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Quality Management Role in Effective Leadership

Executive Summary

The report entails a critical review of total quality management in the operation of a firm. The various ways through which the total quality management can contribute to an organization success are evaluated. However, the report takes a narrow approach of total quality management. This arises from the broad nature of quality management. To attain this, quality improvement as one of the core component of quality management is considered. The report evaluates how quality improvement can result into organization success.

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Considering the fact that quality improvement entails various human aspects, the benefits of integrating effective leadership are evaluated. One of the aspects through which quality improvement can result to organization success entails integration of employee training. In addition, the various tools which management teams can use to ensure successful quality improvement are illustrated. Some of these tools include benchmarking, integration of Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle (PDSA), benchmarking and Pareto analysis. The efficiency of these tools in implementing quality improvement is illustrated through conduction of a case study of Xerox Incorporation.

The report also evaluates some of the factors which limit quality improvement. Some of the factors considered include; poor planning, lack of commitment by the management, employee resistance, lack of effective training, teamwork complacency, lack of resources, ineffective measurement, failure to change the firm’s operational philosophy and inefficient quality improvement programs. Finally a reflection of quality improvement is given in the conclusion. A number of recommendations on how quality improvement can result into a firm’s success are outlined.


Background to the study

Quality is one of the most important concepts which firm’s must attain in order to survive in the long term. Pfeifer (2002, p.5) defines quality to include all the characteristics necessary to ensure that the customers are satisfied. Pfiefer (2002, p.5) further asserts that quality does not only include products, but also various processes and factors. In an effort to integrate quality in their operations, firms are required to consider a number of issues such as ensuring consistency, speed of delivery, perfection, total customer service and ensuring compliance with the formulated procedures.

The definition of quality varies from one organization to another depending on the nature of business conducted. Some of the core perspectives include product-based perspective, user based perspective, value based perspective and manufacturing based perspective. Despite diversity in perspectives, the driving force is the customer. This is because products are designed to satisfy the customers.

On the other hand, management entails the various management functions which include control, staffing, monitoring, directing and planning (Evans & Lindsay, 2008, p. 23). Traditionally, quality management was mainly result oriented. Its core focus was testing the outcome. Currently, quality management has been regarded as one of the core corporate strategies (Charantimath, 2007, p.65). Total quality management is aimed at ensuring that customers are satisfied with the products and services that the firm a firm offers. This means that the entire firm’s operations are aimed at meeting the customers’ requirements.

According to Pfeifer (2002, p.5), total quality management is considered to be an organizational wide concept. Therefore in order to achieve effective TQM, all the relevant areas of the organizational (internal and external) must be involved. For example, the TQM must integrate all the firm’s employees, customers and suppliers. In pursuit to attain quality management, management teams are increasingly emphasizing on the importance of the human factor in addition to the technological and other organizational aspects.

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The aim of the report is to conduct a critical analysis of the concept of quality management. This is undertaken by considering quality improvement as one of the components of total quality management.


A number of issues are discussed in the report. The first part entails a discussion of how total quality management can contribute towards an organization’s success. This is attained trough identification of the various components of total quality management. The components identified include quality improvement, quality assurance, quality control and quality planning. A comprehensive analysis of quality improvement as one of the components is conducted. The report also evaluates the need to ensure effective leadership in an organization. This is attained by considering the importance of effective leadership in quality improvement.

Ways through which TQM contribute to success of organizations

Total quality management can result into improvement of a firm’s performance. This arises from the fact that total quality management minimizes the various quality costs that a firm may incur. Shim and Siegel (1999, p.13) defines quality costs to include all the quality costs arising from poor quality. Wilson (20008, p. 6) is of the opinion that for quality management to result into an organizational success, there are four components which a firm can consider. These include;

  • Quality improvement,
  • Quality planning
  • Quality control
  • Quality assurance

This paper entails a critical review of quality management with regard to quality improvement as one of the core quality management components.

