Total Quality Management Continuous Improvement Properly Applied  Essay

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Total Quality Management Continuous Improvement, properly applied, render BPR (Business Process Reengineering) unnecessary.' Discuss.

Total Quality Management and Continuous Improvement, when properly applied, render Business Process Reengineering unnecessary

The internationalized economic crisis constituted the number one challenge for economic agents across the world, who suddenly found themselves faced with resource constraints, decreasing purchasing power of customers as well as other somber predicaments. While the topic of the crisis is extremely complex and has yet to be exhaustivated, at this level, only one specific feature of the crisis would be addressed -- the fact that it reminded economic agents of the need to remain alert, flexible and to continually develop and improve in order to increase their organizational capabilities.

The specialized literature and the business community have for years communicated the importance of continuous development for business success. Some reasons as to the importance of this lesson include the employees who have metamorphosed from the force operating the machines into the most valuable organizational asset, the incremental demands of the customers, but also the incremental demands of the overall stakeholder categories, the increasing national and international competition, the advent of technology and so on.

Most economic agents have learnt the lesson due to the escalating competition and encountered the need for change as a means of remaining competitive, but their efforts were often incomplete. As for the financial crisis, it presented several economic agents with the possibility to reorganize and improve their internal climates. In other words, in a slow economic environment in which demand is restricted and investment opportunities are dangerous, economic entities have focused on techniques of internal improvements.

Three notable techniques used in the direction of organizational improvement are represented by Total Quality Management (TQM), Continuous Improvement and Business Process Reengineering (BPR). A belief is however issued according to which the techniques are self excluding in the meaning that when Total Quality Management and Continuous Improvement are adequately developed and implemented, Business Process Reengineering is rendered unnecessary.

It is the scope of the current project to discuss this statement, but before launching such a discussion, it is first necessary to ensure a full and adequate comprehension of each of the three concepts. After the three techniques of organizational improvement are detailed and discussed in relationship to each other in order to respond to the above statement, the project concludes by restating the most important findings of the research as well as those of the discussion.

2. Total Quality Management

The specialized literature offers an impressive array of definitions for the concept of Total Quality Management. The lines below reveal some of the most notable of these definitions:

(a) TQM is "a management approach of an organization, centered on quality, based on the participation of all its members and aiming at long-term success through customer satisfaction and benefits to the members of the organization and to the society" (the ISO 9000 definition, quoted by Subburaj, 2005).

(b) Marshall Sashkin and Kenneth J. Kiser (1993) explain that a company operating on TQM implies that the "organization's culture is defined by and supports the constant attainment of customer satisfaction through an integrated system of tools, techniques and training. This involved the continuous improvement of organizational processes, resulting in high quality products and services."

(c) Finally, a third definition is retrieved from Investopedia (2010), a website specialized in financial terms and functioning under the patronage of the Forbes corporation, According to the editors at Investopedia, Total Quality Management represents the "continuous process of reducing or eliminating errors in manufacturing, streamlining supply chain management, improving the customer experience and ensuring that employees are up-to-speed with their training. Total quality management aims to hold all parties involved in the production process as accountable for the overall quality of the final product or service."

All in all, Total Quality Management is a complex system of techniques and procedures aimed at ensuring a higher quality of the organizational processes, with the stated impact of increasing the value created for the various stakeholder categories -- such as employees, customers, business partners, the general public and so on -- and eventually registering increased financial gains.

3. Continuous Improvement

Consistent with the other sources, the Management Help website argues that the main emphasis of Total Quality Management is that of meeting or even exceeding customer expectations. In order to attain this goal, TQM focuses on the measurement and control of the organizational processes as a means of continuous improvement (Management Help). In other words, TQM represents a process in support of continuous improvement. Nevertheless, at this stage, it is crucial to reveal the meaning of Continuous Improvement.

Unlike the literature of TQM which is rather extensive, the literature on Continuous Improvement is more limited and this could be explained by the fact that the concept is rather self defining. This feature of being obvious makes the concept somewhat difficult to define. In spite of this however, some researchers have attempted a more theoretical and punctual explanation. Mark A. Smylie centralizes two of the most relevant such definitions, as follows:

"Continuous improvement is a process that involves everyone, employees and managers alike. It is a process that involves the ongoing rearranging and redesigning of elements of the organization; it requires the continuous rethinking of the patters that connect and relate different elements of the organization and connect them with the environment; it is a process that bundles together data collection, interpretation, research, experimentation and diffusion; and it involves the individual, the team, and the total organization. As such, continuous improvement seeks to develop new cognitive frameworks, interpretive schemes and actions on ongoing basis" (Mitki, Shani and Meiri, 1907, quoted by Mark A. Smylie, 2009).

"Continuous improvement is a purposeful and explicit set of principles, mechanisms and activities within an organization, designed to achieve positive and continuous change in deliverables, operating procedures and systems by the people who actually perform these procedures and work under these systems" (Lillrank and colleagues, 1998, quoted by Mark A. Smylie, 2009).

All in all, continuous improvement is a set of operations underwent by the organization with the scope of improving its operations as well as its outcomes. It should also be noted that continuous improvement could be formed from apparently isolated efforts which do not appear to individually generate organizational progress. When they are however perceived as an ensemble with long-term manifestations, the feature of sustained development becomes clearer (Smylie).

4. Business Process Reengineering

Following the trend established throughout the previous two sections, the scope at this stage is that of creating a full comprehension of the process of business reengineering. Radhakrishnan commences at the premises that BPR integrates change, and not just sporadic, isolated and slow change, but a dramatic change. And this dramatic change refers to overhauls in organizational structures, performance measurements, managerial systems, the development of skills, the creation and implementation of incentive systems or the use of information technology.

As changes at these organizational levels are incurred, the impacts can materialize in significant cost reductions, improvements in productivity levels, increases in customer satisfaction as well as other parameters of organizational performance (Radhakrishnan). At a more specific level, Business Process Reengineering can be defined as follows:

"Reengineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service, and speed" (Hammer and Champy, 1993, quoted by Radhakrishnan).

"Business process reengineering (often referred to by the acronym BPR) is the main way in which organizations become more efficient and modernize. Business process reengineering transforms an organization in ways that directly affect performance" (Carter).

5. Futility of BPR in the proper application of TQM and Continuous Improvement

At a basic level, it can be observed that the three concepts previously defined are highly similar. In this order of ideas, TQM is a complex set of processes aimed at increasing customer satisfaction. Continuous Improvement is also a set of activities aimed at increasing organizational performances through gradual processes of change. Finally, Business Process Reengineering represents the development and implementation of dramatic changes within the organization with the scope of enhancing the company's performances.

The starting statement is that the combination of TQM and Continuous Improvement renders BPR unnecessary and the conclusion is that this statement is in fact true. In this order of ideas, all three techniques are centered on the same scope of improved organizational performances. This virtually means that when TQM and Continuous Improvement are adequately combined and implemented, the introduction of BPR would be redundant.

In other words, when adequately implemented, Total Quality Management and Continuous Improvement lead to the successful completion of the organizational purposes. Specifically, TQM and Continuous Improvement can enhance organizational performances at a wide array of levels, including customer satisfaction, technological innovation, return on shareholders' equity, productivity levels, efficiency levels and so on. The fact that these performance objectives are met through TQM and Continuous Improvement means that the company can check them off the list. Since the goals are completed, the…

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