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Establishing a quality climate.

Our organizations are filled with great ideas and solutions which have the potential to ensure success. The challenge that all leaders face is ferreting out those ideas and creating an organization that can address, develop, and implement them rapidly.

But managers cannot find and develop these ideas alone; the marketplace is too complex and dynamic. To succeed, today's organization must tap the intelligence and creativity of every single employee. Businesses must maximize the least productive business resource-the human brain.

Total quality management (TQM) is the only management philosophy that equips every person in an organization to address change in a systematic and creative manner.

The advantages of implementing total quality management in an organization include:

* Placing the organization's focus on the customer's expectations and needs.

* Providing the knowledge and tools that empower employees to understand and meet customer expectations.

* Enhancing the use of limited human and technical resources.

* Assisting in managing relationships with internal and external vendors.

* Increasing profitability by reducing errors and waste.

* Allowing flexibility and speed in addressing changing marketplace conditions and customer needs.

Total quality management empowers every worker to become an innovator, to make and act on decisions that contribute directly to the company's success.

However, if the benefits of total quality management are to be achieved, the company's chief executive must lead the way. Without his or her complete commitment, the journey to quality will be filled with disappointing results.

There is only one level of leader commitment that ensures total success in quality--absolute commitment to the quality philosophy. This commitment must be complete, with the leader not only verbally endorsing the concept, but thinking, working, and using quality terms and tools.

If the leader offers less--even genuine compliance--quality initiatives may improve the company, but it will not achieve a true quality culture with the maximum benefits of productivity and profitability. If a leader grudgingly complies with the quality effort, the organization will be better off not attempting to make the journey.

Plotting a route to quality

The journey to quality management begins when a company and its customers define their business imperatives and develop specific goals for reaching them. To determine what a business's goals should be, a company must first look to its stakeholders. Stakeholders include all groups--employees, investors, owners, tenants, and vendors-- that have a vested interest in the company's success.

There is a tremendous fear of letting go of your business and allowing the customer to determine your direction. But the customer already controls the business through purchasing power.

The challenge is finding the most effective ways to solicit customer input.

Both direct mail and face-to-face interviews are efficient in eliciting feedback if performed by a knowledgeable professional.

This does not mean that you should solicit customer ideas in a vacuum. You need to educate your customers about trends and industry information so they can provide informed input. Focus groups are ideal for this.

However, you will find that your customers generally have a good understanding of where the industry and your business should be going. Customers know what they want, although they may need assistance in expressing their needs.

Once you have analyzed initial stakeholder feedback, you can work with your employees. You can then solicit stakeholder assistance in determining how to meet those goals. The first time it is undertaken, this process can take six to nine months for the development of a five-year strategic plan. After initial efforts, the process may require three or four months.

Strategic planning is essential for TQM. But almost equally important is creating a corporate culture in which measurable goals are communicated on the individual level. The culture of an organization may be well suited for where it is today, but not to achieving long-range goals.

For example, assume that your company is a successful one, run by an authoritative leader who dictates most of the company's major decisions. However, your strategic planning shows that your market is becoming much more diversflied and complex. It will be increasingly difficult to compete without creating a culture in which more, if not all, employees are empowered to be decisionmakers.

Leadership weaknesses

For a quality culture to develop, many corporate leaders must go through some profound personal changes. The leadership style of the chief executive has a far-reaching influence on the corporate culture of an organization. A leader's personal weaknesses both dictate the current work style and prevent certain aspects of TQM from occurring.

Broadly speaking, there are four principal leadership weaknesses that can restrict a firm from achieving a quality climate:

* Insecurity about personal worth.

* A feeling of ultimate responsibility for the firms actions.

* A feeling that "life is a battlefield"

* Fear of natural chaos.

A common personality among executives is a poor sense of self-worth, manifested as total identification with the job. This leader believes that "who I am is what I do."

These insecure leaders are often controlling, authoritarian, and manipulative, seeking recognition to shore up a weak sense of self-worth. This drive for recognition often deprives other workers of their share of rewards and undermines their identities.

These traits make it almost impossible for managers to remove barriers that prevent achieving such total quality management goals as pride of workmanship and an absence of fear in the workplace.

Control is another big issue for this personality. Such managers are reluctant to develop action plans and selfimprovement programs that involve all employees because they are afraid to give up any power. If "who I am is what I do," I do not want the other people in my organization to become as skilled as I am for fear that my worth will be diminished.

