BUT IT TAKES SO LONG 1
Total Quality Management requires time
Many organizations have applied Total Quality Management (TQM) to gain market share, increase sales, and reduce costs dramatically, but others have had disappointing results.
One source of their disappointment has been the time required to see significant improvement.
TQM requires transforming the whole culture of an organization to become customer focused.
Because this transformation relies on the majestic, deliberate biological and psychological reaction of humanity to change, it should not be surprising that significant time is required.
But this elapsed time need not be measured in glacial epochs.
Many organizations have achieved well-documented, stunning successes in reasonable periods of time.
What, then, can floundering organizations do to speed up their own success?
Reducing the time required for cross-functional teams to complete quality improvement projects is one way that organizations can accelerate quality gains. Since these teams eliminate the deficiencies that turn away customers and reduce the costs associated with overcoming those deficiencies, they are an important ingredient for organizational success, even after several years of structural quality management.
These cross-functional quality improvement teams, however, have been criticized as making only incremental, not breakthrough, changes.
In the intervening years, thousands of crossfunctional quality improvement teams have achieved rapid breakthroughs; thus, the factors that have prevented others from achieving such success lie in the specific implementation, not in the fundamental process.
Try to have a specific, narrow focus on accelerating the impact of quality improvement teams. Let's drop the other key factors that determine the overall effectiveness of a quality strategy, such as developing a strategic quality plan with the right strategic goals for priority attention; choosing the most appropriate processes, methods, and techniques to reach these strategic goals; building an infrastructure that will support those processes; and replicating results across the organization.
The Juran Institute, which works with many organizations to revitalize their quality management efforts, conducted a study to identify specific causes for excessive time spent completing quality improvement projects.
Twenty projects were selected from 10 clients in five different industries (health care, petroleum exploration and production, chemical manufacturing, restaurant food, and metal fabrication) as a basis for the study. Each of the projects, which had been identified by the organizations’ executives as taking too long, addressed a significant quality improvement opportunity and required longer than one year to complete.
The study found that nearly two-thirds of the time spent could have been eliminated if the organizations had followed specific best practices.
The study team developed a list of typical quali- ty improvement team difficulties, which was refined as the review progressed.
The history of each project was then reviewed for evidence of one or more of these problems, and the time lost during each project as a result of the identified difficulties was calculated.
The projects in the study required an average of 68.1 weeks to complete, and an astonishing 62.8% of that time could have been avoided.
The excess time can be divided into two main classes:
- time that could have been saved if the managers who chartered the projects had provided effective preparation and support
- time that could have been eliminated if the teams had used best practices when working on their projects.
Specific acceleration opportunities for these two categories will be explored. The data demonstrate that even relatively complex quality improvement projects are not inherently long and can yield significant results in a modest amount of time with proper preparation, support, and methods.
Quality improvement is the application of the scientific method to the elimination of poor quality.
While the details could vary, effective quality improvement in a cross-functional setting has a structure and steps similar to the following:
- Target one of the most important opportunities for improvement
- Clearly define the project’s mission and give responsibility and authority to the appropriate team to solve the problem
- Diagnose the root causes.
- Design and implement a remedy that will remove the causes
- Ensure that appropriate quality controls and operating procedures are in place to ensure that beneficial results continue to be achieved
- Apply the solution for one problem to other, similar problems and identify related problems for future projects
Concerns about the time required to complete projects usually relate to the elapsed time from when the project has been established to when the remedy has been implemented and gains are beginning to be realized. Let's see where time can be saved in the first four steps of the quality improvement process.
The wasted time is classified by the step in which the failure occurred. Many delays during the third and fourth steps (diagnose cause and remedy cause) can be traced to failures during the identification and establishment of the project. Since diagnosing a root cause is usually the most unfamiliar step for teams, most executives were not surprised that step 3 was the main source of project delay.
Many also realized that they could make some major improvements in identifying and establishing projects. But most were surprised that there were also significant delays in developing and implementing the solution.