Company-wide Quality Management: XPS of the 80s

When it comes to quality management, there are surprising similarities between what was suggested in the 80s and what we barely have seen the start of in industry today. In this post, I discuss how Juran’s CWQM-concept from the mid-1980s is both valid and useful for companies rolling out global production improvement programs today.

In the book ‘Juran on Quality and Planning’, Juran (1986) introduces the concept of Company-wide Quality Management (CWQM). It is striking to see how close CWQM—a concept suggested in the 80s—comes to the concept of modern company-specific production systems (XPSs) (Netland, 2013). Consider these quotes from the book: ‘CWQM is a systematic approach for setting and meeting quality goals throughout the company‘ (p. 244)’. ‘The basic reason for taking up CWQM is that companies that have adopted CWQM are outperforming companies that use methods of the past ‘(p. 248). And ‘In the absence of some sort of CWQM, a formidable obstacle to meeting quality goals has been the lack of resources. (…) The CWQM approach, being tied into company-wide business planning, offers a way to overcome that deficiency“. (p. 258).

Wait a minute… that’s exactly what today’s XPSs are all about: a company-wide approach to improvement that builds competitiveness. It is true that the goals of an XPS can be defined broader: improving not ‘just’ Quality but all competitive priorities: like Safety, Delivery, Cost, Flexibility, Environmental performance, and Morale. Butif we accept the argument of Ferdows and De Meyer’s (1990) Sandcone modelachieving good performance in the latter factors is only achieved if Quality is the prime focus of the system. I do not doubt that any of the quality gurus would agree: Focus on the quality, and the rest will follow.

Then why—25 years after Juran’s book— are companies first starting, or re-starting, company-wide XPS initiatives? Examples are the Lego Production System, Harley Davidson Operating System, Jotun Operations System and many, many others. In fact, Juran offers very good explanations for that as well. Consider these quotes: ‘The prime disadvantage is that CWQM adds to the workload of upper managers. As we shall see, upper managers must become personally involved in establishing corporate and divisional quality policies, goals, plans, controls. (…) An understandable reaction of busy upper managers is to avoid adding to their own overload (…). One form of such avoidance is delegation to subordinates’ (p. 248). Juran continues to suggest that delegation is a recipe for failure; the organisation ‘needs leadership not cheer-leading (cf. his 7 deadly diseases of Western management style).

Juran also explains how resistance to change can hamper any attempts to implement CWQM (or an XPS): “It is a fact that adoption of CWQM takes away some of the autonomy previously enjoyed by the divisions and departments. Such reduction in autonomy is never welcomed, even if the associated human relations are harmonious. Where they are less harmonious the problem can become severe’ (p. 266). Again Juran, does not leave us without advice… Here’s his 7 ‘rules of the road’ for dealing with resistance and achieving a successful implementation of an CWQM in a sub-unit (p. 269):

  1. Provide participation: Engage and involve, early-on.
  2. Provide enough time: (a) No surprises. (b) Start small. (c) Choose the right year.
  3. Keep the proposals free of excess baggage: Focus on the essentials, the rest distract attention.
  4. Work with the recognized leadership of the culture: A culture is best understood by its members.
  5. Treat the people with dignity: Happy people work better.
  6. Reverse the positions: Ask the question; what if I was a member of the culture?
  7. Look at the alternatives: (a) Try a program of persuasion. (b) Offer compromises. (c) Adapt the project in needed areas. (d) Change the social climate. (e) Forget it.

These advises are as valid today as 25 years ago! For wisdom for the future we have to start reading books from the past… You can always start with these ones.

References

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