Enhancing Organizational Performance Through Total Quality Management (TQM)
While Total Quality Management has proven to be an effective process for improving organizational functioning, its value can only be assured through a comprehensive and wellthoughtout implementation process. The purpose of this chapter is to outline key aspects of implementation of largescale organizational change which may enable a practitioner to more thoughtfully and successfully implement TQM. First, the context will be set. TQM is, in fact, a largescale systems change, and guiding principles and considerations regarding this scale of change will be presented. Without attention to contextual factors, wellintended changes may not be adequately designed. As another aspect of context, the expectations and perceptions of employees (workers and managers) will be assessed, so that the implementation plan can address them. Specifically, sources of resistance to change and ways of dealing with them will be discussed. This is important to allow a change agent to anticipate resistances and design for them, so that the process does not bog down or stall. Next, a model of implementation will be presented, including a discussion of key principles. Visionary leadership will be offered as an overriding perspective for someone instituting TQM. In recent years the literature on change management and leadership has grown steadily, and applications based on research findings will be more likely to succeed. Use of tested principles will also enable the change agent to avoid reinventing the proverbial wheel. Implementation principles will be followed by a review of steps in managing the transition to the new system and ways of helping institutionalize the process as part of the organization’s culture. This section, too, will be informed by current writing in transition management and institutionalization of change. Finally, some miscellaneous do’s and don’t's will be offered.
Members of any organization have stories to tell of the introduction of new programs, techniques, systems, or even, in current terminology, paradigms. Usually the employee, who can be anywhere from the line worker to the executive level, describes such an incident with a combination of cynicism and disappointment: some manager went to a conference or in some other way got a “great idea” (or did it based on threat or desperation such as an urgent need to cut costs) and came back to work to enthusiastically present it, usually mandating its implementation. The “program” probably raised people’s expectations that this time things would improve, that management would listen to their ideas. Such a program usually is introduced with fanfare, plans are made, and things slowly return to normal. The manager blames unresponsive employees, line workers blame executives interested only in looking good, and all complain about the resistant middle managers. Unfortunately, the program itself is usually seen as worthless: “we tried team building (or organization development or quality circles or what have you) and it didn’t work; neither will TQM”. Planned change processes often work, if conceptualized and implemented properly; but, unfortunately, every organization is different, and the processes are often adopted “off the shelf” “the ‘appliance model of organizational change’: buy a complete program, like a ‘quality circle package,’ from a dealer, plug it in, and hope that it runs by itself” (Kanter, 1983, 249). Alternatively, especially in the underfunded public and notforprofit sectors, partial applications are tried, and in spite of management and employee commitment do not bear fruit. This chapter will focus on ways of preventing some of these disappointments.
In summary, the purpose here is to review principles of effective planned change implementation and suggest specific TQM applications. Several assumptions are proposed:
- TQM is a viable and effective planned change method, when properly installed;
- not all organizations are appropriate or ready for TQM;
- preconditions (appropriateness, readiness) for successful TQM can sometimes be created; and
- leadership commitment to a large scale, long term, cultural change is necessary. While problems in adapting TQM in government and social service organizations have been identified, TQM can be useful in such organizations if properly modified.