Managers: Quality and Productivity

Managers help a company maintain quality and productivity. This is an evolution from the early concerns in America for merely producing products and controlling costs. Productivity is a holistic concern–it involves all aspects of a company (or institution). Elements of quality of a product are sometimes referenced as a “benchmark” to beat in terms of design, manufacture, performance and service. 

Total Quality Management (TQM) has had a great deal written about it. The idea has been built on the work of Demming, Costello and others to describe a constant process of incremental product improvement. The Japanese have adopted the concept into much of their production environment. The essence of the theory says that quality improvement is good business, bringing defect reduction, productivity gains, and customer satisfaction. 

Over the past few years, TQM has enjoyed a kind of pop status in the business field. It should be remembered, however, that continuous improvement of an existing product is not the same as innovation or development of a new product. From a competitive standpoint, a new product may quickly replace even a highly refined product. Think of the example of the highly refined audio cassette tape being completely replaced by the advent of compact disk music and that in turn replaced by the chip.

A company should strive not only to meet, but to exceed customer expectations–thereby gaining customers and surpassing rivals. Quality is a relative term however. It is necessary to give customers what they want, but customers may not be willing to pay the price for quality that vastly exceed their needs. One way to measure the cost of quality is to measure the cost of conformance (to a standard), the cost of non-conformance, and the cost of lost opportunity. In other words, what are the consequences of meeting or not meeting a certain standard.

There is a quality-productivity-profitability link. Sometimes fundamental changes (such as re-engineering ) are needed to bring the relationships in balance, needing a commitment from the top, a clear mission and vision that are consistent with the core values of the organization.

A manager’s goals relate to “improving productivity. This is not an easy task. Sometimes productivity improvement requires changes in processes, personnel, or completely new approaches to the problem. Re engineering is one approach to change. 

Assistance in identifying factors necessary for quality improvement may come from both inside and outside the company. That is, all levels of managers, employees, vendors, and customers may be of assistance in gathering suggestions for positive improvements. Team approaches and quality circles are another way to gather feedback on needed improvements.

Too often change fails for a simple reason–because employees resist it. Improvement of quality, which may be dependent on substantive change requires commitment at the top, and at every other level in the company. Managers are the facilitators of this change. The must help ask and answer concerns that various constituents in the organization have about proposed changes.

Much has been said about a company’s Mission, Core Values and Guiding principles. These might loosely be described as a company’s goals, and plans for achieving these goals on a continuing basis. To be successful commitment is needed at the top, middle , and bottom of the organization. Employee empowerment, team building, and audits have been touted as important to success. While both internal and external influences must also be taken into consideration.