by Glenda Graham, Vice President, Persona Group, Inc. of St. Louis, MissouriOne of the more ignored aspects of Total Quality Management initiatives is the need for continued commitment at the top. Recently, 92% of survey respondents ranked the lack of senior management commitment as the #1 barrier to successful TQM initiatives.
When top management was surveyed, their #1 reason for TQM failure was that it takes too long to see results. Executives agree, during the TQM "honeymoon" phase, success does not come overnight. Deciding on key measures, collecting data, and analysis all take time.
However, since most executives are not reinforced to forgo short-term results for long-term gains, commitment can diminish. Interest may move to other "programs-of-the-month" from the latest quality guru, leading to confusion.
“The reality is that in order to sustain quality initiative commitment and momentum, leaders of quality programs must meet the needs of top management as well as those of employees”
First, Create Strategies to Support Top Management
- Educate and involve the executive group. Identify a quality "champion." Be clear about initiative timetables and realistic expectations.
- Survey both managers and employees to get a baseline of where you are now.
- Analyze benchmark companies to see how yours measures up.
- Address priority needs. Identify who's accountable.
- Be visual—use graphs and charts to prove your point.
- Measure behavior as well as process. (At Persona Group, we have never yet seen a company for whom better communication was not among the top three priorities. Behaviors as well as actions can be measured to check skills.)
Then, Keep Top Management Involved
- Don't wait to be asked—keep top management informed. Distribute reports through your internal champion. (Visuals showing progress are especially powerful. After PRIDE training, one motivated employee suggested shift changes which reduced overtime by 30%. It made a great graph to show to the Board.)
- Get feedback and act on it. Reassure or make course corrections.
- Ask management for decisions. This forces them to review project results and keep the quality initiative in their consciousness.
- Move fast. Strategize. Focus on process and look for a few quick fixes. (One shipping department re-weighed a suppliers' raw material deliveries. The documented discrepancies resulted in a $120,000 return check. At another company, a warehouseman who had just completed PRIDE training suggested that a client switch to color-coded, large print shipping labels. The change immediately reduced errors and inspection time.)
- Proven dollar savings or sales increases build trust and confidence in the executive group for the long haul. Being patient does pay off.