Overview of Quality and Total Quality Management
Various researchers define quality differently. For instance, perceived quality may be said to be the judgements of consumers about the overall superiority, excellence and value of an entity (Rowley 1998, 325). Reeves and Bednar (1994, 437) state that quality is excellence, value and conformance to given specifications. Similarly, quality may be defined as meeting or exceeding the needs and expectations of customers and consumers (Reid & Sanders 2010).
Total Quality Management, on the other hand, refers to a concept of management which was coined by Edwards Deming. TQM is mainly aimed at reducing the errors which occur in the processes of manufacturing or service provision. Additionally, it is aimed at increasing satisfaction of customers and streamlining the supply chain management. Besides, it aims at modernizing equipments and ensuring that workers are highly trained. Total Quality Management is a management approach which endeavors to continually improve all the processes within organisations. It lays much emphasis on the active involvement of all the individuals within the organisation, up from the CEO to the lower employees, in search for quality.
Total Quality Management TQM applies uniformly to all organisational parts. Similarly, it may be seen as an addition to other traditional approaches to quality. It ensures that customers are given special attention as far as quality decisions are concerned. Additionally, it lays much attention on the responsibilities as well as roles of all the staff members within the organisation in ensuring that quality products and services are provided. It also strives to ensure that all the employees within the organisation are empowered.
According to some sources, Total quality management has become part and parcel of business organisations. However, its role of one of the strategic resources has not extensively been examined. This paper, hence, looks at TQM as one of the possible sources of competitive advantages for firms.
A competitive advantage refers to the advantage which is gained by organisations over its competitors through the provision of greater value to customers due to very low prices or provision of additional benefits as well as services which justify comparable higher prices (Reid & Sanders 2010). There are a number of ways through which organisations can gain competitive edges. This paper mainly explores how the implementation of Total Quality Management is capable of generating competitive advantages to firms.
Is Total Quality Management Enough For Competitive Advantage?
The effects of TQM on organisational performance have been a great issue in a number of studies. Those researches have clearly illustrated that there is a positive relationship between total quality management and organisational performance. Nonetheless, the experimental evidence is not generally conclusive, and besides, theoretical frameworks are not in existence to justify the relation that exists between TQM and organisational performance. This paper has to greater extent analysed the effects that total quality management brings as far as competitive advantages are concerned.
Total Quality Management gurus together with other consultants have greatly marketed TQM as a highly significant scheme for change. TQM professionals as well as consultants strongly believe that it is capable of generating competitive advantages for firms. Besides, they have strong beliefs that total quality management is enough to provide solutions to the myriads of problems that face companies. This, however, is not true. However, there are a number of instances where TQM offers the required change initiative.
Silvestro (1998) states that value creation and uniqueness are the major features which make resources as well as capacities create competitive advantages for firms. According to them, TQM is highly valuable, and they explain its value through the use of two perspectives. The first one is the external perspective which ensures improved customer contact which in turn results in improved information concerning the market. It also helps ensure improved brand loyalty, which in turn results in an increase in margins and sales. The second is internal perspective. TQM brings about improvements in productivity because it solves problems, reduces wastes, improving the commitment as well as motivation of workers. TQM benefits depend to a great extent on how the approach is introduced into the culture of organisations. Due to this, the ultimate configuration of Total Quality Management will be distinctive in every organisation (Escrig-Tena, 2004). Escrig-Tena (2004) hence notes that when these two conditions – value and uniqueness – are followed, TQM can be considered a highly significant factor for attaining competitive advantage.
Dale et al (2001) are of the opinion that a huge chunk of the literature on TQM has its basis on individual experience as well as anecdotal evidence (Tuckman, 1995) though it has had very minimal empirical testing (Sitkin et al., 1994). Similarly, Dale (1999) considers that Total Quality Management may lose its meaning as well as credibility as a philosophy for enhancing the effectiveness of organisations. As noted, the effectiveness of TQM has greatly been questioned. Total Quality Management is a comparatively new occurrence, and besides, its origin majorly falls outside the academic world (Spencer, 1994), that is why its usefulness in generating competitive advantages for firms is in question.
Despite the fact that there are certain critical arguments against TQM, there is considerable amount of literature which supports its use for gaining competitive advantages. TQM mainly stresses on the commitment of employees to ensure customer satisfaction. It is also said to be a management system for the creation and implementation of persistent improvement processes so as to produce results which are capable of exceeding the expectations of the customers. TQM assumes that approximately 90% of problems are caused by wrong processes and not the employees.
