ACG - Agency Consulting Group

The PIPELINE

A national monthly newsletter for agency principals dedicated to agency management topic

How to Kill The Quality Initiative in your Organization

We decided to direct our article in this negative manner because Quality Management Initiatives made popular by the spate of TQM Publications have become established in many organizations, large and small. TQM is another "buzz phrase" and will live and die with many other populist management approaches. However, the management philosophies embedded in Total Quality Management are not earthshaking, new approaches to managing people. They are well grounded in both common sense and history. The management philosophies of Total Quality will live well beyond the phrase and will become implemented in one form or another, in most organizations that will thrive and survive into the 21st century.

But why the negative approach?

Well, there are already hundreds of "how-to" books for TQM. However, many Quality Initiatives have been implemented and have failed in organizations of various sizes. It should be important to you as a business owner to determine 1) whether or not you should implement quality initiatives in your own organization, and 2) once implemented, will the quality initiatives work over a prolonged period of time.

1. The absolute best way of killing a quality initiative is to adopt it because "it's the right thing to do" without a full education and commitment from the owners of the business.

2. The second way of assuring a short run for quality initiatives is to implement them in a hurry without training and involvement of the personnel of the organization. Remember, anything new is subject to suspicion.

3. Another excellent quality killer is the lack of active involvement and communication between management and employees. The employees may feel that you believe in the quality initiatives that you are implementing, but they have seen many changes in their working lives that have been implemented, worked for awhile and than just disappeared quietly. Since communications is such a large part of the quality movement, the continuation of communication after the initial implementation phase is a strong indication to employees that you are still involved and committed.

4. The lack of implementation of recommendations made by employees during the quality initiatives will certainly demoralize them and turn a participative management philosophy into a burden. One of the most important parts of any quality initiative is to get employees to think as well as act and to use their minds and creativity to help in the improvement of the business. After all, the business is their lively hood as well that of the owner. Whether you approach the communication and feedback process formally or informally, you strike it's death knell when you don't implement recommendations or do not feed back reasons for not implementing them.

Too many business owners simply do not "walk the talk". They would like to improve their businesses and would accept million dollar ideas from employees if given (just like they were to acquire a business if it walked in the door and offered itself to the agency), their ego's will not let them pursue their employees as equal partners in the future of the agency. The process of quality management disturbs the owner's when it works and the employees begin thinking for themselves and generating ideas that did not stem from the owner. In larger agencies, with middle management, this group of employees becomes threatened because they see their jobs changing. The TQM philosophy of managers as facilitators instead of as boss' disturbs experienced middle managers because, when done properly they work for the employees rather than the reverse.

Consider carefully the implementation of quality initiatives within your organization. They are powerful tools for the growth and advancement of businesses as our market becomes more competitive with lower margins. However, it takes an unusual owner to accept philosophical changes in the way he runs his business. Read up on the subject. If you can not envelop the concept of total quality as a total commitment for permanent change to your organization, do not pursue it at all. This is one of those time when it is better to follow your heart, rather than your head and implement the quality initiatives only if you feel you can pursue them for the rest of your career.