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Talwar (2008) states that quality has a variety of intricate meanings but largely is offered as being 'value, conformance to specification/requirement, loss/defect avoidance, excellence, meeting and/or exceeding customers expectations, fitness for use, etc..'
Quality is a dynamic concept that has permeated through all levels of industry, with dimensions constantly evolving and it is an attribute that reaches beyond the very simple requirement the good or service provides in its basic form, in a sense it enables the capacity for undertsndinfdo be able to differentiate between offerings.
Garvin (1984) lists eight dimensions to quality and they are as follows;
The importance of quality is now well accepted and ingrained in commercial architecture, with a 'multitude of philosophies, management systems, tools and techniques embedded into everyday work practices' (Rowland-Jones et al., 2005).
Over time and through ongoing development, quality and its management has become largely a preventive measure rather than a reactive one. This evolution from a notional idea to a well thought out tool for sustained success has seen its management move through various phases of development, from quality control to quality assurance to Total Quality Management (TQM), the veritable precursor of business excellence models such as EFQM and Baldrige.
According to Chambers (2010) total quality management is thought of as a philosophy or way of thinking that is strictly concerned with meeting the needs of the people. The impetus here remains that it is the 'entire' workforce who are responsible for the success of the organisation. Furthermore, in addition to full workforce engagement the process essentially is built to work in a continual loop.
Essentially self-supporting, the intention to maintain and improve the delivery of quality is placed squarely on the shoulders of the workforce through the attachment of high levels of autonomy in a drive to 'realise' the ideum that they would become more involved in the process. Theory Y managers assume that the workforce is self motivated and ambitious, suitably challenged and if located in an arena where correct stimuli is in place TQM suggests that through responsibility, staff actively seek to overcome and remain committed in other words a willingness to do well for themselves therefore their organisation and fellow workers. There however remains an assertion that if not maintained or indeed improved, over the passage of time this labour intensive strategy will fail and it is this failing that Chambers (1995) terms 'quality droop & quality disillusionment.'
The recognition of the duality of firstly the importance of quality and secondly, the consequences of failure have lead to the development of business excellence models. These models and accompanying awards seek to not only promote cases of excellence but also as a platform to further motivate/stimulate great practice within the workplace.
The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) or sometimes known as 'The Business Excellence' model is one whose 'aim is to represent the TQM philosophy that can be applied to all organisations irrespective of location, size or sector (de Dommartin, 2000). Furthermore this model recognises that there are 'a number of different ways to achieve the goal of excellence and that this will vary from one organisation to another' (Saraiva et al., 2001).
The creation of the EFQM model was in part a response to bridge the quality gap between itself and America or indeed the rest of the world by way of 'the acceptance of quality as a strategy for global competitive advantage' (Talwar, B. 2009). Dahlgaard-Park ( 2008) offers that the EFQM Excellence model is not a standard, but more a diagnostic tool and management framework and that In practice, this model can be used:
To recognise and promote the most successful customer experience offered.
To develop the organisational vision and goals for the future in a tangible, measurable way.
To assess the health within the organisation's processes: resource allocation, generate business plans and managing priorities.
To identify and understand the systemic nature of the business, the key linkages, the cause-and-effect relationships.
It is a non-prescriptive model that appreciates differences and essentially provides a systems overview to developing an appreciation for performance management and is a model borne from the private sector, in particular the coming together of 14 corporations within Europe (Bosch, Renault, Fiat, BT, Boll, Electrolux, KLM, Nestle, Olivetti, Phillips, Solzer, Volkswagen, Razalet, Siba). This non prescriptive TQM framework is built upon a foundation core of nine criteria, five of which we give the moniker 'enablers, ' which simply covers what the organisation does and four that are termed 'results,' or what is achieved. These two categories are mutually exclusive and from a continual loop of events with results being discovered by enablers and feedback received from results only increases the efficacy of 'enablers.'
There are fundamental concepts that underpin the EFQM construct and they are as follows;
Results orientation - success to satisfy a multitude of stakeholders
Customer Focus - creating value that is sustainable
Leadership & Purpose - management of the organisation through an inter -linkage of systems and processes
Personnel Involvement & development - the aim to achieve optimal levels of contribution
Partnership development - develop and maintain relationships that yield added value
Corporate Social Responsibility - aim to exceed the minimum requirement and to strive to attain a level that better reflects societal shifts and expectations
These fundamental concepts mentioned above observe a definite commonality between all firms and they are concepts definitely of importance to Alcomet Solders Limited. Alcomet is a company who introduced a market leading solder Bar into the domestic bare board industry. As a licensee holder for Fry's metals, the solder bar represented a paradigm shift in terms of quality and innovation.
The product was received well as the production system maintained quality; quality was in excess of UK legal requirement and more importantly the 'switch' to Alcomet solder came at minimal cost to existing machinery. In other words the innovation was not only in terms of product but that the product could fit amongst existing technology introduced a level of innovation unheard of in the marketplace.