How Total Quality Management Can Bring Competitive Advantages
Liberalization as well as globalization has resulted in fierce competition among different firms. Therefore, service management as well as quality performance plays very significant role in ensuring that organisations gain competitive edges over other players within the industry (Selvaraj 2009). Organisations may become effective and stronger only when they have regulations put into effect to ensure improved quality and customer service. Additionally, measures should be implemented to ensure that costs are reduced. Moreover, innovation should be put into consideration (Cowling and Newman, 1995). All these issues are catered for by total quality management.
Presently, there are a number of service providers offering products and services and customers always go for organisations that provide the best services as far as reliability and quality are concerned. Customers will also go for the service providers who meet international standards. Hence service quality plays a significant role as well as quality is one of the basic factors in ensuring that organisations survive. Organisations should, therefore, lay much emphasis on the provision of services in such ways that the expectations of customers are not only met but also exceeded. It is Total Quality Management that will ensure that the needs of customers are exceeded, and hence, it plays significant role in allowing organisations to gain competitive edges over other players (Selvaraj 2009; Saravanan and Rao, 2006).
TQM has been known to be very popular with the manufacturing sector. This has made several organisations see the numerous benefits that it brings to the business. Besides, the numerous positive effects on the performance of organisations as a result of the implementation of TQM have been achieved.
Total quality management ensures that there is continuous improvement. This is very important for organisations as it ensures that customer needs as well as expectations are met or exceeded. This can easily make organisations gain competitive advantages. Besides, total quality management ensures that there is empowerment. Through such approach, employees are enabled to come up with own decisions. The role of management is just to make sure that TQM is effectively implemented. Its strategies are needed also to ensure that it works extremely well.
For organisations to survive, there is need for them to offer quality services. This is a pre-requisite for any company to succeed (Roger, Schlesinger and Zornitsky, 1996). A number of studies have showed that for any organisation to perform, service quality is paramount (Krishnaveni and Divya, 2006; Vanniarajan, 2007, and Joseph, McClure and Joseph, 1999). Total Quality Management is, therefore, essential for organisations to gain competitive edges over other players within their respective industries (Kassem,1998; Al-Marri, Ahmed, Zairi, 2007).
Total Quality Management (TQM) emphasises on the minimization of costs through waste reduction, assistance of suppliers to ensure that quality products are provided as well as satisfaction of customers through the provision of quality services and goods. Companies which are able to produce goods and provide services at lower costs in comparison to their competitors and at the same time offer quality goods and services which satisfy the customers always have several advantages over the organisations which fail to achieve these. Hence, the implementation of TQM is capable of helping organisations gain competitive advantages.
Through the implementation of TQM, organisations are capable of reducing costs. It is undeniable that when firms achieve reduced costs to make products or offer services, the firm gains competitive advantage over its competitors. For manufacturing firms, TQM is also capable of reducing their costs of production. Organisations would always want to minimise the cost of making products.
Through TQM, organisations are capable of designing and manufacturing stylish, innovative products of high quality, and getting them to the market more quickly as compared to their competitors. This brings about competitive advantages.
Additionally, TQM system is capable of ensuring core competence of organisations, thereby generating sustainable competitive advantages.
As noted, Total Quality Management (TQM) endeavours to enhance quality as well as performances which can meet or exceed customer expectations. This may be got through the integration of all the processes and functions which are related to quality all through the organisation. TQM emphasises on the general quality measures applied by organisations, including the management of quality design as well as maintenance, quality control, quality improvement, and quality assurance (Reid & Sanders 2010).
Continued improvement of the processes of making products as well as the processes of offering services can make organisations highly effective in ensuring that losses are reduced due to minimizing wastes. This can make organisations to provide products and services at reduced prices, still making good profits. Competitors, however, may not be capable of meeting the reduced prices. It should be noted that TQM is mainly aimed at eliminating errors. Additionally, the Six-Sigma technique of TQM endeavours to ensure that errors are eliminated. When quality goods are got from suppliers, costs will significantly be reduced.
Similarly, TQM strives to ensure that workers as well as suppliers get benefits from such a situation. Suppliers as well as workers play significant roles in cost reduction and quality improvement. Organisations which empower their workers as well as suppliers always have competitive advantages over those which do not.
For organisations to provide their customers with quality products, there is a need for them to purchase quality materials or parts to produce the quality goods. A significant aspect of Total Quality Management is to assist suppliers to offer quality products. Partnership with suppliers will ensure that organisations obtain quality products from them. This will result in the provision of quality products which will in effect generate competitive advantages for firms.TQM ensures that quality products and services are provided by organisations. This leads to customer satisfaction. The greatest advantage that an organisation can gain is ensuring that their customers are satisfied through the provision of quality products.
