The Total Quality Management concept, commonly known as TQM, is a framework that allows businesses to be competitive on the market through ensuring all processes are effective and lead to the best results in production or service. Various theories about TQM differ regarding what it should include. This paper analyzes two articles that focus on employees’ management as one of the steps for keeping and increasing the quality of automobile products manufactured by Land Rover.
TQM includes two basic principles that describe the attitude toward quality. According to those principles, it is not enough only to keep the quality on a decent level, but it has to be continually increased. So-called Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement form the two pillars of TQM and are implemented, among other operations, through an effective HR management style that allows workers to be involved in the process and to feel their input is valued.
The method of creating quality circles (Berk and Berk 71) for TQM practice was popular in the 1980s. These circles included employees from different departments who were intended to work together to raise the quality of company production through improving the labor process on the spot. However, the experience showed that, in most cases, these groups were not able to lead a structured discussion and produce valuable decisions.
The first research paper by Pinnington and Hammersley focuses on the quality circles created by Land Rover and analyzes the reasons for their failure (415). The study claims that despite the lack of success, this strategy has created the basis for the TQM framework implementation that followed. It includes a literature review and an interview analysis. The first part of the article offers a detailed discussion that reveals the overall trends that prevailed in the management systems of US and UK companies in the 1980s and the early 1990s. It becomes evident that quality circles were a mainstream trend. However, this method could hardly be considered as structured and usually took the form of experiments. The concept of employee involvement was not new at the time, yet it was not built into the system of quality management. The participative management style (Drenth et al. 297) was only taking its first steps to recognize the importance of employees for final outcomes in manufacturing. Nevertheless, despite its potential, the program had lost its popularity by the late 1990s. The main reason is well described by several cases that mention how management did not respond to the workers’ problems in the way that was expected.
The TQM strategy that changed the quality circles is also described in detail in this article. Several opinions are introduced that support it or mention its disadvantages compared to the previous system. While the positive outcomes are mainly agreed upon, and the TQM framework is currently implemented in companies all over the world, the less-beneficial sides or negatives are usually neglected. The researchers mention that the TQM model implies that the initiatives were being passed from top management to employees, with the latter having significantly fewer options for imposing changes compared to the times when the quality circles were in use. The politics of keeping workers insecure about their jobs has substituted for the innovation factor. This conclusion can be applied to the modern situation in the labor market where employees are kept at work by the adverse state of the economy.
The second part of the research paper is practical and describes the results of a series of interviews conducted with employees who were formerly a part of the quality circles in the Land-Rover company. The research focuses specifically on non-managerial workers in the corporation. The sampling is representative, as the interviewees were selected from different plant departments. The quality circles at Land Rover were called discussion groups and accounted for 14 percent of the total employee number. All the selected groups achieved cost savings through their practice. The answers were divided based on the themes that came up in the open-ended questions. A table shows primary themes included cooperation with management, awareness, and employee involvement. Moreover, the reasons for the failure of the quality circles (Evans and Lindsay 278) were also analyzed. They are shown in a separate table with the top reason claimed to be disappointment with the quality circle philosophy by its members. The article has a developed discussion section that ties the national experience with the Land-Rover company’s story. Despite the practical results showing positive trends, the literature concludes that the quality circles were merely the basis for the development of TQM.
However, while the theoretical side is very detailed and embraces the majority of opinions, the practical research has several limitations. First, the interviews were conducted at the employees’ workplace, which could initially be uncomfortable and might exert pressure. Second, the fact that those interviews were conducted in groups instead of individually poses the question of whether the answers were accurate. People tend to give expected answers instead of real ones to support their reputation in the community. Finally, the fact that the interview results were passed on to the company’s management team also implies that the data cannot serve as a source of correct information.
Continuous Improvement Groups
The second article by the same authors, which came out two years later, is much less detailed, although it studies the same subject of quality circles at the Land-Rover company (Pinnington and Hammersley 29). It is much shorter and provides readers with the results of qualitative research done through interviewing the company’s employees. Unlike the previous article, this one is more focused on the study of the so-called continuous improvement groups that were implemented after the quality circles. While the discussion groups offered their ideas for innovation to management, the continuous improvement groups were the source of translating the initiatives through the top-to-bottom model.
The main strength of this article is that it focuses specifically on the Land-Rover company. Unlike the previous research, this one explains that one of the reasons for terminating the discussion group program was the negative perception of these groups by the co-workers. Apart from that, the results of the discussion groups’ actions are well described as focused more on small issues that employees felt to be important rather than an overall company strategy for improvement. This fact is supported by the TQM theory that employee involvement is tied to control sharing (Lewis et al. 258), yet the practical side has proven that managerial guidance is required for directing employees’ discussions in the right way.
The limitations of this study include the lack of a literature review. For instance, there is little information on whether the continuous improvement groups were popular nationwide and whether they achieved any positive results elsewhere. In addition, the interviewing methodology has the same issues as in the first article, with people having to answer questions in groups, causing the results to be possibly inaccurate.
Berk, Joseph, and Susan Berk. Quality Management for the Technology Sector. Elsevier, 2000.
Drenth, Pieter J. D., et al. Personnel Psychology. Psychology Press, 1998.
Evans, James R., and William M. Lindsay. Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence. 7th ed., Thomson South-Western, 2008.
Lewis, Philip, et al. Employee Relations: Understanding the Employment Relationship. Pearson, 2003.
Pinnington, Ashly, and Geraldine Hammersley. “Quality Circles Under the New Deal at Land-Rover.” Employee Relations, vol. 19 no.5, 1997, pp. 415-429.
Pinnington, Ashly, and Geraldine Hammersley. “Employee Response to Continuous Improvement Groups.” The TQM Magazine, vol. 11, no. 1, 1999, pp. 29-34.