Quality improvement

According to Hakes (1991), one of the core concepts of total quality management entails continuous quality improvement. Quality improvement entails the various activities which are undertaken within an organization in an effort to enhance effectiveness with which various processes and activities are undertaken. The concept of quality improvement is aimed at benefiting both the organization and the customers. Alternatively, quality improvement can be defined to include all the activities whose resultant effect is a beneficial change with regard to quality performance.

There are a number of ways through which a firm can enhance the concept of quality improvement in the organization. One of these relates to ensuring effective control by setting standards (Richardson, 1997, p. 57). Upon attaining the set standards, new standards should be instituted. Therefore, quality improvement is considered as a process which entails changing standards. However, the change process involves section, analyzing the standards and taking corrective action. Improving quality by instituting new standards can be attained by taking into account a number of steps.

In addition, quality improvement also involves education and training. An example of a quality improvement entails increasing reliability of the production process by minimizing failure. Alternatively, quality improvement may entail installing quality systems which comply with the set standards such as ISO 9000 (Hoyle 2009). There are a number of steps which should be followed in order to improve quality effectively. The management team must develop a clear understanding of the intended objectives. The objectives may relate to improving the firm’s products and services, improving organizational efficiency or attaining managerial efficiency (Winchell, 1991, p.65).

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In addition, the management team should formulate the policies which are necessary to attain optimal improvement. A feasibility study should be conducted to determine whether the formulated quality improvement objectives are feasible. Upon determination of the feasibility, the management team should formulate a plan which illustrates the steps to be taken in order to achieve the objective. All the necessary resources should be available to increase the chances of survival of the quality improvement plan. The firm should also identify the possible resistance in relation to the set standards.

To ensure that effective quality improvement is conducted, it is paramount for firm’s management teams to incorporate a number of elements. Some of these elements include ensuring that the entire firm is committed at attaining high quality. In addition, all the firm’s operations should be focused at the client. The firm’s management team should formulate goals and objectives and ensure that all the firm’s employees understand them.

Quality improvement also requires firms to conduct continuous research in order to identify defects with regard to quality and identify the source. As a result, firms can be able to take effective measures to improve the situation. To increase the probability of success of the quality improvement processes, sufficient coordination and collaboration between the various organizational departments is necessary. In addition, some firms consider formulating quality improvement programs which cover a given timeframe such as one year. The programs have predetermined objectives and course of action.

Importance of effective leadership in quality improvement

For a firm to be effective in it quality improvement processes, efficient leadership of people is necessary. According to Bissoondoyal (2006, p.58), human element is one of the core inputs in the operation of a firm. According to Hartman (2002, p.11), it is a prerequisite for the firm’s management team, unions and leaderships at the various levels to ensure that quality improvement is successful. This means that quality management which is aimed at improving the quality of a product is dependent on the entire organization. Therefore, the management team must ensure effective control of all the organizational departments. Hartman is of the opinion that this can be attained through effective leadership.

Leadership entails ensuring that all the firm’s employees have a comprehensive understanding of the entire quality improvement process. In order to achieve this, the firm’s management team must develop a common vision. Clear communication must be instituted so as to offer direction regarding the procedures to be undertaken in order to improve quality. Through communication, there is a high probability of the firm developing commitment and trust amongst the people. The resultant effect is development of a ‘can do’ attitude.

Kanji (1995) is of the opinion that communication leads to creation of an effective climate for continuous improvement. Communication is not only aimed at ensuring that all the stakeholders understand the importance and goals of quality improvement but also other quality improvement issues. Some of these issues relate to the challenges involved and the level of commitment required. Through free and open communication, the firm’s management team can be able to develop a new quality culture. Lack of cooperation between the various departments may lead into the quality improvement programs failing.

Quality improvement program may result into organizational change

Employees are usually resistance to change. This may make the chances of the programmes succeeding to be slim. To ensure effective leadership, active participation of the firm’s employees in the various functional groups is critical. Bissoondoyal (2006, p.59) asserts that the various functional groups should be involved in the planning stage. Employees should be given an opportunity to make suggestions regarding the elements which should be incorporated in the quality improvement process.

