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Learn to use TQM as part of everyday work, not as a buzzword.

The commitment to total quality, or continuous process improvement, has emerged after a period of complacence, and perhaps arrogance, by U.S. management. Having been able to sell everything their workers designed and built, there seemed to be little room for concern about quality and customer satisfaction. So management failed to do the strategic planning that was necessary to meet the competition of the eighties and the market constraints of the nineties.

Skilled workers were virtually neglected. The focus was on short-term profits, not long-term investments in people and capital. The mobility of management left trails of short-term successes, which translated into long-term failures. Even after dictatorship and Theory X were outmoded, participative management received lip service as people used MBO and performance appraisals to change people from innovators to procrastinators who were sometimes incapable of making decisions. The failure to exercise positive leadership began to erode the strength and competitive prowess of Fortune 500 companies. Our nation trembled as "made in the USA" labels seemed to "cost more and promise less." Frenzy struck as steel mills closed, automobile companies were brought to their knees, and Japanese plants took over the consumer electronics market. In the midst of a workplace with unskilled workers, floundering management, and tough competition, an obvious answer was to renew previous commitments to excellence. However, it took a long time for those commitments to come. Looking back, it is now obvious that Total Quality Management is not so much the "management of quality as it is the quality of management." After all, managing quality gave us a separate inspection process which helped reduce the worker's pride in their work. Managing quality also prompted U.S. management to talk about acceptable quality levels (AQL's) and put up posters about zero defects.

For several decades, few people in the U.S. were willing to listen to experts such as Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. Joseph Juran who talked about stabilizing and improving processes. It was much easier to design a new program, jump on a new band-wagon, put up new posters. Some managers who had heard rumblings about Quality Circles in Japan called their people together, formed teams, and tried to delegate their responsibility for improvement to their workers. From their inception, many of the Quality Circle "programs" were destined to fail. Management did not participate as active team leaders and members. Their workers had no role models. In addition, it was "difficult-to-impossible" to get innovative ideas implemented expeditiously. Many workers began to suspect that Quality Circles were just another of management's fads or "con jobs." With minimum credibility and limited management involvement, management put away Quality Circles and began to look for other quick fixes and instant heroes. Management and other workers were overwhelmed with the severity of the situation, and plant closings and layoffs became the norm. During that time, management had made few real attempts to create a culture conducive to innovation, positive working relationships and continuous process improvement. It became obvious that a recommitment to excellence or total quality would become a national, individual and company imperative if U.S. companies were to survive.

Excellence as routine

The improvement imperative may be entitled excellence, world-class, TQM, continuous process improvement, or any of the other hundreds of names that exist at different companies. While the name is not relevant, the purpose and the results are relevant.

Excellence is achieved as a result of rapidly entrenching continuous improvement into the infrastructure of a firm or an organization until it becomes routine work. Policies, directives and procedures must be changed to accommodate innovation and formally empower people. Five-year-plans must address improvement issues just as they address marketing and financial issues; and operational reviews must provide data about the extent to which baselines, such as quality and cycle time, have been improved. Finally, process owners must accept responsibility for evaluating and improving their processes and satisfying their internal and external customers.

To successfully implement an improvement initiative and maintain its momentum, management must continuously ask: Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What are we doing? How can we do it better? What are our results? In addition, employees in all job categories must care about totally satisfying internal and external customers. They must continuously ask those customers: "How are we doing?" Then they must use their customers' answers to improve the quality of their processes, products and services.

Improvement triggers changes in processes, procedures, work instructions, organization structure and/or assignment of personnel. At the beginning of an improvement initiative, many people have to learn not only how to work in a continuously changing environment but also how to be on the forefront of determining which changes should occur.

To be successful in the long run, improvement must become part of the daily routine work -- a habit, the standard -- the new baselines from which new improvements occur. Searching for permanent excitement is not realistic. Just as trips to the moon become routine for astronauts, once improvement becomes routine, people look for other stimuli for intermittent excitement. Of course, momentum and excitement are not the same. If, along with the excitement, the urgency for sustained improvement diminishes, then organizational and/or behavioral interventions must be used.