Benefits were as follows;
Lowest cost joining method compared to welding, brazing, mechanical joining
Very fast method, easy, low skill level required
Versatile heat sources - soldering iron, torch, oven
Minimal effect on metals jointed
Easy to take joints apart
Low melting point
High electrical conductivity
Relatively strong joint at and below room temperature
Currently the position Alcomet finds itself in is not one of strength but one of weakness and it is in a position in stark contrast to where it once occupied. Managers opinions vary in terms of a point source in terms of fault diagnosis, but it is felt that a gap exists 'where perceived quality could be poor due to a mismatch between the organisations external communications and the actual quality delivered to the customer' ( Parasuraman, 1995). For Alcomet the element of service quality had shifted to being one where it was embedded within the very culture to now being severely lacking. Discovery as to the why, when, where, how etc. must be performed at all levels to gather all opinions impartially to absolutely gauge internal perceptions and how to re-engage not only the consumers but also employees. The EFQM model will in this case be able to illustrate where Alcomet is failing and gather opinion from all stakeholders.
Apart from this common 'bare-bones 'criteria of five enablers and four results, the EFQM framework indeed model, contains no prescriptive instructions to follow. Due to its very nature of self - assessment it encourages the identification of areas for improvement, benchmarking to discover how the organisation compares or aligns itself to close competitors or even market leaders, a review of current strategic focus which in turn enables a shift if findings uncover a shift of strategic direction and finally provides a basis for assessment towards consideration for the European Quality Award (EVA).
Appendix 1 gives a visual representation of EFQM with the nine identifiable criteria described as follows;
Policy & Strategy
Wongrassamee (2003) explains the first axiom of leadership as one which 'is related to the behaviour for the executive team and all other managers in as much a leaders develop and clarify a statement of vision that proposes TQM and continuous improvement.' People management faces the assessment of the organisations relationship with its workforce. In particular how it recognises individuals followed by individual development plans allied against a backdrop of improvement for the business process. Thirdly we have Policy and strategy which incorporates the review processes of mission, values, direction and how the organisation implements this in view of TQM and continuous improvement (Kaizen). Resources accounts for the fourth element and Simmons (2003) stages this as a reference as to how 'the organisation manages and utilises external partnerships and internal resources effectively in order to carry out effective business performance as stated in its mission and strategic planning.' Lastly our fifth criteria 'Processes' brings the method of design, manages and improves its activities under the microscope in terms of its ability to align itself against stakeholders and customers.
Impact on Society
Under results criteria we begin with 'People Satisfaction' and the satisfaction gained by employees through the organisations current efforts. Secondly Customer satisfaction is simply how the organization effectively breaches the demands of the target market. The measurement of alignment to local, national and international societal needs and expectations summarizes the criteria that encompass 'impact on society.' Finally 'business results' is one where Gardiner (2003) states is the examination of what the organization is achieving in terms planned business performance and in satisfying shareholders.'
Appendix 2 illustrates how each element or criteria are scored by assigning a weighted percentage accordingly, which will cumulatively score towards the assessment of a European Quality Award (EQA). The award apportions the scores to enablers on two factors, firstly the degree of excellence to the approach and secondly the degree of deployment. He further adds that for 'results,' scoring is achieved on the basis of both the degree of excellence and scope of results.
By definition the EFQM model would be an invaluable tool for Alcomet Solders Limited. Given the issues currently faced a 'quick' scan based upon all nine criteria that compose this model through the medium of a questionnaire covering hopefully assailable checkpoints. Current super-ordinates through the medium of the questionnaire will be able to gauge quality of service and the provision of management at Alcomet. Once data mining is complete it would allow managers at Alcomet an opportunity to both assess and discuss the improvements, strengths, weaknesses, gaps etc , somewhat of an internal' vox populi.'
The method here could help to confirm suspicions not only of individual managers but from all levels of the workforce. This would perhaps be seen as a step in the right direction in terms of engaging employees perhaps creating renewed sense of purpose, enthusiasm and most importantly a clear concise vision which is lacking. Appendix 4 illustrates how through the use of the DMAIC framework we can continually improve quality.
For the leaders of Alcomet ascribing to the tenants of the EFQM model not only assist the delivery of strategy, it will also facilitate the development of a framework that encourages sustainable excellence and finally impart an deeper understanding as to what comprises a effective leader. From the perspective of the manager we expect through the implementation of this model to be able to define the relationship between operations and strategy, to implement in fact lead improvements and to engage employees in administering any change. Contribution to progress, building input for a common direction and an appreciation of their own impact are axioms that can be delivered by this model in terms of employees.
By way of comparison we have the Baldrige model and it is the emergence of this model in Northern American that provided the impetus for the evolution of the EFQM model. In fact research by Mann & Grigg (2006) identified 82 companies globally that utilises either model and Miguel (2005) illustrates the similarities in terms of objectives are as follows;
Communication, publication and sharing of best practices
Fostering of continuous management, organizational quality and process improvement
Promotion of an awareness of quality management
Recognition of performance excellence, best practices and benchmarks
Understanding the requirements for performance excellence
Created in 1987 in the USA, the Malcolm Baldrige models key aim was to augment competitiveness of American organizations in terms of quality as a response to strong competitive Japanese organisations reaping market share in overseas markets. In a similar vein to the EFQM model it is based on a number of core elements namely, visionary leadership, customer driven excellence, Organisational and personal learning, Valuing employees and partners, agility, focus on the future, management for innovation/by fact and social responsibility, etc. the framework is based upon only 7 criteria rather than the nine present with EFQM. Criteria separation is very close between both models but the Baldrige criteria 'valuing employees and partners' is split into two distinct parts for the EFQM model namely, People development & Partnership Innovation.
