TQM and the Paradigm Shift in Management and Leadership.
This learning reflection was based on the our management class discussion on, "What paradigm shift has occurred in management and leadership? and how is this paradigm reflected in the American workplace? I consider myself a Total Quality Control Management (TQM) practitioner when I was actively working in apparel manufacturing industry, therefore, I read the lecture on Total Quality System and the critiques about it with great interest. In Grace Thomson’s lecture notes, it was mentioned that “Miller and Vaughan (2003) for example explained how followers of TQM found it difficult to blend the set of benchmarks and figures (scientific focus) and the employee/customer-oriented process (Humanistic focus).”
Personally, I have a different take on this. In TQM, the creation of quality circles is very popular. Quality Circles is defined as "a small group of employees doing similar or related work who meet regularly to identify, analyze, and solve product-quality and production problems and to improve general operations; the circle is a relatively autonomous unit, usually led by a supervisor or a senior worker and organized as a work unit." (Rose and Ross, 1982 ). This practice clearly shows both scientific and humanistic focus at the same time.
Yes, TQM highlights the importance of standardization of products and services to its process but that is to emphasize control on quality and to measure efficiency. This is probably why it seems to have Taylor’s mechanistic approach as mentioned on the lecture, In reality, point 11 of Deming’s 14 Points stated that “remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality” (Deming, Out of Crisis 1986) This clearly expresses that humanistic focus is part of TQM practice.
Going back to the idea of quality circles, it is based on the belief that employees are capable of making better suggestions to improve work process and employees are motivated in participating in the process and consequently, improvements in the process motivates the employees. Authors Hackman and Wageman (1995) argued that TQM in practice avoided most motivational techniques such as: job redesign, goal setting, performance-contingent rewards. An example is the fixation on best practices and its standardization; therefore once an effective job design is identified, this is standardized and employees become recipients with minimum input in the redesign (Thompson lecture notes, wk. 2)
Again, in my personal experience, TQM practice actually promotes, rather than avoid, the said motivational techniques mentioned: job redesign, goal setting and performance-contingent rewards. In the implementation of quality circles, the basic step is to set a goal, identify the best practice, and reward the contribution to improvement. In the practice of TQM, emphasize is given to continuous development of process, and the process always include the human input. Therefore, to me TQM actually pave the concept of job redesign. With proper implementation of quality circles, it will not just result to improve efficiency in its operations; as motivated employees will mean reduced absenteeism and will pave way to a much improved working environment.
I think it is also important to point out that as TQM practitioner, I was trained and exposed on a different work environment with different work culture. I believe that what made TQM popular in Japan was because the concepts were very adaptable to the Japanese culture. American management recognized TQM concepts long after Japanese management embraced it. In this topic, I believe that the shift in management relies on several factors, including changing social conditions, technology and trends on globalization. New ideas are introduced to respond to these changes and new management approach are identified. Just like how TQM paved way for the adoption of ISO standards.
Thomson, G. (2008). Paradigm shifts in management: worth and value of the human condition – A view of cross-cultural differences. Retrieved on October 25, 2010 from WebCampus.
Ross, J. & Ross, W. (1982). Japanese Quality Circles and Productivity, Reston, VA, Reston Publishing.
Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, Mass. : Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Engineering Study ; Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.