Organizational interventions

Organizational interventions may be structural changes, unique reporting activities, rotation of management, increased or decreased spans of control, changes in approval cycles or changes in expenditure justification requirements.

Rotating the TQM department among different vice presidents can be effective if executive bonuses, promotions and all reward systems are tied to the level of success of the TQM efforts. Management then has a personal as well as a professional reason to ensure that processes are evaluated and improved.

A system of reviewing improvements can be a vehicle for momentum. An organizational intervention would be to establish quarterly operational reviews in which functional managers discuss improvements to process baselines. These reviews should be hosted by the executive team and provide opportunities for horizontal as well as vertical communication and dissemination of information. "Bad news" as well as "good news" should be presented without any finger-pointing, "killing the messenger" and territoriality.

Require middle management to write their own improvement plan so that they "own" what is being done. Do not censor it at all as long as it is compatible with overall strategies and goals. As they write a cross-functional TQM implementation plan (or whatever they call their improvement plan), many positive things will result:

* Directors will be more committed to each other because of their common plan; and

* Their implementation plan will provide a basis for fieldwide communication and momentum.

Rotate middle managers in order to reduce territoriality, enhance job knowledge and expedite improvement as each manager plays different customer and supplier roles. For example, a program manager becomes director of hangar and flight line operations. In the past, he or she was the customer of the flight line -- the last stop for his airplane before flight test. Now, as the process owner, he understands what process problems and constraints exist and he has a reason to eliminate them. Once he has improvement methodologies entrenched as a part of the job in the hangar and on the flight line, he rotates to the job of director of production. He becomes process owner for Electronic, Electrical and Mechanical Manufacturing -- suppliers to the hangar and flight line. This rotation system stimulates the work environment and provides additional momentum for the improvement effort, and the rotating person now has working knowledge about a significant part of the product and service delivery system.

Work groups must become work teams so that all departments are involved daily in improvement efforts. Work teams should methodically flowchart every process they own and eliminate known non-value-added activities and process constraints. As processes are stabilized and controlled, causes of problems should be identified and eliminated. These work teams will be the foundation of an innovative, improvement-oriented culture.

Increase the number of direct reports for vice presidents and middle management so that they do not have time to micro-manage everybody. Empowerment, and innovation, are more likely to occur and decisions can be made expeditiously.

Gradually flatten the organizational structure as attrition occurs. Critique the structure and ask questions (e.g., why should the Training Department report to the personnel director who reports to the vice president of Human Relations? Why can't the Training Department report directly to the vice president? The answer is: It can if it is a high priority). An organizational structure should be flattened from the top-down as depicted in Figures 1 and 2. Make the five-year-plan a "real" five-year-plan with people accountable for its contents and include improvement plans. It generates momentum when process improvement is integrated throughout the marketing, financial, engineering and production plans.

Approve at least one major purchase based on something other than return on investment. Do it because the people think it is the right thing to do. Speed is important as well. If they ask for the money at 3 p.m., give it to them before noon the next day. It is not possible or necessary every time. Just show them that management responds rapidly to their needs.

Behavioral interventions

Change existing systems or behavior to stimulate or better accommodate improvement initiatives. Examples are:

* Change recognition systems. Initiate team awards where work teams as well as cross-functional and project teams are designated as Team-of-the-Year or Best-in-Class for a certain period of time.

* Top and middle management must make statements about required behavior by their own behavior. They must initiate and lead teams. In their staff meetings they must ask about elimination of process constraints. They must be visible on the floor listening to the people. Equally as important is their presence in the classroom demonstrating that learning is important.

* Ensure that cross-functional processes have designated owners at the director (mid-management) level.

* Bring in seminar leaders, teachers and practitioners who are able to describe what behaviors are necessary to make fieldwide improvement a reality. Topics include leadership, change agency and concurrent engineering, as well as external customer and supplier initiatives such as TQM, exemplary facilities, IQUE, continuous quality improvement. Top and middle management should, of course, sponsor and attend these sessions for purposes of learning as well as being role models for their people.

* Involve customers in improvement efforts. This raises their expectations and further stimulates management to ensure that process improvement is a reality throughout the organization.

