The advent of the globalization of the market economy has been described as “the customer’s victory.”(Dupuy, 1999) We have moved from an economy where products were scarce to one where products are plentiful and customers have just too many choices. This has led to the need to develop our capacity to listen and to learn, to become learning organizations. “Learning and listening (in our organizations) is a set of behaviors, of arrangements, of co-operative efforts…” (Dupuy, 1999) To ensure success, organizations need to embrace a single quality philosophy, its management needs to lead and embrace quality, exudes quality leadership, provides systems and structures needed to suit quality objectives, provide training to employees and empower them in quality initiatives, and ensures the existence of a quality values system that are developed into a living culture within the organization.
Quality is defined as “The totality of features & characteristics of a product or services that bears in its ability to satisfy explicit & implicit needs.” (BS 4778; ISO 8402 Standards). Dr. JM Juran defines quality as, “The fitness for purpose,” and Philip Crosby defines it as, “Conformance to requirement.”
According to quality guru Dr. Armand V Feigenbaun, the author of ‘Total Quality Control’, “Quality is the total composite product and service characteristics of marketing, engineering, manufacture and maintenance through which the product and service in use will meet the expectations of the customer.” To the industry, "quality" is an essential component of the organizational approach and philosophy to management. Quality system management underpins the product and the marketing programmes to provide goods or services that satisfies the customers, and at the same time provides shareholders return on investment.
James Houghton, the Chairman of Corning Glass described quality as "...knowing what needs to be done, having the tools to do it right, then doing it right - first time."
The guiding philosophy for quality is performance improvement and continuous improvement. The key to quality is its people and the processes. The primary barrier to success is the appalling stupidity of most managers about people and their lack of competency in handling processes that causes wastages, scraps, reworks and warranty claims. Central to the quality philosophy is the people that function within social, economic and organizational systems and that, with a well-design processes, the people within can achieve the results envisaged. Programs for improvement that fail to take those interactive systems into consideration, in planning and in execution, are doomed to failure or to trivial results. Quality is impossible without well trained people and a good understanding of the processes that bring about results.
A commitment to quality management cannot be expressed through charades, which encourages form over substance, and mean nothing. Quality management cannot be reduced to recursively trivial plan, which are relevant only to the performing organization, but irrelevant to the real customers; the ultimate reason why the company survives, and why the organization and its people exist.
All efforts at performance improvement, for purposes of quality, must be defined in terms of the customers. Efforts labeled quality improvement that cannot be linked to the ultimate customers and end-users, are 'much ado about nothing' and are, at best, trivial imitations of quality management. In the service industry, the processes of service delivery must be designed into the service delivery system so that the results are achieved the first time.
Quality improvement mythology holds that efforts at performance improvement, aimed at quality, are doomed to failure, unless upper management is behind all the efforts. According to Dr. Joseph M. Juran, in his assessment, 80% of quality problems are caused by upper management. Good intentions and sheer determination are not a guarantee of success in implementing total quality management system in the company. Total Quality Management System and its success cannot just come from raw enthusiasm of the participants, which is its management and workers.
To be successful, a Quality Management System must aim to improve product quality within design, manufacturing and customer service. It must also include the suppliers, vendors’ distributors and retailers. We should expect everyone with whom we do business to implement a company wide quality control programme which emphasizes continuous improvement of quality and productivity. Such a programme should demonstrate a management philosophy that reflects:
i. Top management commitment to quality as a business strategy
ii. Management’s involvement and providing a work system and an environments which will result in promoting employee involvement in both quality and productivity
iii. Teamwork approaches to problem solving and process control using statistical methods.
No longer can successful organizations focus inward on their own capabilities and processes; they must understand the complex relationship they have with their stakeholders and co-operate with them to develop new products and continuously improve their products and services according to changing demands and technological potential. Understanding Customers’ need include the gathering of service quality information to identify what is working well and what isn’t, and to increase our knowledge of customer requirements. Assessment of current processes and our ability to meet customers’ expectations will also be needed if these new measures are going to change the quality of our service capabilities.
Once we have gained an understanding of customer needs, we will then need to listen to the voices of our internal customers – our employees. If caring to succeed with customers is going to permeate our very culture, we need to provide organizational systems that engage our people in planning how to meet these expectations, focusing on performance and knowing how to measure it, and help employees develop the new knowledge and skills it will take to be successful. The design and implementation of customer-focused, strategic planning processes that involve staff in learning and caring about customer needs, current dissatisfactions with the system, and future priorities, will be the key to increasing employees’ commitment to engage in challenging efforts that can have the most important strategic impact on outcomes for customers.
To succeed in this new culture, management and its people must be guided by their organization’s infrastructure and support systems to focus on continuous quality improvement. If systems are not in place to support a culture, employees will not be able, willing, and committed to transform their work efforts as needed by changing customer demands. As we begin gaining the skills to assess needs, listen to, and co-operate with our customers in designing our services and products according to their constantly changing needs and expectations, we need to learn how to re-engineer and improve processes that we use to produce desired results. Let’s become a learning organization - experimenting, seeking new ways and new methodologies, and designing our organizational systems that involve, engage, develop, and increase the commitment of our people, our partners and our customers to design the future we want and need.