Quality School of Management: Kaizen & Reengineering Approaches

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  • 0:06 It's All About Quality
  • 1:26 The History of TQM
  • 3:36 But What Really Is TQM?
  • 6:23 Reengineering
  • 7:12 Kaizen
  • 8:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rob Wengrzyn

Rob has an MBA in management, a BS in marketing, and is a doctoral candidate in organizational theory and design.

All companies strive to improve and deliver a better product. That single thought is driven by the quality school of management. In this lesson, we will learn about that school of thought and how it evolved.

It's All About Quality

When was the last time you bought something and were not concerned about its quality? When I say that, I do not mean small items like dishwasher detergent or paper plates, but rather an important item that took some thought before you purchased it. In today's world, everyone is concerned with quality, primarily because money is tight and a product can be reviewed by hundreds of people on the Internet. If the product is not of good quality, it will get bad reviews that can be read by future potential customers. With that in mind, manufacturers have to make sure they produce a quality product in order to have any chance of long-term success.

When we say product, we're talking about the entire purchase experience, which includes the product or service, after-sales service, warranty, delivery and anything else that comes along with selling a product. It is that continuous thought process that is the foundation for Total Quality Management (TQM). As we discuss this topic in more detail, we will talk about two very important aspects of it. The first is Kaizen, which was developed in Japan and primarily focuses on continued improvement. The second is reengineering, a principle that argues that an organization, or its processes, should be reviewed and improved by changing or improving processes.

The History of TQM

First, we need to get an understanding of what TQM is. TQM is an all encompassing and structured approach to how organizations and their processes are managed and seeks to improve the quality of the final products and services through continued refinements in response to continuous feedback. That is one heck of a definition, but in more easily understood terms, it is a belief or ideal that the entire company and its products or services need to be continually refined and improved to provide the best possible products or services.

Way back in the day, products would be produced and then inspected to see if they were of the quality required by the manufacturer. As competition grew, so did the need for higher quality products, which then grew into the need for formalized quality control departments. Now we had quality managers running departments that checked quality to make sure the product going out the door was of the quality the company, and the market, required. However, it would take a major world event for TQM to really kick into high gear.

After World War II ended, the Japanese economy and manufacturing system were in shambles. The Japanese saw this issue and realized that to compete in the global economy, and to rebuild what was left of their manufacturing abilities, they had to focus on producing quality products as efficiently as possible. It became the single focus - and, some say, obsession - of Japanese manufacturing sectors. As the Japanese focused on quality, they began to rebuild their economy and manufacturing and slowly grew into a world manufacturing power. As Japan grew, other countries began to take notice and realized that Japan's approach to manufacturing, TQM, was making it a very strong competitor; thus it was something other countries soon adopted.

By the early 90s, countries around the world were working with TQM systems to ensure they would not get left behind. TQM became the accepted norm for products and services so that customers would be thrilled with the products they purchased.

But What Really is TQM?

The very essence of TQM is the customer-supplier interface. TQM realized that communication to and from the customer was vital in producing the best product possible. That communication helped refine processes within the company as well as change company culture to be more customer focused and quality driven. Gone were the days of just making sure the final product was of good quality (items like TVs, toasters and cars), and now it was more about the total customer experience (purchasing, shipping, customer service, warranty and repair), driven by customer feedback.

Ah, but you might be saying, what does the company do with the feedback, or how do they process it so that when they get it, they can improve as a company? Good question. What companies that have a TQM mindset do is take the feedback they receive and plug it into a defined process to fix or address any issues they might have. That process looks something like this:

  • Title: The process is given a title to ensure everyone understands what the company is trying to improve.
  • Purpose: The purpose of the refinement is clearly defined so everyone knows why the company is undertaking the improvement.
  • Scope: The beginning and end of the process are defined.
  • Inputs: This is what will be transformed, such as a faulty switch or poor customer service response times.
  • Outputs: These are the desired goals or results of the process.
  • Controls: The company uses controls to manage the process so it stays on track.
  • Resources: These are what the company or team will have at their disposal to ensure the change can be supported.

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