Employee involvement is one of the ways through which a firm can incorporate the concept of continuous quality improvement. Employee involvement ensures that common values are integrated in the organization. This arises from the fact that the employees understand the importance of working together in an effort to attain organizational goals. In addition, employee involvement enables a firm to produce high quality goods and services at a low cost hence meeting the customer’s requirements. A total commitment towards attaining customer focus is also attained.

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Adopting a committee approach is one of the ways through which the firm can attain this. This approach entails forming various committees consisting of top leaders from all the departments involved (Beecroft & Duffy, 2003, p.34). According to Shim and Siegel (1999, p.12), the firm’s top management is one of the critical driving forces for a firm’s quality improvement process. The success of a firm’s quality improvement process is dependent on the long term commitment of the top managers. Therefore, the top managers should demonstrate personal support for the firm’s quality improvement process. In order to achieve this, top managers should be effective in their management styles. In addition, they should integrate quality in their strategic management processes.

Alternatively, the firm should also establish improvements teams to accomplish the objectives of the improvement programs. In total quality management, quality is considered to be an organizational effort. Therefore teamwork is one of the most important elements through which a firm can solve quality problems. According to Hartman (2002, p.11), quality improvement should contribute to development of a systematic approach. This can be achieved through integrating various concepts such as teamwork and networking. The resultant effect is development of effective cooperation.

The quality improvement teams should be formed in relation to the various product lines which the firm deals with. The teams assess the quality performance of the respective products and also formulate improvement objectives. Other considerations which should be integrated in an effort to improve quality include reviewing the product design, planning development of new products, quality motivation and analyzing customers’ complaints.

Hartman (2002, p.7) is of the opinion that to improve the outcome of quality improvement, the teams should adopt a project-by- project approach (team approach). The resultant effect is that the firm is able to address problems associated with a certain products and services (Heldman & Baca, 2007, p.86).

By forming improvement teams, the firm is able to empower employees. Employee empowerment is one of the total quality management philosophies. Employee empowerment enables a firm’s employees to identify areas of deficiency in the firm’s products and services. Failure to empower employees may result into the firm offering low quality products and services. This arises from the fact that the employees will not be concerned with identifying problem areas. Employee empowerment can also be enhanced by integrating incentives such as issuing rewards to employees (Newall & Dale, 1990, p.65). Quality management also empowers employees by involving them in decisions regarding quality of the firm’s products and services.

Employee training

Total quality management also contributes to a firm’s success through incorporation various strategies. One of the concepts which the management team should consider entails employee training (Liew, 2009, p.34). According to Shim and Siegel (1999, p. 13), training is vital in the success of total quality management. Schiller, Kovach, and Miller (1994, p. 200) are of the opinion that training and educating employees is a core component of a firm’s quality improvement program.

This arises from the fact that training leads to improvement in employee efficiency. Therefore, management teams should consider employee training as an investment which can result into high returns. The initial step towards attainment of quality improvement through employee training entails need identification. This makes it effective for the training to be transformed from being need-based to on-the-job result (Woodruff, n.d, p.2).

As one of the concepts of quality management, quality improvement is aimed at creating a quality culture. Therefore, firms’ management teams should ensure that the employees understand the various techniques and concepts related to quality. This makes it paramount for the firm’s management team to institute a continuous learning environment through employee training (McLaughlin & Kaluzny, 2006, p. 36). According to Dahlgaard, Kristensen, and Kanji (2006, p.282), learning refers to the process through which people change their attitude regarding certain issues through adoption of basic knowledge. One of the ways through which a firm can develop learning environment in an effort to attain quality improvement is by ensuring continual feedback. The learning process should be focused on quality.

