The dynamics of total quality management implementation: A computer simulation-supported case study

Mutuc, Jose Edgar S (2000) The dynamics of total quality management implementation: A computer simulation-supported case study. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The early 1990's saw the rapid increase in interest in quality initiatives as operational costs increased together with the stronger lobbying power of interest groups and environmentalists. Moreover, the stronger presence of the Japanese and other Asian economies in the world market, which is generally attributed to improved quality and lower costs, has threatened the traditional stronghold of Western countries. These developments, coupled with advances in technology and product development, has encouraged many organisations to adopt Total Quality Management (TQM), as they search for approaches to improve their competitive positions in the world market, and more importantly, their own survival in these highly competitive conditions. However, attempts to implement TQM have not uniformly generated its promised benefits of improved quality, lower costs, customer satisfaction, and higher market shares. These mixed results have been attributed to a variety of reasons using theoretical and conceptual arguments, or empirical approaches such as surveys or case studies. Some of these attempts to explain the inconsistent performance of TQM have been criticised for failing to follow more rigorous methodologies, but more importantly, for pursuing objectives that do not necessarily lead to the better understanding of the TQM implementation process. Moreover, from the TQM perspective, some researchers have highlighted the weakness of this literature to address issues on definitions of quality, TQM and its related concepts; its underlying assumptions and conceptions; and, the contexts and contingencies that affect the implementation process. Furthermore, the generally prescriptive nature of TQM 1 literature has overlooked the inherent complexity of the entire TQM implementation system as its variables are intricately linked to each other to form feedback loops and as a result continuously adjust to each other. These weaknesses are addressed in this research through an extensive literature review, in-depth interviews and a computer simulation model with the goal of understanding the reasons for successes and failures of quality improvement efforts. The empirical findings of the study identified financial and temporal resource- factors that affected the quality initiatives. These resources provide for top management visibility, middle management involvement and support, budget availability, training, facilitation, an incentive system, opportunities to participate and contribute, and acquisition and development of new skills and ability. Moreover, the interviews and case studies generally supported the initial proposal that the TQM process is indeed a dynamic process with complex interdependencies and contextual factors. The theoretical findings fi-om the computer simulation revealed the multiple mode behaviour patterns of the TQM implementation process. The tests showed that the same factors can lead to both improving or declining trends for levels of participation and total project generated, depending on the conditions prior to the launch of the TQM programme and to the level of resources that are made available throughout the implementation process. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that some dormant feedback loops that involved the complexity of the problems and improvement areas addressed by quality circles were activated in the long run, causing the outcomes of the programme to slide down and collapse. As more efforts to identify further improvement increases, the next set of problems become more difficult to identify and complex to solve. This leads to frustration, de-motivation and decreased interest to continue idea generation and solution activities. This apparently inevitable collapse of a TQM programme in the long run was not resolved by the more traditional approaches of extending the life of the quality initiatives. Additional top management support and attention, more TQM staff and increased incentives were found to be largely ineffective in arresting the collapse of the programme. Indeed, these solutions only hastened the decline of participation and projects. More integrated solutions such as the control of frustration and difficulty through better training methods or TQM staff support also failed to prevent the eventual fall of the TQM programme. However, the approaches that were adopted by the Japanese, as they expanded the areas of operations of quality circles and the constantly improved products, equipment and processes, were found to be successful in sustaining participation efforts and improvement ideas generation. The results of the study suggest that the traditional conception of top management commitment needs to be expanded to include more active tasks such as the search for new ways to sustain employee efforts to become involved in quality improvement. As the complexity of potential improvement areas increases, the time left for top management to act on this impending collapse decreases. Thus, inattention to this concern at the beginning of the programme can only let the reinforcing loops operate and aggravate the situation as to lead to a condition where it is difficult, if not impossible, to correct the situation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Douglas K Macbeth
Keywords: Management, Operations research
Date of Award: 2000
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2000-72577
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2019 11:06
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/72577

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