* Externally emphasize the division/company's commitment to excellence. Vice presidents and directors of engineering, production, material and other areas will better understand and carry out their own commitments to process improvement if they author or co-author articles and make presentations at professional meetings. Their articles and speeches must include comments about what actions they and their organizations are taking to maintain the momentum of the improvement initiative. E-Systems examples are:

* The Vice President of Engineering, TQM presentation to the North Texas Quality Expo sponsored by The American Society for Quality Control.

* The Vice President of Production and the Vice President of Human Resources, TQM presentation to the Annual Meeting of The Operations Management Association.

* Finally, use the executive staff as a team to determine the status of the improvement initiatives. (Call it something else. E-Systems did this under the title of "Organizational Renewal.") If these people decide as a team that improvement is moving too slowly, it is their job to determine ways to increase the momentum.

An example

The basis for a successful improvement initiative is a culture or environment that stimulates innovation, idea generation and "bottoms up" thinking as a part of daily work. It was not difficult for E-Systems Management to determine if there was room for improvement in this area. Top management simply went to the factory floor and asked.

In October, 1985, the general manager initiated two employee involvement process improvement teams comprised of first-line supervisors, operators and himself. The message was, "We are in an improvement mode of operation; we are listening to the workers." Immediate success stimulated the effort, and in December, 1985, planning began for a formal improvement initiative. It was decided that the system would be designed utilizing the philosophies and tools of Dr. W. Edwards Deming and Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa.

In April, 1986, the first E-Teamers attended Dr. Deming's four-day seminar on Quality, Productivity and Competitive Position. They came back with an urgency to force the improvement initiative to go fieldwide as soon as possible.

Under the Human Resources umbrella, the system design was accomplished by a team of people selected fieldwide. In November, 1986, a department was formed. The formal improvement department, which at the time was called Statistical Process Control (SPC), began reporting to the vice president of production. In that same year, continuous improvement became a part of the Strategic Five-Year-Plan, and a policy and directive were written. The initial team efforts were in Electrical, Electronic and Mechanical Manufacturing. Existing training materials did not adequately merge leadership theories, statistical process control, and tools such as cause and effect diagrams, Pareto charts, and why-why charts, therefore, E-Systems began writing their own training manual and piloting SPC courses which were from two to thirty-six hours in length. Train-the-Trainer courses, were held.

In January 1987, 16 hours was selected as the time frame for our Level I course, which is required of all E-Systems personnel. Training should occur from the top down, and it was agreed that vice presidents, directors, engineers, production operators -- people of all job categories -- would complete the same 16-hour Level I SPC course. This course included leadership, people empowerment and teamwork theories, as well as tools and methodologies such as flowcharts, cause and effect diagrams, Pareto charts, control charts, etc.

In 1988, E-Systems began focusing more on process evaluation as opposed to problem solving. As long as the company was in the problem solving mode, everybody would be focused on fire fighting. The next step was to begin talking about and doing process evaluation. This meant that processes with no obvious problems would be flowcharted and evaluated in terms of activities that did not add value and process constraints. Dramatic improvements in quality, cycle time and other baselines occurred. Customers participated in both training and employee involvement (continuous improvement) teams.

In 1989, the continuous improvement department rotated to the Product Assurance Organization. The name of the effort was changed to Total Quality Management/Statistical Process Control (TQM/SPC) to reflect the objectives, philosophies and tools of the initiative, which were so much more than statistics. Theories related to Total Quality Management, which was interpreted as the quality of management -- not simply the management of quality. Also, a strong emphasis on leadership and people empowerment was necessary in order for people to require the baselines, measurement and statistical analysis that was necessary. Sister Divisions began requesting assistance.

In 1989, 1990 and 1991, personnel traveled to most sister Divisions - Montek, ECI, CMD, Melpar, and Serv-Air, delivered the 16-hour course to their top and middle management and others, and assisted with their TQM implementation efforts. By 1990, fieldwide implementation of the continuous process improvement effort had occurred and the vice president of finance was actively serving on teams and playing a leadership role in the improvement effort. No vice president of finance would have done this had it not benefited the bottom-line in terms of dollars saved, as well as quality improvement and cycle time improvement.