Training employees is considered as one of the most effective ways through which a firm can undertake employee empowerment. Employee training can be implemented by formulating a comprehensive employee training program. Training should cut across the various organizational levels. The training program should be systematic (Snyder & Dowd, 1994, p. 76). It should begin with top managers, then mid level managers and finally the non-managers. This means that the quality improvement program should start small. Involving all the employees at once may result into resistance culminating into failure of the quality improvement process. The initial step should entail creating awareness of the quality improvement areas (Peratec, 1994, p. 38).

Incorporate quality improvement tools

There are a number of approaches or tools which firm’s can adapt in an effort to undertake an effective quality improvement. Some of these tools include use of flow charts, fishbone diagrams and conducting Pareto analysis. In addition, the firm may also integrate approaches such as benchmarking and adopting the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle (PDSA) (Oakland 2003).

Through the PDSA cycle, firms are required to conduct continuous improvements in their operation. Organizational managers are required to evaluate the firm’s current performance. This makes it possible to identify possible problems hence formulating necessary plans to solve the problem.

To be effective in the planning process, firm’s management teams are required to conduct market research and document the findings (Chao, 2007, p. 34). This aids in identification of existing problems. The firm should then implement the formulated plan. The next step entails evaluating whether the plan implemented is leading to the goals formulated in the plan. Finally, the firm should communicate the findings to other organizational stakeholders. However, continuous evaluation and planning should be conducted.


Alternatively, total quality management may contribute to success of an organization through continuous improvement by incorporating the concept of benchmarking. Dahlgaard, Kristensen and Kanji (2006, p.218) define benchmarking as the process of comparing the performance of a firm’s products and services against those of its competitors.

To ensure that benchmarking is effective, firms should not only consider the top competitors or the industry leaders but also other smaller firms in the industry. Dahlgaard, Kristensen and Kanji (2006, p.218), further assert that benchmarking aids in the identification of organizational processes which a firm is supposed to improve. There are different benchmarking strategies which firm’s may consider implementing. Some of these include generic or functional, internal, external, international, process and competitive benchmarking.

Case: Xerox Corporation

A number of firm’s have integrated the concept of benchmarking in their total quality management processes. According to Zook (n.d, para.1), an example of such firms is Xerox Corporation. Xerox Corporation has specifically integrated the concept of functional benchmarking. With regard to functional benchmarking, firms compare their performance with other firms in different business sectors but have similar operational processes. Over the years it has been in operation, Xerox Corporation considers the concept of functional benchmarking to be one of the strategies which have led into the firm attaining a high competitive advantage relative to its competitors.

In the process of implementing the concept of benchmarking, the firm conducted a comprehensive internal comparison. The next step entailed evaluation of its competitor’s processes. Through an environmental scan, the firm evaluated the nature of competition in the industry and established a benchmark with regard to variables such as value and quality of its products and services. As a result, the firm was able to determine the market performance of its products and services. In addition, benchmarking has enabled the firm to establish operational standards. Some of the elements which were considered include the competitor’s inventory management, warehousing and transportation processes.

Despite the challenges associated with benchmarking, Xerox Corporation has managed to attain a substantial performance. For example, the firm has witnessed a 90% decline in machine defects. In addition, the firm’s marketing productivity has been improved with a margin of 33% while labor costs have declined with a margin of 33% (Agility Consulting, n.d, para. 10).These benefits are illustrated in the graph below.

Benefits attained from benchmarking Percentage change
Decline in machine defects 90%
Increase in marketing productivity 33%
Decline in labor costs 33%

Changes as a result of benchmarking

Upon meeting the set standard, a higher standard is established. This means that the firm is continuously motivated to attain a better performance by improve the quality of its products.

In order to determine the common problems associated with its products, Xerox Incorporation incorporated the concept of Pareto analysis. The market research was specifically focused on the various printers it manufactures. From a market research, Xerox management team identified a number of problems in relation to its printers. The findings revealed that most of the identified problems cause a high level of customer dissatisfaction. The table below gives an illustration of the problems identified.

