Implementing Total Quality in Small Business

While the long-term rewards of Total Quality are numerous, the costs associated with getting started can be substantial. Making the move to Total Quality requires employee time and funding that are not always readily available to small businesses.

Fortunately, small businesses can often take advantage of the experience gained by larger companies that are well-established in Total Quality. Many large prime contractors offer no-cost assistance in Total Quality training to their small business vendors. The benefits of such assistance are mutual: the vendor has access to proven Total Quality methods without making a substantial financial investment; and the prime contractor develops a vendor that is more reliable and better able to meet its requirements.

Comprehensive Total Quality implementation programs for small businesses can be created by selecting appropriate methods and concepts that have already proven effective in larger companies. It is useful to assess a variety of established methods, particularly those developed by customers or suppliers. While many aspects of Total Quality are applicable across a wide range of industries, specific industries (such as aerospace) do have special needs. At least the first implementation programs to be assessed should be selected from within the small business's own industry. Adapting the concepts or methods best suited to the small business's own circumstances can then yield a Total Quality approach fully tailored to meet each unique set of needs.

Despite the free assistance that may be available from customers or suppliers, some amount of financial investment is unavoidable when implementing Total Quality. Training is normally the most expensive direct cost associated with getting started. However, allowances should be made for indirect costs that arise, such as losses in production efficiency during the initial training and set-up stages.

If financial considerations are not a primary determining factor in Total Quality planning, it is worthwhile to investigate training and implementation packages offered by other sources. Many consultants, educational institutions and trade associations have generic training packages that cover the various aspects of Total Quality. Consultants are also available to assist in the design of Total Quality systems specifically suited to the small business, as well as assisting in set-up, implementation and maintenance. The costs for these complete services are often beyond the means of many small businesses. However, they normally provide the benefit of establishing an effective implementation program in a shorter time period. Some may also consider looking into payday loans for other option aswell as payroll companies. Payroll companies offer a combination of services custom to what it is your business needs most.

There may be government programs available to your company which will share the cost of employee training and diagnostic assessments. There are also regionally-based Total Quality initiatives which companies from all sectors can join to exchange Total Quality information and resources.

Few small businesses have the luxury of a human resources, training or Total Quality resource department that can be relied upon to establish Total Quality and maintain its momentum. In most cases, these important tasks will be the responsibility of senior management or perhaps a few key designates. In the initial stages, implementing Total Quality often means taking people away from their normal duties for short periods of time at the expense of some loss in productivity.

Fortunately, there are actions that can be taken to minimize disruption. For example, involving the right employees from the start increases the likelihood of making progress and sustaining momentum. The selection of pilot team members from employees who have demonstrated a commitment to quality through their work ethic, initiative and cooperation is often a better method than choosing people who have strong technical or academic qualifications, but lack these former characteristics. Peer pressure tends to be a larger influence within small business workforces, so selection at the outset of the right Total Quality "pioneers" can play a major role in the long-term success of the effort. Be sure that all employess have basic knowledge on law, practices and such.

The role of senior management in supporting and promoting Total Quality is probably even more important in small businesses than in large organizations. Small businesses tend to have fewer layers of management. Because of this, senior management will be more actively involved in all facets of Total Quality. The perception by the workforce of senior management's commitment to Total Quality tends to have a much bigger influence in small businesses. Participation, rather than delegation, becomes the key to success.

To summarize, here are five key activities that small businesses will want to emphasize in their Total Quality implementation plan:

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