Monday, March 19, 2012

Implementing total quality management: the role of human resource management.

Implementing total quality management: the role of human resource management.
Role of HRM managers in implementing TQM values in various organizations.


Globalization in the business theater is driving companies toward a new view of quality as a necessary tool to compete successfully in worldwide markets. A direct outcome of this new emphasis is the philosophy of total quality management (TQM). In essence, TQM is a company-wide perspective that strives for customer satisfaction by seeking zero defects in products and services.

Making quality improvements was once thought to be the sole responsibility of specialists (quality engineers, product designers, and process engineers). Today, developing quality across the entire firm can be an important function of the human resource management (HRM) department. A failure on HRM's part to recognize this opportunity and act on it may result in the loss of TQM implementation responsibilities to other departments with less expertise in training and development. The ultimate consequence of this loss is an ineffective piecemealing of the TQM strategy. Thus, HRM should act as the pivotal change agent necessary for the successful implementation of TQM.

HRM can act as senior management's tool in implementing TQM in two fundamental ways. First, by modeling the TQM philosophy and principles within its departmental operations, the HR department can serve as a beachhead for the TQM process throughout the company. Second, the HR department, with senior management's support, can take the TQM process company-wide by developing and delivering the long-term training and development necessary for the major organizational culture shift required by TQM. The HR department also has major strengths in terms of recruitment, selection, appraisal, and reward system development to institutionalize a quality-first orientation. An appreciation of the capabilities of HRM to model and institutionalize TQM begins with an understanding of the TQM philosophy.

The TQM Philosophy

Implementing a total quality management system has become the preferred approach for improving quality and productivity in organizations. TQM, which has been adopted by leading industrial companies, is a participative system empowering all employees to take responsibility for improving quality within the organization. Instead of using traditional bureaucratic rule enforcement, TQM calls for a change in the corporate culture, where the new work climate has the following characteristics:
  • An open, problem-solving atmosphere;
  • Participatory design making;
  • Trust among all employees (staff, line, workers, managers);
  • A sense of ownership and responsibility for goal achievement and problems solving; and,
  • Self-motivation and self-control by all employees.

The TQM approach involves more than simply meeting traditional rejection rate standards. The end result of TQM is the efficient and effective use of all organizational processes in providing consistent quality at a competitive price. The TQM philosophy is a long-term endeavor that links people and processes in a system that alters the corporate culture to become one where quality is the core aspect of business strategy.

In cultivating the TQM philosophy, strategy implementation must involve a focused effort on the part of every employee within the organization. It cannot be applied successfully on a piecemeal basis. TQM requires that management, and eventually every member of the organization, commit to the need for continual improvement in the way work is accomplished. Business plans, strategies, and management actions require continual rethinking in order to develop a culture that reinforces the TQM perspective. The challenge is to develop a robust culture where the idea of quality improvement is not only widely understood across departments, but becomes a fundamental, deep-seated value within each function area as well.

HRM as a Role Model for TQM

HRM can jumpstart the TQM process by becoming a role model. This means that HRM has two specific tasks: "Serving our customers, and making a significant contribution to running the business." This emphasis on customer oriented service means that the HR department must see other departments in the firm as their customer groups for whom making continuing improvements in service becomes a way of life.

In their efforts to achieve total quality management, HRM can demonstrate commitment to TQM principles by soliciting feedback from its internal customer groups on current HR services. HRM should include suggestions from its customers in setting objective performance standards and measures. In other words, there are a number of specific TQM principles that the HR department can model.

Applying TQM Principles in HRM.

The current emphasis on quality as a competitive strategy has produced many views regarding the actions necessary to achieve it. Leaders in the quality movement (Deming, Juran, Crosby, Feigenbaum)(2)(8)(1)(4) have proposed similar approaches which share certain themes. These themes can be summarized as five basic principles:
  • Focus on customers' needs;
  • Focus on problem prevention, not correction;
  • Make continuous improvements: seek to meet customers' requirements on time, the first time, every time;
  • Train employees in ways to improve quality; and,
  • Apply the team approach to problem solving.