For effective realization of the benefits of Total quality management in generation of competitive edges for organisations, there are a number of success factors which ought to be taken into consideration in the implementation of total quality management; for instance, managers ought to be aware of the structure of the organisation in order to know how TQM can be introduced into the firm, the process of its implementation as well as its success. Supportive environment is also significant because a trustful environment encourages workers to be more responsible with their jobs, and additionally, supportive social environments usually facilitate in adapting to TQM practice.
The main expectation of TQM gurus is quality in organisation. They endeavour to emphasise that all the efforts should be made to ensure that customer preferences, needs, as well as expectations are taken into consideration. They champion for quality to become the common language used to identify and also provide solutions to problems. Quality is a competitive strategy since it is incorporated into corporate goals, plans, as well as actions. TQM ensures that there are highly defined methods of providing solutions to problems. Similarly, it ensures that broad training activities are geared towards ensuring that there are quality improvements. Additionally, it attempts to make sure that every employee is involved in making sure that there are quality improvements.
In summary, there are a number of benefits of effective implementation of TQM. Some of the financial advantages are lowered costs, greater returns on investment and sales, as well as the capacity to charge higher prices as compared to those of the competitors. Other benefits that are associated with TQM are enhanced entry to international markets, greater levels of customer retention, and minimal time needed in the development of new innovations. Firms also stand a chance to get good reputation as being providers of quality products and services. Additionally, organisations can gain competitive advantages from TQM though improved product quality, improved customer satisfaction, increased revenues, reduction of wastages, as well as enhanced team work. All these are beneficial for organisations.
Criticisms of Total Quality Management
Although TQM is very popular, it has received numerous criticisms.
The first issue in question concerns the relationship that exists between innovation and standardisation (Vinni, 2007). If Total Quality Management supports the advancement of standards for procedures as well as output, thinking innovatively becomes highly difficult. When TQM is institutionalised, it tends to motivate mechanistic answers even in the instances where the requirement for innovation calls for more organic answers (Godfroij1995).
Second, when the challenge entails evaluating and improving the whole system, it is tempting to invent synoptic structures of control and planning, which also entail the danger of being hierarchic, bureaucratic, as well as static (Vinni, 2007). If an individual attempts to found an organisation that is dynamic as well as organic, it is hard to include the incorporation of total systems (Godfroij 1995). For instance, the systems of quality might be inward looking which may emphasise on compliance to the internal procedures with little direct connections to satisfaction of customers (Silvestro 1998, 308; Yong and Wilkinson 2001, 249).
Third, cultural insinuations, such as systems, structures, as well as procedures, are highly significant though they are minor change mechanisms. The main objective of TQM is cultural change (Hill 1995, 40). Dawson (1995, 190) states that Total Quality Management is a change philosophy based on the open communication as well as involvement of workers within the organisation. These changes are mainly aimed at ensuring that there is teamwork as well as cultural commitment. Additionally, Total Quality Management promises autonomy, harmony as well as increased responsibility. However, these “promises” are not always met when reflecting the practices of organisations, and besides, they are always contradicted by enhanced work controls, intensification of work as well as employment insecurity (Vinni, 2007). Tuckman (1995, 405) argues that Total Quality Management attempts to develop fresh forms of political and managerial control, and hence it is not very appropriate.
Some scholars are of the opinion that quality as well as Total Quality Management is not straightforward and coherent notion – the disparity in understanding ought to be acknowledged in the analysis of TQM (Vinni, 2007). Nonetheless, it is probable that the existence of several definitions of Total Quality Management might be beneficial when the concept may be acclimatised to the exact situations of the individuals who put it into practice (Giroux and Landry 1998, 194).
Despite the fact that TQM has lost its meaning to a number of individuals, it will still remain to be very relevant. Organisations still need to enhance their processes so as to provide quality products and services that meet or exceed the needs and expectations of their customers. For this to be achieved, there is need for the implementation of total quality management. Besides, despite the criticism of total quality management, its implementation in business organisations is paramount since to a great extent, it helps business organisations enhance the quality of products and services that they offer. However, organisations should not only rely on total quality management alone as a means of gaining competitive edges but they should employ several other techniques. This is because when the implementation is not properly done, total quality management may not be effective, and hence organisations may not achieve their objectives of gaining competitive advantages.
TQM has also been criticised because it is said that it is not a consistent or coherent theory. Moreover, some people refer to it as a mere term which meaning sounds unclear. Therefore, its effectiveness in generating competitive advantages is questionable.
Besides, whereas TQM brings competitive advantages to firms, its implementation is vital. The paper notes that TQM may not be the only means to generate competitive advantages for firms because when it is not effectively implemented, organisations stand to lose. Again, there is no guarantee that the implementation of TQM will be effective. Those who are of this opinion, therefore, say that it may be a trial and error method of gaining competitive advantage.