An example of similarity can be viewed from the point of view of visionary leadership as coined for the Baldrige model. In this model we look at how leaders guides, sustains, governs the organisation along with it deals with community, legal and ethical responsibilities. In the EFQM model, leadership speaks of developing and facilitating the achievement of both the mission and vision. Their actions and behaviours inspire others as well as enable change to ensure sustainability.
The EFQM model is a construct that was initiated by the private sector and as Seddon (2003) points out that 'government was supportive of the process rather than driving it,' and as such it is not a requirement for doing business, it is merely a choice. In the private sector this particular model found government funding with active encouragement given to organisations to adopt the prescribed practices. However adoption in the public sector yielded an entirely different attitude to the excellence model. Managers became disaffected with the model viewing it simply as just 'plaques and flags' but this disparity between the acceptance within both sectors is telling. The model was forcibly run through the public sector alongside ISO 9000, Investors in People etc and given the absolute necessity placed upon its implementation I feel lead to failure.
Kristensen and Juhl (1999) found empirical evidence to suggest that companies who applied the model were able to discover financial reward directly however Kristensen (2001) in a further study indicated that benefits are realized by only the larger organisations. Therefore in the case of Alcomet and due to the limits of scale perhaps a study could be undertaken to assess whether the costs of implementation will be recouped.
Ackoff (1999) suggests that models based around 'quality management are fundamentally flawed, because they are antisystemic.' In short the excellence model looks at the 'whole' as an amalgam of different parts that are improved independently to one another rather than as a collective singular unit. This is a critical disadvantage confirmed by Jackson (2010) where the author offers that 'performance of the entire system is fundamentally dependant upon the interactions between the parts and it is these that need managing.' In short this phenomena is observable at Alcomet where different units worked autopoietically to a different end result rather than as 'one' unit and given the end result of failure this remains a moot point.
Granting more autonomy or empowering employees broadly speaking is the shift of decision making responsibilities from managers to sub-ordinate employees in a drive towards 'full engagement' with benefits increased quality, productivity, flexibility and cost reduction, the eventual expectation to the organisation. However Doyle (1996) sees this as counterproductive as the belief here is one where 'empowerment is more myth than reality, as organisational changes introduced under this heading is more often than not cosmetic and that managers are reluctant to relinquish power.'
Room for improvement within the EFQM model lies within what Seddon (2003) terms 'content and method.' For the latter, the discussion here is that rather than an absolute score against EFQM criteria, concentration should be aligned against 'what' actually needs to be changed. In this change I mean an understanding of current performance of the system and look simply at what really needs to improve rather than a scalar comparison for surely any resultant issues that are gleaned will exhibit negative bias. Content problems far from being non-prescriptive are uncovered as squarely command & control based activities.
EFQM as a model in its raw form can be applied to any organisation despite shape or indeed size, there remains a question as to whether this can be sustainable in the medium to long term. In answer the award system seeks to not only 'milk' the process but to establish long term adherence to the code. However after the honeymoon period is over and the model is fully understood, will it hold up to the ever-changing dynamism within each indivialual organisations marketplace. Or will this model just be a case of getting an award for the personnel concerned.
Also the self assessment can be biased by implementers' personal views. This so called 'world view' could limit the information mined from the assessment and only uncover evidence to support previously held opinion rather than fact and inevitable take the organisation down an alternative and incorrect pathway. The impetus to concentrate on a world view and ascribe solutions in accordance to this very personal interpretation is a factor much seen at Alcomet given the discussion of both method and content of the EFQM and Baldrige model.
Whilst we can easily get drawn into a discussion as to the failings of the EFQM model we must nevertheless regard the objective it seeks to observe, maintain and improve. More to the point the use of this model gives all organisations admittedly a somewhat ropey non-prescriptive but it delivers a standard to which we can all commit to. This standard allows Alcomet to benchmark against close competitors and understand not only current performance but enables a faster and clearer approach to future direction. This model also facilitates dialogue between all stakeholders across the organisation from the leader to the very bottom tier of the organisation. Surely this can only be seen as proof positive that it is of benefit to any organisation. It can be understood that long term alignment and adherence to this model may be poor but if maintained and enshrined in the corporate culture then it will become an accepted and worthy element, to either Alcomet or any organisation at large. This is in itself represents confirms what Goasdoué (2001) the chief executive of the British Quality Foundation, said when he spoke of the EFQM model in that it is based on the 'premise that the fundamentals of running a successful organisation in the public, private or voluntary sector are the same, irrespective of type or size of organisation to which they are applied.'