To institute total quality management as a philosophy within an organization, all employees must come to realize that satisfying customers is essential to the long-run well-being of the firm and their jobs. No longer is the customer-driven focus exclusive to the marketing department. But customer satisfaction can only be achieved after first defining the customer groups. The new perspective here is that all employees exist to serve their customer groups, some internal and some external to the firm. The human resources department has internal customers to satisfy, which indirectly provides ultimate satisfaction to external customers.

In addition to identifying customer groups, there are other essential TQM customer issues. Clarifying what products and services will provide maximum customer satisfaction, measuring satisfaction, and continually monitoring and improving the level of customer satisfaction are all fundamental to the TQM philosophy. For the HR department, applying these TQM issues would translate into identifying the expectations of senior management -- their principal internal customer -- regarding TQM, and spearheading the TQM program's implementation on the basis of those expectations. TQM in practice for HRM might also mean periodic surveys, both formal and face-to-face, to monitor senior management's levels of satisfaction as the TQM process unfolds.

The TQM approach entails identifying the wants and needs of customer groups and then propelling the entire organization toward fulfilling these needs. A customer's concerns must be taken seriously, and organizations should make certain that its employees are empowered to make decisions that will ensure a high level of customer satisfaction. This can be achieved by promoting an environment of self-initiative and by not creating a quagmire of standard operating procedures and company policies.(7) Flexibility is the key, especially in a business environment that is diverse and constantly changing, as most are today. In modeling these aspects of the TQM process, the HR department would need to identify human resource concerns of other departments and undertake to continually improve its performance, especially in any trouble areas that come to light.

Based on this "customer first" orientation, organizational members are constantly seeking to improve products or services. Employees are encouraged to work together across organizational boundaries. Underlying these cooperative efforts are two crucial ideas. One is that the initial contact with the customer is critical and influences all future association with that customer. The other idea is that it is more costly to acquire new customers than to keep the customers you already have.(7) Exemplifying TQM here would mean that the HR department would need to train itself, focusing on being customer-driven toward other departments

Quality improvement programs typically involve the directed efforts of quality improvement (QI) teams. Using teams and empowering employees to solve quality-related issues using such tools as statistical process control. (SPC) represent fundamental changes in how many businesses operate. The Focus of SPC, also known as statistical quality control (SQC), is defect prevention as opposed to defect correction. Defect prevention results from continuously monitoring and improving the process. In this context "process" refers to service delivery as well as manufacturing. To ensure that output meets quality specifications, monitoring is performed by periodically inspecting small samples of the product. SPC alone will not ensure quality improvement; rather, it is a tool for monitoring and identifying quality problems.

The effective use of quality improvement teams, and the TQM system as a whole, can be reinforced by applying basic principles of motivation. In particular, the recognition of team accomplishments as opposed to those of individuals, and the effective use of goal setting for group efforts, are important in driving the TQM system. The HR department is in a position to help institutionalize team approaches to TQM by designing appraisal and reward systems that focus on team performance.

For many companies, the philosophy of TQM represents a major culture shift away from a traditional production-driven atmosphere. In the face of such radical operational makeovers, a determined implementation effort is vital to prevent TQM from becoming simply platitudinal and the team approach just another management fad. Senior management must take the lead in overt support of TQM.

Senior Management and TQM

To be successful, a TQM system must be wholeheartedly accepted by top management, who, in turn, must convey their commitment to all organizational members.(9) The policy for implementation and maintenance of the TQM system should be set forth in writing and incorporated into the organization's mission and goals statements. The key elements of senior management's role in implementing TQM are:

* Institutionalizing the TQM structure as established by stated goals and formal policies and procedures; and
* Providing leadership as demonstrated by top management's explicit expectations and behavior in everyday activities.