E-Systems began looking at their supplier certification program and realized that certification needed to be on the basis of quality documented through supplier data. They hosted supplier conferences and began teaching supplier workshops and certifying suppliers.

All this time, the company was working very closely with customer representatives from AFLC, DPRO, et al. Both AFLC/Special Systems and DPRO/Communication Systems Steering Councils were formed. Even DCAA began serving on E-Systems' teams, one of the first being the DCAA/ESystems Estimating Team.

Presentations and TQM workshops were delivered off-site at such places as Andrews AFB, Hickam AFB, Wright-Patterson AFB, Tinker AFB/OCALC, and the Defense Systems Management College. Presentations to professional organizations such as the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), Production and Operations Management Society (POMS), and the Operations Management Association (OMA) were also made. External E-Systems/customer teams were formed (e.g., Communication Systems personnel serve on teams at Wright-Patterson; and people from the 89 MAW and OCALC serve on teams right along with local DPRO and E-Systems people; they co-sponsor those teams and co-host team meetings). Impressive positive results occurred.

This improvement initiative is evolutionary in nature, and it will continue to evolve because real improvement occurs only as one learns and applies what is learned. For example, in the beginning, discrepancies and bad parts were counted; later on, it was found that it was more exciting and productive to count first-pass yield and good parts. In the beginning, problems and quality product were discussed; after awhile, it was realized that quality products can only be realized from quality processes. So a checklist was developed for evaluating and improving processes.

Deming taught us that if you only emphasize quality, productivity will go down, and if you only emphasize productivity, quality will go down. Yet, in the beginning when only talking about quality products, it wasn't realized that productivity and cycle time might be hurting.

While evaluating processes, those activities which did not add value were eliminated. Examples include many signatures from a variety of signature cycles and many in-process inspection points. Customers began evaluating the processes they and E-Systems jointly own. They began removing in-process inspections when it could be determined by process data that did not add value. Once items which did not add value were eliminated, E-Systems was then able to look at each phase of each process, identify and remove constraints and streamline those processes. Only then could many of the processes be successfully computerized. The thrust was on eliminating non-value-added activities, removing constraints, streamlining processes and, where possible and productive, computerization. Mistakes were made by not listening to the voice of the owner -- the process expert -- by expecting too much too fast and changing out some managers who absolutely were great leaders and later demonstrated that great leadership.

The above history was presented so that the philosophies and tools section can be better understood.

In the beginning of the improvement initiative, it had to be determined what was meant by operational excellence. This includes several elements. First, all employees (management and other workers) must satisfy customer needs by doing the right things right the first time, including internal, as well as external, customer/supplier relationships. The focus should be on people as well as processes. It was critical to learn that quality is not just a production philosophy; that quality must be designed as well as manufactured into products and services at minimum cost and schedule; that it is not really relevant whether those products are hardware, software, systems, data or paperwork. It doesn't matter if those services are administrative, financial or human delivery of information.

And it became evident very early that leadership and innovation, as well as people development and empowerment, would be the key elements. An informal team, E-Systems Process Reliability Improvement Team (ESPRIT), developed the basic tenets of an original Total Quality philosophy. Those tenets were, and are:

* Customers have a right to expect quality products and services;

* Each segment or phase of a process has a customer -- the next phase of the process;

* Statistical process control (SPC) will be the primary tool used to measure and communicate the reliability of each process; and

* The goal is to enable every worker and every system to successfully perform their intended function(s).

ESPRIT also developed our original objectives. In line with the constancy of purpose philosophy in 1986, those objectives were, and in 1992, still are:

* To develop a company-wide awareness and commitment to continuous process improvement at the Greenville Division;

* To teach the philosophy, tools, and techniques needed for process improvement;

* To create an organizational environment which enhances the use of improvement tools and techniques; and

* To continuously evaluate and improve all processes.

There were commitments to philosophies such as Dr. Deming's 14 Points and Dr. Juran's ideas about quality deployment and the use of teams. First tools and methodologies were the seven SPC tools learned from Dr. Deming and Dr. Ishikawa: flowcharts, control charts, Pareto charts, trend Charts, cause and effect diagrams, histograms and scatter diagrams.

