What Should an Organization Be Trying to Do Today?

by Dr. Gordon D. Booth

The Post World War II Era

Since the end of World War II, many companies in the Western World have focused on maximizing production at all costs. Of course, they had a rather vague idea of what specifications had to be maintained to have the product function--at least to some extent. Nevertheless, the emphasis was on production while barely meeting stated specification.

Because these Western producers (many of them in the U.S.) were the only ones with functioning manufacturing facilities still intact after the war, they felt little pressure to produce high quality products. Now, all this has changed, and with the change has come the need for a dramatically new company objective.

The Rise of the Demand for Quality Goods and Services

When consumers throughout the world began to experience products other than those produced by the companies of the Western World, they began to see that they did not have to settle for products that barely worked. Instead, they could expect and demand products that worked well. Western manufacturers had experienced a prolonged lack of competition which had lulled them into a false sense of security.

The Fallacy of "Falling Within Specifications."

Finally the meteoric rise in production of Western manufacturing began to slacken as Eastern companies began to compete with products that went far beyond the simple notion of "falling within specifications." These Eastern products not only worked, but they worked very well. In many areas, they became the preference of most buyers.

It became obvious to Western companies that they would have to improve the quality of their goods or they would be driven from the marketplace. This realization put Western industry in a position where they were "ripe" for conversion to the principles of Quality.

TQM on Stage--Front and Center

Various mixtures of the philosophies of several quality gurus began to be popular throughout Western industry. Collectively, they became known as Total Quality Management (TQM). There arose many flavors of TQM. Each claimed to be the course that should be followed.

Many companies adopted TQM in an effort to save their position in the marketplace and to survive the onslaught of Eastern industry. Most of these "TQM" programs had many good, valid principles underlying them. Unfortunately, most such efforts were implemented in ways that assured their demise before they even began. Company after company began TQM initiatives, but most suffered from fatal deficiencies:

What Direction Should Quality Initiatives Take?

Of all the quality gurus, we feel W. Edwards Deming provided the best direction. It is balanced between the application of data-based scientific method (applied to organizations) and good, solid management principles based upon the dignity and value of the human resources within the organization.

Our experience in almost 35 years of working within organizations to improve their decisions, their products and their production systems convinces us that something can and should be done. Even in cases where TQM has been unsuccessfully attempted and has failed, there is much that can be done to improve the company's products, image and eventually its market position.

Rather than give up completely, an organization that wants to improve should begin to utilize the scientific method (based upon data). Using this method, the company can not only solve existing problems, but can improve the products and the processes that produce those products. When this happens, the reputation of the company improves, it gains a larger market share, and it stays in business.