As previously mentioned, it is essential that top management set organizational priorities and goals of the organization. The process of setting goals and allocating authority, responsibility, and resources must be continued throughout every level in the organization. The intent is to have every employee's work support the organizational priorities and to have each person know what to do, in measurable terms, to accomplish the goals. In addition, progress must be monitored regularly, according to agreed upon checkpoints, and employees must be rewarded for attaining specified goals.(5)

In summary, top management's responsibilities in the TQM implementation process include:
1. Initiating agreement on goals and measures that cascade throughout the organization;
2. Providing the agreed resources (people, money, training, machines, etc.);
3. Assigning authority and establish deadlines to put resources into motion;
4. Monitoring progress in achieving goals, not to apportion blame, but to aim for improvement; and,
5. Measuring improvement and reward both the achievement of goals and the ways they are achieved.(5)

Beyond modeling TQM, the HR department, with senior management's support, can play a leading role in implementing a quality strategy across the firm.

The Company-Wide Role of HRM in Instituting a TQM Culture 

Human resource management can plan a vital role in implementing and maintaining a total quality management process. HR managers are responsible for recruiting high-quality employees, the continual training and development of those employees, and the creation and maintenance of reward systems. Thus, TQM controls processes that are central to achieving the dramatic cultural changes often required for TQM to succeed. Tailoring the TQM cultural development program to the firm's circumstances is essential in overcoming resistance to change and moving beyond simple compliance toward a total commitment to TQM.

Holding a major liaison role between top management and employees, HRM has many opportunities to establish communication channels between top management and other members of the organization. Using these channels, HR personnel can ensure that employees know they are the organization's number one priority in implementing TQM. Building trust through an open exchange of ideas can help allay fears regarding the work-role changes that TQM requires. This can provide the foundation for all employees to be trained to consider their peers in other departments as internal customers. Here again, HRM has the opportunity to emphasize this new outlook by example. By exemplifying a customer-first orientation, HRM can help establish a departmental view of service throughout the entire organization.

Part of HRM's functional expertise is its ability to monitor and survey employee attitudes. This expertise can be particularly important for a TQM program, since getting off to a good start means having information about current performance. Thus, a preparatory step is to administer an employee survey targeting two primary concerns. One involves identifying troublesome areas in current operations, where improvements in quality can have the most impact on company performance. The other focuses on determining existing employee perceptions and attitudes toward quality as a necessary goal, so that the implementation program itself can be fine-tuned for effectiveness.

Obtaining cooperation from other departments in the use of surveys largely depends on their perception of HRM's role in the survey process. The challenge is to establish that HRM is not usurping departmental prerogatives, but is instead a helpful collaborator assisting each department in making their own quality improvements. Emphasizing HRM's collaborator role can be accomplished in the participative spirit of the TQM philosophy by involving other departments in the development of the survey instrument itself. This involvement begins the process of helping each department own the TQM program which will follow. Thus, using a corss-functional TQM survey development team provides an early opportunity for HRM to exemplify the TQM team philosophy and dispel territorial fears about how survey results will be used.

TQM and Training and Development.

In general, HRM is responsible for providing training and development. With their background, HR departments are well-positioned to take the leading role in providing such programs consistent with the TQM philosophy. HR managers have an important
opportunity to communicate a history of their organization's TQM program and its champions. Equally important, HRM can tell stories of employees who are currently inspiring the TQM philosophy. As corporate historian, the HR department should be primarily responsible for relaying the TQM culture to members of the organization in employee orientation training.

Beyond communicating the TQM philosophy, the specific training and development needs for making TQM a practical reality must be assessed. Basically HR professionals must decide the following: What knowledge and skills must be taught? How? What performance (behaviors) will be recognized, and how will we reward them? HRM has faced these questions before and can best confront them in the TQM process. Training and development that does not fit within the realm of these questions will more than likely encounter heavy resistance. However, training and development does fall within the realm of these questions probably will be accepted more readily.

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