps to six sigma, especially the first two steps.
Su Mi Dahlgaard-ParkInstitute of Service Management, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
Cole, R. and Scott, R. (Eds) (2000), Quality Movement and Organization Theory, Sage, London
Dahlgaard-Park, S.M. (1999), “The evolution patterns of quality management: some reflections on the quality movement”, Total Quality Management, Vol. 10 Nos 4/5, pp. 473–80
Dahlgaard-Park, S.M. and Dahlgaard, J.J. (2006), “In search of excellence – past, present and future”, in Schnauber, H. (Ed.), Kreativ und Konsequent, Hanser Verlag, Munchen
Dahlgaard-Park, S.M., Bergman, B. and Hellgren, B. (2001), “Reflection on TQM for the new millennium”, The Best on Quality, Vol. 12, International Academy on Quality, pp. 279–312
Morgan, G. (1986), Images of Organization, Sage, London