Establishing Management Commitment to Total Quality

"They [Quality Circles] were here and there in several divisions .... but they died on the vine because there was no strong top management support and environment that would encourage them to grow." - executive in a North American aerospace company

Successful implementation requires strong leadership and support from senior management. The organization's leaders must view Total Quality as the business strategy most likely to achieve results. Applying individual Total Quality techniques, without management commitment and an overall Total Quality strategy, is unlikely to produce the results which your company requires to increase its competitiveness.

Once senior management has made the decision to adopt Total Quality, but prior to the development of a detailed implementation plan, all managers should become familiar with the Total Quality philosophy and methods. This can be done through internal meetings and training seminars. Middle management should subsequently be involved in planning and implementing the Total Quality initiative.

Establishing a Quality Training Program

The training needs of employees with different responsibilities, and how to set up a Total Quality training program.

In a Total Quality company, training is a significant and ongoing investment. It should be integrated with the entire Total Quality implementation effort. Before deciding on the content of training, it is useful to perform a needs assessment, considering both the Total Quality implementation plan and existing knowledge levels. The table on the next page indicates some training needs of employees with different responsibilities within the company.

Your company's training plan should specify who will provide the training and what training materials will be used. It is useful to investigate several Total Quality consulting/training organizations and available training materials. Make sure that they understand your specific needs and will design the training appropriately. Many training suppliers are willing to provide brief introductory sessions at no cost.

Training can be coordinated with the formation and activation of Quality Improvement Teams. Teams should be trained on: holding effective meetings, teamwork and cooperation, identifying internal and external customers, setting goals, problem-solving methods and measuring results. Responsibility for team-based training initially belongs to the facilitator and is gradually shifted to the team leader & members. Key employees who will act as internal trainers and facilitators will need additional training, such as train-the-trainer courses, and exposure to a variety of Total Quality concepts from independent sources, educational institutions and established corporations.
One approach that some companies have found useful involves starting with an initial team of key employees which receives training and undertakes a pilot project. After proper training, they can then become facilitators within each department when the network of teams is expanded.

After receiving training, people should put their Total Quality skills to work as quickly as possible. The old adage "If you don't use it, you lose it" is relevant here. "Just-in-time" training means scheduling training in anticipation of upcoming quality improvement activities. It will minimize the loss of knowledge and enthusiasm between training and mobilization of Quality Improvement Teams.

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