Evolution of Quality Management

evolution of quality management: An overview of the TQM literature

Total Quality…
The success of Japanese competitors in North American and European markets has long been attributed to the superior quality of their products (Feigenbaum, 1984; Lee & Ebrahimpour, 1985; Mito 1982). Various initiatives have been proposed to enable Western businesses to attain these levels of quality, including quality circles, total quality control, and, most recently, total quality management (TQM).

This paper is based on an extensive literature review of the area of TQM. Early approaches to quality management are reviewed first. The evolution of TQM from these approaches is then summarized. The diffusion of TQM through various parts of the economy is described, along with the problems and criticisms that were made during the process. Lastly, the aspects of TQM that have received attention in the academic literature are summarized, and areas that could benefit from further study are suggested.

Early Quality Management Initiatives

Formal efforts to improve quality management have been undertaken in North America since the late 1970s, in response to increasing competition, particularly from Japanese firms. The first step for many North American companies was to break the pattern of assigning quality management to a quality department, which had reduced the quality function to one of control, largely through inspection. The deficiencies of such an approach were noted by people such as Juran and Deming shortly after the Second World War, but have only begun to be addressed in North America in the last two decades.

The first attempts to improve the management of quality used quality circles to attack the need for training in traditional quality control techniques and for employee involvement. Quality circles were not generally very successful in Europe or North America (Hayward & Dale, 1984; Hill, 1991).

In assessing the failure of quality circles, two requirements of a successful approach to quality management became clearer. First, to be effective, quality management could not remain the concern of the production department, but must be the concern of all departments. It was also recognized that obtaining the full benefits of statistical quality control even within a production department required a change in the traditional role of the employee. This change is variously labelled as employee involvement, participative management, or empowerment (Haley, 1985; Stein, 1991). The change recognizes that it is not sufficient to train groups of people in traditional quality control techniques. They also need training in broader, problem-solving methods, and in team management skills.

The next step in the development of quality management was to address the need for quality control to be a company-wide exercise. The concept of company-wide quality control, often known as total quality control, was diffusing into North America by the early 1980s (Furukawa, Ikeshoji, & Ohmori, 1984; Hattori, 1984; Karatsu, 1982). This was the approach used by many companies in the mid-eighties. The use of total quality control in areas other than the production department brought to light problems in defining quality since quality management had moved outside the manufacturing plant walls, beyond the product and its direct production processes (Tenner, 1991).

TQM uses the idea of a customer focus, on either an internal or an external customer, to provide a framework for assessing quality. As the need for a focus on the customer and the important role of employee involvement in successful quality management became clear, the term TQM began to replace total quality control. The concept of a customer focus, and the development of traditional quality control techniques for use outside the production area, made TQM applicable to both service industries (Hattori, 1984; Kunishi, 1984; Milakovich, 1991) and government agencies (Hyde, 1992a, 1992b; McCabe & Lewin, 1992). It was adopted by the U.S. Department of Defense in the mid-eighties (McCarthy & Elshennawy, 1991), and spread particularly rapidly in the healthcare field in the U.S. at the same time (McCarthey, 1991; McConnell, 1992; Rago & Reid, 1991).

Gurus and Awards

In North America, the so-called quality gurus have been instrumental in diffusing TQM (Jackson, 1990), while in the U.K., the government has taken the initiative (Lascelles & Dale, 1989b). The best known proponents of quality management are Deming, Juran, Crosby, and Feigenbaum. Unlike earlier quality initiatives, TQM is not tied to one particular author, whereas the quality control circle concept is attributed to Dr. Kaoru Ishikawa, of the University of Tokyo (Juran, 1967), and total quality control is strongly associated with A.V. Feigenbaum, who wrote about it as long ago as the early 1950s, under the title Quality Control: Principles, Practice and Administration.

Three authors, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, and Philip Crosby, are regarded as the philosophers or gurus of quality. A brief biography of each man and a critical comparison of their different approaches is given in Evans and Lindsay (1993, ch. 4). Deming (1986) calls for a complete change in corporate culture in order to achieve high levels of quality. His view is that poor quality comes from variability, and that most sources of variability can only be affected by changing systems that are management’s responsibility. Deming’s approach calls for a radical change in the roles of both managers and employees to induce more cooperation and “drive out fear.” Juran’s (1981) approach is directed at a firm’s management, and is much more compatible with current North American management practices. Like Deming’s approach, it also assumes that the major opportunities for improving quality lie in management’s hands, and that employees are constrained by systems that they do not control. However, Juran advocates specific steps for improving quality–such as gathering data to identify where improvement is required, using Pareto analysis, diagnosing the cause of a problem, and identifying the solution–that do not call for alterations to managers’ philosophies. Crosby’s (1979) approach is quite different. He focuses on altering attitudes and behaviours of the workforce, since he attributes quality problems to a lack of standards and attention to detail among employees.


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