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Principles of Total Quality Management

Based on the lessons learned by various companies implementing TQM as reported in the literature, there are some principles of practices that are instrumental to the success of TQM implementation.

Quality is everyone's business

Quality is the concern of not only the management but also the workers. By empowerment, that is empowering employees with the ability to stop development if quality is sacrificed, quality can be dramatically improved. Workers feel a sense of belonging to the process and a pride in the quality of their work. Quality is perceived as a team effort. Software industries are now empowering their employees with the ability to stop the whole development if someone discovers a quality defect.

Customer Emphasis

One must focus on satisfying internal and external needs, requirements, and expectations, not just on meeting specifications. This is essentially creating a customer focus. Since customers are the ones that drive production, their needs and expectations should be the focus of all improvement efforts. Customers are not only those who buy finished products. There are also workers within the company who use the components produced by other workers. These workers are internal customers. A software development can be conceived as having a string of customers, starting client. Each person is responsible for improving the quality of the product that they pass on to the next customer. Under the TQM culture, everyone has a customer.

Quality must be built into the product

Quality cannot be an afterthought. It must be constantly measured and quantified. The question: "Is this good quality?" must be a centerpiece in any development project. It must be a concern from beginning to end. Quality is not determined by picking the best of the bunch after production and recycling the bad ones. "Bad ones" should never exist in a TQM environment. Defects should be discovered before any production occurs. This is accomplished by building quality into the product. It is easiest to understand this concept by thinking about quality as a part of a product. The product cannot work without the quality component installed. Therefore, during every stage of the development process, the developer must ask himself: 'Have I installed the quality component in this product?'

TQM requires management commitment and involvement at all levels

TQM must be implemented from the top down in every organization. If management does not have a commitment to a TQM culture, it will fail. The management must provide leadership in implementing the change; the workers do not have the power to do so. Do not blame the workers for poor quality; the management and the systems are responsible for quality.

TQM accomplishment involves continual training

Continuous improvement includes the improvement of one's ability in performing one's job. An employee must be trained in TQM principles and in the tools and techniques for implementing TQM. Such training credential should be treated as an accomplishment for performance evaluation.

Leadership is substituted for slogans and exhortations

We have all heard the slogan: "Quality is job one." This example is from Ford Motor Company. However, slogan means nothing when we say it but we do not do it. Ford still produces buggy cars despite its great success in Team Taurus project. What Ford needs is better leadership in quality improvement.

Long-term emphasis on measurable processes and productivity improvement

TQM cannot be implemented overnight. It is a long-term process that takes years to implement. It is a complete cultural change in the organization to focus on continuous improvement. The problem with achieving continuous improvement is that it requires measures to be compared against. Therefore, a key element of the TQM culture is qualified metrics-measurements taken continuously in order to chart progress.

Understand the current process before Improvement begins

We must understand how things work in the organization to be able to improve it. Understanding how it works involves being able to measure the process in order to compare "improvements" against it.

Cross-functional orientation and teamwork

The essence of cross-functional teams is to integrate many different parts of the organization into the development process. For instance, programmers must involve users from finance, accounting, marketing, and other departments in the development of a software product. This philosophy is developed with the thought that developing a product is not just the designer's concern. Everyone who is involved with the development, distribution, and maintenance of a product should have a say in the development of the product.

Effective use of statistical methods and quality control tools

Statistical quality control and process control techniques should be used to identify special causes of variation that are points outside the control limits. Actions should be taken to remove these special causes. Moreover, any abrupt shifts or distinct trends within limits are also signals for investigation. Quality control tools such as the Quality Seven (Q7) tools and the Management Seven (M7) tools may be used to plan for actions, collect valuable data, and chart for progress. Table 1 lists the names of these tools and their descriptions while Figures 1 and 2 display their formats. The Q7 tools are used to analyze historical data for solving a particular problem. Most problems occurring in production-related areas fall into this category. One the other hand, not all data needed for decision making are readily available and many problems call for collaborative decision among different functional areas. Under these situations, the M7 tools (also called the New Seven tools are useful in areas such as product quality improvement, cost reduction, new-product development, and policy deployment, etc.


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