TQM does not provide a clear path of ensuring that goals are attained. The theoretical inconsistency of total quality management makes it practically ambiguous, and this makes it challenging during the implementation process. The ambiguity is evident in a number of ways. First and foremost, the individuals who are advocating for Total Quality Management do not provide any implementation guideline. Given that there are no proper implementation guidelines, TQM may not be effectively implemented, and this may make organisations lose competitive edges.
Additionally, those who are advocating for TQM fail to tackle its effects on employment relationship, when it is introduced into organisations. Implementation of TQM may influence job speciality, amount as well as employee entitlements. This may bring about employment relationship issues. This can results in problems within the organisation and may hence make organisations lose competitive edges.
TQM calls for the abolishment of traditional practices of human resource management like the systems of rewarding employees; however, clear options are not suggested by these people. It is of paramount significance to ensure that reward systems which are at par with the general thrust of Total Quality Management are created. Additionally, individuals who are advocating for Total Quality Management do not acquaint themselves with the fact that diverse groups within the workplace might react differently to the concept of TQM transformation. This is because every group functions out of distinct paradigm concerning TQM intervention.
There are a number of reasons why TQM cannot offer solutions to all the problems that are faced by firms, and besides, it cannot be applicable in all the organisations. Secondly, there are several other ways through which organisations can gain competitive edges, and TQM is not the only way. Third, TQM is mainly applicable in the services sector and majorly concerned with customer satisfaction. Therefore, it cannot be a guarantee that its implementation will automatically generate competitive advantages to all the firms, regardless of the nature of their activities.
The adequacy of TQM in the provision of solutions to all the problems faced by management as well as its adequacy in leading organisations to prosperity by itself has been questioned. However, it is undeniable that although Total Quality Management is extremely very necessary, it is not highly sufficient in providing solutions to every problem faced by organisations, and besides, it cannot single-handedly lead organisations to do their best. Besides TQM, organisations should employ several other techniques so as to meet their objectives and also gain competitive edges.
TQM alone cannot be enough to generate competitive advantages for organisations. In some instances, it may unsuccessfully be implemented and doom the organisations to failure. McCabe (1994) notes that the way to attaining total quality management is always full of numerous challenges and obstacles. Besides, Sitkin et al. (1994) state that ambiguous guidelines as well as implementation techniques may result in unsuccessful implementation attempts which may make organisations lose competitive edges as presumed.
Total quality management plays a very big role in organisations. Its effective implementation is capable of generating competitive advantages for organisations. This paper has addressed how Total Quality Management can generate competitive advantages for organisations. It has provided how organisations stand to gain from the implementation of total quality management. The paper has also analysed the usefulness and suitability of total quality management.
The paper has also explored some of the reasons why total quality management has been criticised by some researchers. It has noted that TQM is opposed strongly because it provides mechanistic solutions to problems (Godfroij 1995). Increased bureaucracy also makes it be opposed by a number of individuals (Hill and Wilkinson 1995, 19).
TQM can play significant roles in organisations. Its implementation may ensure that companies satisfy their customers, improve on their financial performance and also enhance their productivity. The paper notes that there are a number of dimensions which may make TQM successful in organisations. For companies to ensure that TQM is successfully implemented, motivation of employees for them to improve on their service provision is paramount. Monitoring of customer satisfaction as well as obtaining customer feedback is also an element of TQM which can contribute to customer satisfaction. Above everything, TQM can be effective in generating competitive advantages when the management is fully committed to ensuring that TQM is given full support so as to ensure that it is successfully implemented.
The paper has also explored that despite the numerous benefits that are brought about by the implementation of TQM, only few firms apply TQM since its effective adoption entails that more time, money, and effort are to be spent as well as more patience is to be paid. However, firms which have relevant resources are able to gain huger competitive advantages through the implementation of TQM.
The paper notes that total quality management is a great factor that can effectively contribute to competitive advantages. It provides empirical evidences that illustrate this. Additionally, it has analysed the impacts of total quality management on the quality of products, operational as well as financial results.
TQM has several components though it is not very clear which of its many components work best for organisations. Different studies consider different elements to be the best. This issue is also in question.
In summary, TQM plays a significant role in organisations as it is capable of generating competitive advantages for organisations. The outcome of Total Quality Management always requires time. Besides, it is a process that is long-term. However, though it is a step geared towards the right direction, organisations should never rely on this approach alone. They should employ other strategies which can generate for the competitive advantages because when the implementation of TQM is not correctly done, the organisation stands to lose.
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