Total Quality Management

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The quality movement has caused many companies to question their whole way of operating. The new management model is customer driven and focuses on systems thinking—seeing the people and processes of the entire organization, how they relate to customers, and their role in a changing marketplace. Authors Stephen George and Arnold Weimerskirch believe that the criteria used for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award define the new management model because they provide the best guide to understanding, assessing, controlling, and improving organizations.

Applying the principle of learning from successful companies, each of the Baldrige criteria is illustrated by examining the best practices of at least three model companies (53 companies are profiled). The book is thus essentially a casebook on using the Baldrige criteria to improve quality— an exploration of the quality movement as a business reality, not a theory. Readers seeking a theoretical grounding in various approaches to TQM (for example, the philosophies of Deming, Juran, and Crosby) are advised to look elsewhere.

Yet the case approach has its own advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, you can find out how leading companies such as Xerox and L. L. Bean track customer satisfaction, or how Cadillac and Zytec use strategic planning to drive the improvement process, or how Aetna Health Plans and Ben & Jerry’s maintain quality by focusing on their employees. At its worst, the technique can result in little more than lists of goals and processes (the “Process Management” chapter is one especially mind-numbing example). One final practical note: All of the companies covered agreed to serve as quality/benchmarking partners, and specific contact information is included in the “Resources” section.