A related, but distinct, weakness in leadership is the leader who feels ultimate responsibility: "I am responsible for everything." The unhealthy priorities of this leader result in workaholic behavior with stress and burnout often occurring. These leaders put work before everything else, straining both professional and personal relationships and limiting the leader's own growth.

This type of leader is reluctant to empower employees and involve all employees in self-improvement or action plans. In addition, it is often difficult for this type of leader to adopt a new leadership philosophy of teaching and acting as a catalyst for change.

The cultural environment for both the ultimate responsibility and low selfesteem leaders is often identified with crisis management. These companies depend on the leader, who creates a sense of chaos to reinforce a sense of being needed. These types of organization are often perceived as service oriented, because they are willing to respond to unusual requests by customers. But below the surface, the ongoing systems of the company will be in confusion.

A third personality weakness produces the leader who believes "life is a battlefield," that every job is a series of strategies and tactics that must be won or lost. Management by objectives often gives rise to this type of leadership.

The life-is-a-battlefield leader creates a destructively competitive environment in which it is difficult to break down barriers between departments and to drive out fear. This leader creates an atmosphere of distrust, pitting one group of employees against another. The use of numeric quotas and goals in management by objectives also undermines a quest for quality.

Because employees are so concerned about besting each other in this culture, they have no time left to focus on the customer's needs. The company becomes dysfunctional--internally focused and internally driven.

The fourth type of leader fears the unknown and the chaos brought on by change. This leader focuses on eliminating risk, often stifling creativity and innovation. Employees are often imprisoned rather than empowered. They just come in and do their job because they are not encouraged to be innovative and are not recognized for improvement. Employee responsibilities in this culture are usually very defined, and deviation from established systems is discouraged.

In many cases, risk-averse leaders maintain ineffective systems just to avoid change. The organization becomes stuck in yesterday, unwilling to be proactive. These organizations are always rushing to catch and retain market share. The need for constant improvement and the need to remove inspections and other barriers to pride of workmanship cannot be achieved with this leadership weakness.

Overcoming weaknesses

Change is difficult for us all, but as you begin to undergo leadership training for quality, you understand more and more the ways in which your weaknesses affect your staff and their productivity. You begin to change how you delegate, what you delegate, and how you communicate with employees.

And as you begin to change, the environment changes, and your employees begin to change with it. This new approach is not always satisfying for the leader; if you need to be in control, you may feel worse when you let control go. But as a leader, you are doing what you need to do to move your company to constant competitiveness.

After the leader learns to work toward quality, he or she must convince senior management to "buy in" by showing them their role in the quality process. Commitment from senior staff is essential, and this commitment will grow as training gets underway. It is the chief executive who must be totally committed to change from the beginning.

At the same time, senior staff must be reassured that they are valuable to the organization and that they can provide important leadership in reaching the new quality environment.

To truly enable senior staff to function in this new environment, they must change their focus from management to leadership. Leaders function more as coaches and facilitators and less as directors with all the answers.

Leading employees requires creating a vision of a desired future and then translating that vision into reality through measurable goals and action plans. Communicating and motivating employees to achieve a common effort to achieve the group's goals is also an essential part of the quality-oriented leader.

Once senior management is trained in leadership, emphasis shifts to quality tools and improvement knowledge. The amount of training needed for the entire organization depends on the culture of the organization and the amount of prior training. You need to assess employees' knowledge of the industry they are competing in, their knowledge of their own organization, and their quality skills and analysis tools before you plan your training program.

Once you give the tools and knowledge to employees, they will be motivated; they will be equipped to effect change and bring tremendous ideas to an organization. However, leadership must facilitate this cultural change.

TQM usually requires a commitment of between 24 and 40 hours of training. But within a year, a company can see concrete improvements in employee performance and customer satisfaction. Even more significant advances will be achieved in the second and third years.


As management service providers face increasing demands from their customers, they will continue to look for better, faster, and cheaper ways to provide their services. Total quality management is the philosophy which will provide the tools and knowledge necessary to create and implement quality services that exceed the customer's expectations and help ensure a profit.

Mary Beth Chalk is president of Chalk & Associates, a Nashville-based training and productivity improvement firm. Chalk & Associates provides services to the real estate industry. As president of EDC, Inc., Ms. Chalk implemented TQM principles that resulted in increased customer satisfaction and retention while increasing profits over 300 percent.

Ms. Chalk has published numerous articles on quality and has taught courses for IDRC, BOMA, Dun & Bradstreet, and Sony USA.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Association of Realtors
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Chalk, Mary Beth
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Previous Article:Property management: an industry in conflict with its clients.
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