Business Management Articles
/ Quality Management
THE RIGHT STEPS TO QUALITY
Rene T. Domingo
Good intentions and sheer determination are
not a guarantee of success in implementing
total quality (TQ) in the company. TQ is a
managed upheaval and its success cannot just
come from raw enthusiasm of the participants
- management and workers. As the definition
of quality goes - Do it right the first time
- , the first thing management should do right
the first time is implementing total quality
itself. Failure to do so almost always means
the program can never be restarted or resumed
again; employee demoralization and loss of
face of its initiators amount to the end of
all endeavours towards quality - present and
To ensure a high success rate in implementing
TQ, I suggest 7 steps or phases. Do not proceed
to the next step until the preceding one is
completed, otherwise, you fall into a trap
many companies have fallen into.
Embrace a single quality philosophy.
Management and employees should first understand
and be 100% convinced why the company has
to achieve total quality, i.e., to assure
continuous corporate survival and competitiveness.
Everybody should have the same definition
of quality, defect, service, disservice, customer,
and other TQ terms. The corporate-wide orientation
should set the same standards of customer
service for everybody and let everybody realize
the disastrous effect of lost customers due
to bad quality or service. Everybody should
appreciate the sacrifices and difficulties
in the TQ journey at this early stage.
Management should lead and show quality leadership.
In accordance with the TQ philosophy and goals
set and agreed upon in step one, top management,
especially the CEO, should take the first
initiative in displaying unwavering leadership
in quality. He should model the way by showing
personal examples in thought, word, and deed,
reflective of the new quality philosophy.
He should think and act quality in all his
decisions and actuations -- entertaining anybody
anytime who has something, no matter how small,
to contribute to improving quality or service.
Deming, the American quality guru who first
taught quality to the Japanese in the 50's,
said that quality begins at the top, more
specifically, in the boardroom. He insisted
that his first quality seminar in Japan be
attended only by the presidents of Japan's
big corporations - no substitutes were allowed.
The CEO's reluctantly came, Deming converted
them all to quality, and the rest is history.
Change or modify all systems and structures
to suit total quality objectives.
After showing consistent and continuous quality
leadership to all employees, management should
begin reviewing all systems, policies, and
procedures in the company and check their
consistency and conduciveness to quality.
These include organizational structures, manufacturing
policy, quality control procedures, HRD policies,
incentive systems, etc. No stone is left unturned.
All existing systems or structures are defended
or discarded immediately in accordance with
the new quality goals. New ones are added,
or existing ones modified as needed. Nothing
is sacred except in so far as it contributes
to total quality. Deming estimated that 80%
of quality problems come from management and
just 20% from workers. Management is responsible
for setting up the right systems and policies
that make it easy for workers to do a quality
job. In spite of good intentions to do their
work right everyday, workers make the same
mistakes primarily because of anti-quality
systems set by management knowingly or unknowingly.
Train and empower all employees.
Given a conducive working environment established
in the preceding step, employees, including
all managers, are now ready for training on
the fundamental quality skills of problem
identification, problem analysis, problem
solving, and problem prevention. Training
is the preparatory step to empowerment in
which employees are given trust, responsibility,
and authority to voluntarily organize themselves
into self-managing teams, e.g. QC circles,
solve problems, and improve processes and
operations in their workplace. Very often,
in TQ companies, these improvements are implemented
without seeking approval from higher authority;
supervisors' approval are often enough, and
in some cases not even necessary for very
capable work teams.
The last three phases are not action steps
by themselves, but more of events and consequences
of the first four steps.
Employees' behavior will change.
After all systems are in place, leadership
are without question, the trained and empowered
employees will gradually show quality behavior,
and start to develop good working habits.
They will stop hiding problems and attend
to customers and their complaints more promptly.
But good behaviors are not necessarily internalized
and long lasting at this stage; the environment
will simply not allow them to behave otherwise.
Just as motorists prefer the green to the
red light, they nevertheless have to stop
at the red light because of the clear and
visible consequences of beating it.
Employees' develop total quality attitudes.
As behaviors are repeated and reinforced over
time through management leadership, systems
improvement, and continuous employee training,
they become internalized as personal attitudes
and values. Employees start to understand
and appreciate why they always have to do
their jobs right the first time, why it is
good not only for them but for the company.
As in the motorist's case, he stops at the
red light not because of the policeman at
the other side of the street, but because
of his genuine concern for his own safety
and that of others.
A total quality corporate culture develops.
Behaviorial change occurs corporate wide in
step 5 - nonconformists are exposed and disciplined
by the system. But attitude change in step
6 is more individual and slower in pace. The
quality system can not check or enforce attitudes.
But as TQ attitudes develop over time and
spread to more and more employees and finally
to all employees, this change becomes a change
in corporate culture. At this point which
may come after several years of TQ implementation
, we say that the company has arrived.
Expect the following, if TQ is genuinely achieved:
1. Employees will become loyal to company
and equate corporate success with personal
success. Quality work is done with or without
incentives - monetary or otherwise.
2. Employees will perform quality work because
they believe in quality. The company will
rely less on structures to enforce quality
behavior; employees do quality work according
to personal values. Companies could start
dismantling some structures originally set
up to elicit right behavior, because employees
do not need these. Examples are inspection
procedures, audits, performance checks, and
some layers of lower management (supervisory).
3. Employees will organize themselves voluntarily
to do process improvement, without management
intervention, pressure, or allurements. They
will give and volunteer numerous cost-saving
and waste-reducing suggestions to management
without expecting awards or compensation.
4. New employees, regardless of initial background
and orientation, will easily adapt to the
strong TQ corporate culture. Employees turnover,
absenteeism, and strikes will be greatly diminished
if not eliminated.
TQ is not just a destination to be reached;
it is, more importantly, a position or status
to be maintained and sustained by repeating
steps one to four - continuous review and
preaching of the TQ philosophy, unwavering
top management quality leadership, non-stop
process and systems improvement, and continuous
employee training, skills upgrade, and empowerment.
are some common pitfalls in starting TQ, by
violating the steps above.
Management starts TQ by organizing QC circles,
thinking it is the easiest and most fashionable
way to show (and deceive) the public and the
competition that it believes in quality. Circle
formation is jumping to empowerment (step
4). 100% of the time, this approach results
in total failure or pseudo-TQ for obvious
reasons, among which are:
Nobody understands why the company suddenly
embarks on this very new and radical program
(skipping step 1).
The managers, especially the top brass CEO,
do not understand TQ and know how to show
TQ leadership (skipping step 2). Top management
thinks that TQ is something that can be delegated,
ordered, or budgeted. Not surprisingly, many
managers will even question and oppose circle
activities, and consider it an interference
in their subordinates day-to-day work.
Anti-quality systems and policies block circle
activities (skipping step 3). For instance,
there are the quota system, piece-rate system,
and performance evaluation system which all
reward quantity performance rather than quality
The circles lack the quality skills to come
out with quality programs, process improvements,
and lasting solutions. Empowerment without
training is meaningless.
QC circles, contrary to popular belief, is
not necessary in achieving TQ. If they are
nevertheless present, they should be a voluntary
consequence of genuine dedication or commitment
of employees to quality, and not a management
Other pitfalls in TQ implementation include
training employees on quality skills (jumping
to step 4), trying to teach them values to
change behavior and attitudes (jumping to
steps 5 and 6), and worse, getting a consultant
to change corporate culture (jumping to step
7). In all the examples above, causes failure
will be similar - lack of correct quality
philosophy to guide management, no leadership,
existence of anti-quality policies, and working
environment not conducive to quality.
In conclusion, TQ must be implemented right
the first time. There is no short cut.