It has been stated that Total Quality Management (TQM) “is difficult to define precisely because it is a philosophy of total organisational involvement in improving all aspects of quality” (Allen, 2004, p.68), nevertheless, in a broad manner TQM can be defined as a quality improvement philosophy that adopts a holistic approach and requires active participation of all employees.
Initially developed by Edward Deming in 1940s, TQM became a buzzword in the US several decades later due to its implementation by a range of large companies such as Ford Motor Company, Motorola, and Xerox. University and colleges, as well as, many other organisations in all industries can apply TQM elements in practice in order to increase the level of customer satisfactions significantly.
TQM elements include understanding customer needs, doing things right the first time, continuous improvement, regular assessments of quality related costs, developing effective systems and procedures etc.
‘Getting things right the first time’ is one of the fundamental TQM elements. This approach substitutes quality inspection practices with constant search and utilisation the potentials for quality improvement. The approach of ‘getting things right the first time’ can benefit the college in terms of avoiding waste of resources, and saving substantial amounts of time and money.
TQM principle of continuous improvement is associated with Kaizen philosophy and its applicability is extended beyond organisational environment to cover personal life, relationships, social life etc. Main advantages of Kaizen principles for the college
The value of continuous improvement or Kaizen for the college is even grater taking into account the fact that implementation of this principle does not require vast financial investments on behalf of the college and improvements can be introduced in a gradual manner.
Another vital TQM element can be identified as understanding customer needs in the first place so that relevant products and services can be offered to satisfy those needs (Witcher and Chau, 2010). The college can implement this principle by conducting primary data collection through questionnaire amongst target customer segment so that needs of perspective customers are identified in an accurate manner and courses are designed appropriately to satisfy those needs.
Enthusiastic and effective participation of all employees is one of the most vital elements and condition of TQM implementation. Therefore, the college management need to achieve active involvement of the workforce by employing tangible and intangible motivational tools. Tangible motivational tools to be used by management may include monetary bonuses for the most active members of the workforce in terms of participation in TQM processes and implementing its principles.
Intangible motivational tools to be used by college management, on the other hand, can include formal appreciation letters and positive public appraisals of staff members that contribute to TQM cause the most.
Moreover, regular cost examinations do also belong to the list of TQM elements due to cost-saving potentials of such practices. Finance department of the college need to conduct critical evaluations of spending patterns of all departments with the aims of finding potentials for optimisations of costs related to quality in direct and indirect manners.
It is difficult to gain quality-related benefits from TQM philosophy without the development of relevant quality-supportive systems and procedures in the college, and this point represents another important TQM element. Potential benefits of this specific TQM element to the college is associated with achievement quality improvement and customer satisfaction in a sustainable manner. Implementation of TQM elements in the college is associated with inevitable changes in a wide range of organisational processes. The college management can implement these changes according to Lewin’s Model of Change (1947).
Lewin (1947) divides the process of change into three stages: unfreezing, change and refreezing. During the first stage, unfreezing, college management need to explain the reasons TQM implementaition and potential benefits of TQM to the college and to employees in the long run.
During the second stage TQM elements and principles need to be applied in the college according to the plan. The last, refreezing stage, has to involve ensuring continuity of adherence to TQM principles throughout the college, and closely integrating TQM philosophy with the organisational culture of the college.
As it has been explained above, TQM offers the college great opportunities for increasing the levels of customer satisfaction to a significant extent. However, TQM implementation in practice may be associated with some issues and these issues can be divided into the following four groups:
Firstly, TQM does not fix quality issues in the college within a short period of time. Rather, TQM is a long-term approach to quality improvement initiatives, and college management should not be discouraged when they do not see quality changes after only few months after its implementation.
Secondly, maximum management commitment to TQM implementation is of a paramount importance. TQM implementation initiatives in the college will be doomed to failure if this fact is not duly understood and acted upon by the management.
Thirdly, TQM is not a tool to be applied once to solve the problem, but it is a continuous process. According to Harmon (2007), a common feature of many case studies of TQM implementation failures relate to the lack of long-term commitment to its principles by organisational departments.
Challenges mentioned above should not prove to be a barrier for TQM implementation in the college and management of the college need to be pro-active in terms of addressing these challenges effectively.
Allen, J.E. (2004) “Assisted Living Administration: The Knowledge Base” 2nd edition, Springer Publishing
Harmon, P. (2007) “Business Process Change” 2nd edition, Morgan Kaufmann
Lewin, K. (1947) “Frontiers in Group Dynamics: Concept, Method and Reality in Social Science; Social Equilibria and Social Change” Human Relations, Vol.1