Many other philosophies, including those of and Dr. H. James Harrington, Dr. Genichi Taguchi, and others were incorporated, including Quality Function Deployment, Concurrent Engineering, and other improvement tools.

Working on culture continues to be an important part of the initiative. It is missionary work. It is learning how to make the best better; it is learning how not to make "not invented here" statements such as: "Be practical";"It's too radical"; "It's against policy"; and "That's not my job." It is learning how to reward (not "kill") the messengers who must be bearers of bad news, as well as good news, as they measure their process results.

Measurements, baselines and data are necessary before any real systems improvements can occur. Baselines include quality, productivity, safety, people issues, customer satisfaction and supplier performance. Under each one of those categories, more specific measurements are made. In the quality arena, measure first-pass yield as well as scrap, rework and repair. Productivity measurements include cycle time or process flow time, non-value-added activities, and overtime. Environmental and safety issues include injuries, compliance, even ergonomics. People issues include absenteeism, turnover, morale, grievances and skill levels. Of course, the most important measurement is customer satisfaction. If you improve quality and productivity, but the customer is not satisfied, long-term, you will not survive. Look at any information and feedback you can get from customers whether Field Service Reports or other data. Measure new and repeat business, compare it to new and repeat business in previous eras, and benchmark it against what the competition is doing. Be involved enough with customers to know what they expect and what their standards are because you want to meet and exceed their standards. Of course, you cannot satisfy customers if suppliers do not perform satisfactorily, so have a rating system to measure quality, capabilities, and conformity to requirements of suppliers as well. Data is the objective criteria for baselining processes, for measuring where you are, and for documenting improvement.

Lessons learned

A lot of really exciting improvements have occurred fieldwide in quality, cycle time and other baselines. However, the real fun actually starts after excitement diminishes. When process monitoring and control are a reality and long-term systems improvements are being made, what is needed is not excitement but tenacity, perseverance and patience. In other words, you measure process output, look forward to the time when you can spend an overwhelming majority of time thinking--inventing the future--with no fire fighting. Thinking can be pretty "boring" between major breakthroughs--especially when each breakthrough becomes the standard for the next improvement. To lessen the impact of this predictable plateau, E-Systems developed and used organizational and behavioral interventions described in this article to stimulate and maintain momentum.

Continuous improvement works only if process experts/owners are empowered to evaluate and improve their processes. Working with internal customers and suppliers, each worker and each work team should methodically describe their processes, establish appropriate baselines, and evaluate and improve their processes. This means that all employees must be leaders. Management must play several additional roles, such as running interference where possible and assisting in removing process constraints. They must provide the tools that are necessary for people to do their jobs, whether it is a machine on the shop floor, a gauge for an inspector, CAD equipment for an engineer, etc. They must ensure that proper educational and training opportunities exist because knowledgeable, skilled workers are the people who can revolutionize our processes and continue our successful delivery of quality products and services in a timely fashion. A culture must exist that stimulates idea generation and innovation. The resulting change is another management responsibility. Everyone must work very hard to ensure that the environment or culture is fear-free so that people are not punished for unsuccessful ideas or mistakes. They must remember that statistically some mistakes are going to be made by random chance. Above all, management must be patient because continuous improvement is forever, and each time a process is improved, a new standard is set. The job then becomes: monitor that process and learn where it can be further refined. If continuous process improvement and people development are the first priorities, negative performance issues will go away because the results will be high quality people, short cycle times, and customer satisfaction in an ethical, safe, fear-free environment. Daily activities (including improvement) then become very routine because they are entrenched in the infrastructure of the company. They evolve to a point that they are an integral part of the organizational culture.

Mildred Golden Pryor, Ph.D., is the director of East Texas State University's Center for Excellence. Brian Cullen is vice president and general manager of E-Systems, Greenville Division. Both Pryor and Cullen have successfully implemented total quality management in finance, purchasing and human resources, as well as engineering, software development and production.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Institute of Industrial Engineers, Inc. (IIE)
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Title Annotation:total quality management
Author:Pryor, Mildred Golden; Cullen, Brian
Publication:Industrial Management
Date:May 1, 1993
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