A comprehensive competitive advantage
By M. Shafiq Associate Professor
June 25 - July 01, 2001
Starting with F. W. Taylor's time studies, most of
the approaches and techniques developed for management improvement seem
to have gelled and transformed into Total Quality Management (TQM). This
has now emerged as a powerful basis for making comprehensive
improvements in all functional areas of an organization. Fundamental to
TQM is the concept of quality, which has assumed undeniable status of a
very effective competitive advantage.
A number of progressive business organizations are
therefore making full use of this advanced weapon in wars against
competitors. Japanese corporations like Sony, Toyota, Honda and Nikon
have amply proved that customers are hooked to quality like bears to
honey. Through continuous quality improvement of their televisions, cars
and cameras they have established their leadership in world markets.
Coming to think of it none of the products mentioned here were invented
by the Japanese! They only improved the quality of these products.
What is quality?
Quality, though very important, is an illusive and
relative concept. However, various management gurus and experts have
shown us the way. Philip B. Crosby has defined quality as conformance to
requirement, not goodness. Peter Drucker has cautioned that, function of
business is not to produce the perfect product but to satisfy customer
needs in a specific area. And Lee Iacocca has emphasized the truth that,
we can only sell what people are willing to buy. So quality is simply
the requirement of the customer and his/her satisfaction with a product
or service. All organizations should fully understand that, in this
respect the customer is the dictator to whom they have to listen
carefully and respectfully. It is therefore imperative for them to
learn, adopt and follow TQM practices.
Following simple model is developed to bring out the
basic structural elements of TQM. The total effort has to be bounded by
genuine management commitment, which requires a formal policy statement,
a proper organizational arrangement for planning and monitoring TQM
effort, as well as, allocation of required resources for performing
these functions. The success of TQM programme in an organization is
totally dependent on the intensity of the management commitment for
quality. It is therefore shown as the boundary encompassing the total endeavour.
The three intersecting circles represent the main
elements of TQM. Central to these is the customer and his/her
requirements receiving intense focus by all members of organization.
Complete sensitivity and appreciation to the requirements and
satisfaction of the customer by all members of the organization at all
levels all the time is of paramount importance for improving business
performance and quality. Lets now focus on the intersecting circles one
TQM requires that all work be perceived as a process,
which has input and output and where value is added in each progressive
step. Such a progression of value addition of various chains of
inter-linked processes culminates in final product or service. TQM takes
a cross-functional perspective of various processes. It therefore
demands commitment, cooperation and teamwork from all functionaries.
There is no room for building departmental fortresses and empires within
the organization. Everybody is required to give quality performance in
his/her contribution towards production of a quality product or service.
It emphasizes continuous improvement of all business processes, as well
as, their interlinking and integration.
TQM demands replacing intuition with scientific
problem solving. Simple but rational concept of PDSA (Plan, Do, Study,
Act) suggested by Edward Deming is used to develop and implement
improvements on a continuous basis. A set of simple but powerful
statistical tools, particularly control charts is used for monitoring
and improving processes. TQM is not a one time exercise but a continuous
endeavour. The study for identifying problems and developing and
instituting process improvements to improve quality is a journey and not
a destination. It is based on the ideal of achieving zero defects and
focuses on prevention of defects rather than their detection and/or
Specificity is important in TQM. There is no room for
ambiguity. It is therefore essential that all organizational
arrangements, systems, policies, rules, procedures and instructions be
written down and updated continuously. Writing formalizes, specifies and
clarifies these. Documentation in shape of organizational charts and
various manuals is therefore an important and integral part of TQM
systems. These documents should be easily understandable and available
to all concerned. All process improvements when developed and finalized
are incorporated into the system through documentation and extensive
TQM aspires to change organizational culture . It
aims to bring about radical changes in the thinking and working
practices of an organization. It gives the members of an organization a
new understanding and importance of quality and their role in improving
the same. It encourages management to tap full potential of all
employees by adopting a participative approach, open communication,
adequate training and fully motivating and empowering them. In short it
promotes teamwork through enlightened leadership.
An organization practicing TQM acquires and adopts a
learning orientation. It encourages and provides avenues for
stimulating, communicating and distributing knowledge through need based
training and developing programmes. As a result, its members at all
levels acquire new knowledge and upgrade their skills. Their attitude to
quality and their role in its creation has to be transformed. Every
member of the organization should believe that he/she is personally
responsible for quality of the contribution towards the making of the
Genuine adoption of TQM programme with full
management commitment and support can enormously benefit any
organization through improving the quality of its products and services.
The competitive advantage of quality provided by TQM can go a long way
in boosting the demand for its products, leading to higher
profitability. On a macro level, it can make a significant contribution
in improving the economic performance of our country, particularly in
breaking the $10 billion export barrier.
The writer is Asian Management Institute- Iqra