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TQM – Total Quality Management

  • At the end of WW2, the American statisticians Deming, Juran and Crosby, revolutionised the Japanese economy by persuading them that improving quality levels would not only increase sales volumes but also reduce costs – their ideas had fallen on deaf ears at home
  • It was not until the 80s that customers finally got top billing in the West – no longer could they be offered ‘any colour so long as it’s black’ – the Japanese economic miracle had appeared on the radar – Western businessmen flocked to their shores to learn their secrets – they came back somehow convinced it was all down to five-year culture change journeys, and TQM was the answer – even the Unions found TQM acceptable as it didn’t carry the job losses baggage of past productivity projects
  • TQM was understood to have four stages:
    • I   –  Systems first geared up to deliver consistent products and services
    • II  –  The whole organisation involved in error-free work
    • III –  All departments focused on customers’ needs
    • IV –  All employees engaged in competitive delivery of value to the customer
  • TQM also introduced Philip Crosby’s concept of ‘quality costs’ – essentially ‘waste costs’ – but they were rarely quantified, or reduced
  • Few western businessmen, and consultants, noted that the Japanese:
    • Focus on what Deming et alia taught them – how to identify and then reduce all types of waste, not change culture, values and behaviours – their national culture is for teamwork and consultation, both key to TQM, whereas the West prefers individualism and tall poppies which stand out in any field
    • Copy best practices from anywhere and build on them to develop better ways of doing things e.g. Toyota’s Just in Time and now Lean techniques
    • Have huge hungry markets on their doorstep (just take a trip to the likes of Jakarta if in any doubt), first for push-bikes, then motor-bikes, then small cars, letting them enjoy massive economies of scale
  • In the West, most TQM projects focussed on widespread culture change, not reducing waste or improving productivity – it didn’t work – culture change follows, not precedes, efficiency and effectiveness success and is embedded by the way bosses act, the measures used and the systems employed
  • Hence, by the end of the decade, TQM was seen as an approach involving too much evangelical fervour, too many five year journeys which most people soon lost interest in, too much culture change and too few significant financial benefits
  • Even the mighty IBM had to admit they had focussed too much on TQM – their managers had become so engrossed with it that they’d overlooked their revenue and profits were falling – quality had become the end, not one of several means to improving overall performance

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