The death and life of the American quality movement
Is Total Quality Management, or TQM, a fad whose day has come and gone? Doomsayers have been predicting the demise of the American quality movement almost since its inception in the 1980s, and the media has widely noted examples of TQM's failures. But in The Death and Life of the American Quality Movement, fifteen respected experts demonstrate that TQM is anything but old news. In fact, it's more important for an organization's competitive success than ever before.
In a clear, nontechnical style, leading quality practitioners and researchers examine the critical issues in quality and propose powerful strategies for different sizes and types of firms. They outline seven key elements for a successful quality program: provide leadership from top management; focus intensively on meeting customer needs; emphasize the quality of business processes from both an internal and external (customer) perspective; decentralize decision making; replace barriers between departments with cross-functional management; combine continuous improvement with breakthrough strategies; and finally, create supportive reward systems. As they discuss these key elements, the contributors stress the importance of linking quality to better corporate performance (such as increased market share). Improved quality is not viewed as an end in itself. Rather, "return to quality" provides an important focus for the book.
While avoiding simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions, they analyze the relationships among quality, strategy, downsizing, participation, and marketing. Much of the book examines TQM in action, drawing lessons from companies with exemplary programs. For instance, it explores the role of TQM in small high-tech companies, countering the common assumption that TQM is a big-company trend, outlining the specific quality adaptations high-tech companies need to make, and allaying fears that TQM stifles creativity. It suggests pragmatic "guerilla tactics" that mobilize employees who resist supporting quality initiatives because of past unrealistic promises or disappointments, details the remarkable efforts of Southern Pacific Railroad to use quality as its centerpiece in the company's struggle for survival--an effort which runs counter to the belief that quality initiatives yield long-term, not short-term, benefits--and analyzes top management at Alcoa as they sought to launch their quality program, describing the various problems they encountered along the way and how they responded.
Offering a wide range of perspectives on TQM, from an "examiner's-eye-view" of the prestigious Baldrige National Quality Award, to a telling contemporary comparison of the American and Japanese quality movements, this is a timely reassessment of Total Quality Management, brimming with practical advice, and delivering a crucial message for managers of all companies.
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