Quality is important to business organisations and their consumers. This is because quality products or services can and will secure consumer’s business. However do not equate quality with expensive, as price will not determine quality. Whether a product or service is of high or low quality, will be decided by how it made the consumer feel and whether consumer expectations were satisfied or exceeded.
Some writers such as Tom Peters (in his book “Thriving on Chaos”) believe that quality rather than price dictates demand for a product. Peters argues that customers will be prepared to pay for high quality. This means that value is added to a product by ensuring that products/services have the quality consumers require.
This is defined as the process of identifying which products/services do not meet the organisation’s standards. Once identified the products/services below standard will then be adapted (so that they meet the standards expected) or discontinued
The purpose of this is to ensure that products/services are not below standard when manufactured or used by the consumer. The aim of quality assurance is to make sure that all the goods produced or services offered have “zero defects”. Quality assurance should save costs as products below standard can not be sold. It should also protect the organisation’s reputation. Whilst quality control is about identification of low quality products, quality assurance is about prevention. In other words the aim of quality assurance is to ensure that products are not below standard.
A quality circle is made up of a group of people at various levels within the organisation. These people will have meetings where they will discuss and attempt to solve problems within the organisation. Each of these problems will be real problems faced by the organisation and will require solutions that can be put into practice.
To ensure that an organisation can offer the quality expected by their consumers, they will strive to continuously improve their product or service. This is because a constantly evolving market place, will change consumer demands, needs and expectations with it. Continuous improvement will only take place if staff possess the right skills and knowledge. Skills and knowledge are usually acquired by the staff through the organisation’s ongoing training and development programs.
TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT (TQM)
From the 1980’s Total Quality Management was adopted by a number of organisations. TQM requires the whole of the organisation to adopt the culture of quality. In a TQM organisation quality will dictate the decisions, tasks and processes. A TQM organisation is committed at all levels within every department/function to continuously improve quality. In order to fulfil this commitment every single employee in the organisation will need to accept the challenge of continual quality improvement.
TQM has four basic components
Put customers first
2. Make Continuous Improvement
3. Aim for zero defects
4. Training and development
Put Customers First
A quality product or service satisfies customer’s needs and expectations. Whether a product or service is of high or low quality, will be decided by how it made the consumer feel and whether consumer expectations were satisfied or exceeded. See quality. If customers are not put first, then customer expectations will be difficult to satisfy and consequently quality will not be achieved. Customers can be put first through a variety of initiatives including
• Undertaking market research to discover consumer needs so that the organisation can develop products and services that exceed their consumer’s needs.
• Looking after all customers whether internal or external. Internal customers are employees of the organisation and are known as customers when they approach each other for a service. External customers are all non-employees (of the organisation) that approach the organisation in connection with a service or product.
• Effective customer care systems.
• Ensuring that all service standards are met.
• Listening to customer views and opinions. Responding to customer views including resolving customer complaints in a manner that satisfies their expectations. Once customer complaints are resolved they should be analysed to prevent future recurrence.
Make Continuous Improvement
The Japanese term “kaizen” has contributed to this component. Kaizen believes that there are no limits to continuous improvement. This means that a TQM organisation will continuously strive to improve their product/service and increase the quality standards. A TQM organisation will also view change positively whether the change involves a process change or a change in customer needs and expectations. This is because changes will enable the organisation to develop and explore quality.
Aim for Zero Defects
There are a number of reasons behind the aim to eradicate defects. Defects are expensive because they will lower the customer’s confidence in the product. Also it is more expensive to rectify defects than it is to prevent them occurring in the first place. Zero defects can be achieved through a combination of quality assurance and quality control ( visit the relevant sections by clicking on the links).
Training and Development
An organisation will need to train their employees to ensure that they understand the principles of TQM. A TQM organisation employee will need to understand how TQM is to be achieved or maintained and how they as an employee will ensure that the organisation emulates TQM. Unless each employee accepts and believes in TQM it will be difficult for the organisation to practice TQM.
John Adair Action Centred Leadership Model
John Adair is a renowned leadership theorist. He devised his Action Centred Leadership Model following observations of leaders and their followers during the 1970s. Adair captured his theory in a 3 circle diagram; in which each of the circles overlapped.
The three overlapping circles illustrate that each of the functions are interdependent. This is because individuals make up teams, teams/individuals complete tasks and without a task there is no need for a team or individual. If one element is missing or weak then the other elements will suffer. For example if the team is weak then the task will suffer and one weak individual can affect team performance and subsequently task completion. Adair said that leaders should therefore concentrate on:
• Task Completion (achieve the task)
• Creating and sustaining a group of people that work together as a team (build and sustain a team) and
• Development of individuals within the team (develop the individual).
Adair stated that the three objectives (above) can be achieved through the following actions. These are often referred to as leadership functions. Defining all tasks so that goals and objectives are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Constrained). see www.learnmarketing.net/smart.htm
Regular team briefings so that the team are aware of tasks and progress. Team briefings are a form of communication and can therefore be used to motivate the team.
Motivating is a key leadership function because successful and efficient task completion is dependant on motivated teams.
f a leader does not organise the task and team resources will be wasted and efficiency compromised.
Tasks need to be planned so that both the team and leader are aware of objectives, timescales and individual responsibilities. Planning should include contingencies to cater for unexpected events include testing of the plans.
A leader should constantly evaluate prior to, during and after events. This should include an evaluation of performance, training for individuals and lessons from previous experiences.
A leader needs to control a number of areas including maintaining overall control of the project, implementation of good control systems, and they need to possess self control. A leader also needs to delegate tasks effectively and monitor the teams skills to increase efficiency and “value for money”. Adair believed that “excellent leader” achieved maximum results through the use of minimum resources.
Lead by example: If a leader does not lead by example this will affect their credibility and influence. If a team do not believe that their leader believes in the their objectives then they will lose motivation and focus.
Adair firmly believed that leadership can be taught and that a person can become a successful leader through effectively applying the action centred leadership model. This opinion was a departure from the other theories prevailing at the time (1960s) which stated that people are born with leadership characteristics and therefore leadership cannot be taught. Nowadays Adair’s theory is either criticised for being “too simple” and branded as outdated, or welcomed by those who feel that it’s simplicity and practicality render it timeless.