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TQM in mortgage banking.

Total quality management (or TQM) is currently a focus, both for many MBA members, as well as the association. TQM has many elements. One of the largest elements is the dedication of people within an organization to its goals. W. Edward Deming, who is often thought of as one of the fathers of TQM, defines quality as a function of human commitment. Total quality management, therefore, is primarily the management of this commitment as a corporate goal.

For those interested in technology, commitment to TQM is a commitment to process innovation. Better known as reengineering, it is the revisitation of why we do things the way we do them and how we need to change. The result of process innovation are clear. Excess capacity is one that results in ability to handle additional customers or additional volumes from existing customers without degrading service levels. Another result of process innovation is better customer service. Because technology empowers individuals, they can make the types of decisions that result in satisfied customers who talk about the quality service they received. Finally, process innovation, whereby the bottom levels on the companies organizational charts tell top management how things really should be done, allows processes to be molded to more closely shape the needs of customers.

For years, MIS departments have been providing statistical quality control information to anyone who wanted it. Process innovation, something MIS directors have been chomping on the bit to do for years, involves the utilization of all that information to change the way things are done. In the course of process innovation, one questions what information people need, how it needs to be supplied and what they need to do with it.

Take for example the customer service representative. In an organization that is committed to TQM, this individual needs a workflow that allows them to answer all requests, during that phone call, without turning over the call or going to look for more information. What a pleasurable challenge for those who design systems. Designing this workflow simply involves the rendering of useable information; development of a user-friendly, interface that guides the customer service rep through the process; and tracking that lets the MIS people know when the designed workflow was not enough to satisfy the caller right then.

In this last part, the back stage, comes the challenge for technology. We must be willing (and actually request) the involvement of every user in our reach for quality. Just as quality is a permanent, dedicated pursuit, new and better workflow tools must always be under development. The best guide to the future lies in the present, delivered by those on the front lines. In process innovation, users need to define all the tools they need. This likely will require the technology people to enter some risky arenas, such as offering users the ability to write their own report formats, design their own screens and other activities where bottom-up innovation is encouraged.

Quality is not a technique. While any device that maintains or enhances quality is of value, black boxes are only useful if managers throughout an organization are delivering the TQM message. This involves paying attention to quality, spending time on quality and constantly working to refine the process by whic we interact with customers and colleagues. Managers at all levels must come to understand that no matter where technology leads them, that the quality comes from people operating the machines and their attitudes must be in line with the corporate goals.

TQM in technology comes from the belief that anything can be made better. Consider the industry leaders in technology. These individuals still write code, still optimize storage, still manage the purchase of peripherals warily - but most significantly, they perform these type of activities every day. Chief technology officers of mortgage banking firms cannot thrive in a TQM environment if they only react to the desires of other division for enhancements. They must look within their own departments to find opportunities (migration to new architectures, consideration of nascent technologies, development of new business opportunities, for example). They must challenge the other divisions to consider there constant requests for funds to make things better as part of the overall TQM goal.

It is reasonable to conclude that TQM will require us to develop tools that empower individuals. These tools will always be under the quality microscope, and refinement will come often. As technology professonals, we must lead our organizations to what can be done better, and educate managers (at all levels) about both the inadequacy of current processes and the tools available for future development. Perhaps most importantly, we must continue to champion change within our organizations, every day.
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Title Annotation:total quality management
Author:Hershkowitz, Brian
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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