Cause of customer Frequency of
dissatisfaction complaint % of total Cumulative %
Malfunction 80 53.33
Complexity of operation 50 33.33 53.33
High cost of maintenance 20 13.33 86.66
Total 150 99.99 99.99

Causes of customer dissatisfaction

Cummulative of problems

Factors which limit quality improvement

There are a number of issues which limits a firm’s effort to implement quality improvement effectively. Some of these gaps are discussed below.

Poor planning

The success of quality improvement is dependent on the firm’s efficiency of planning within an organization. Some managers do not prioritize planning in their quality improvement process. This arises from the fact that some managers consider quality improvement to be theoretical rather than practical. As a result, a large number of firm’s are reluctant to plan effectively in an effort to achieve quality improvement objectives. Poor planning is also evident where firm’s management teams do not define firm’s objectives clearly. For example, the management team may define the objectives in terms of numbers. This has the effect of shifting the employee’s focus to attaining their operations to attainment of the set production levels. As a result, the employees are focused at attaining the set targets in terms of quantity rather than being focused to quality.

Despite some firms undertaking planning, there are some elements which are not considered for the process to be effective. For example, some managers do not consider all the necessary stages which must be endured.

Lack of commitment by the management

There are a number of reasons why the firm’s management team may be not be committed at attaining quality improvement. In line with the firm’s profit maximization objective, most of the management teams may be focused at the short term goal. In addition, a firm’s quality improvement program may fail if the management team does not appreciate its contribution towards attaining a high level of customer satisfaction.

Reluctance to implement quality improvement may also arise if there is no external force stimulating the firm such as competition. In its operation, Xerox Incorporation is proactive in implementing quality improvement programs. Considering the fact that quality improvement is an organizational wide program, its success may be limited by isolation of some line managers. This may arise by lack of middle level managers to appreciate the comments of the low level workers.

Resistance of the firm’s employees

In some cases, the firm’s workforce may not appreciate the importance of incorporating TQM in the firm’s operation. This may arise if the employees do not a clear understanding regarding the firm’s long term objectives. The resultant effect is that the firm’s quality improvement program looses credibility. In addition, quality improvement program may be hindered by existence of adversarial relationship between the employees and the management team. If the employees do not have trust on the management, they cannot appreciate the management’s objectives. In addition, employees may also be resistant to new concepts and ideas. The resultant effect is that their productivity will be reduced.

Lack of effective training

Lack of proper training in an organization is one of the causes of employee resistance. A well trained workforce is a prerequisite for the success of total quality management. However, poor training is a hindrance in the implementation of quality improvement programs.

Teamwork complacency

Quality improvement programs are usually faced by teamwork challenges. For example, the teams may develop a perception that they do not have sufficient authority in the firm’s operation. This may arise from lack of communication from the management team making feedback to be inefficient. The resultant effect is lack of direction and hence confusion. In addition, teamwork complacency may also arise from development of a perception that there is different status existing between the low level employee’s teams and the top management team. This has the effect of increasing problems within the teams hence reducing its efficiency.

Lack of resources

A considerable amount of resources required to ensure that a firm’s quality improvement program succeeds. This arises from the fact that quality improvement is considered to be an investment which can result into high returns. These resources relate to both financial and human resources. However, in some cases, firms are faced by shortage of resources making it difficult to provide the necessary resources. For example, some of the firm’s departments may be understaffed. This limits the efforts of such departments towards attainment of quality improvement objectives.

Ineffective measurement

To determine the effectiveness of quality management, there must be a well established monitoring and measurement mechanisms (Carey & Lloyd, 1995, p. 43). All the firm’s processes should be measured in order to identify objectives which are inline with the customer’s needs. However, some firm’s experience challenges in setting measurement standards and targets. These challenges may arise from ineffective goals which are based on substandard performance, lack of resources or inefficient planning.

Failure to change the firm’s operational philosophy

According to Rahim (1994, para. 20), a well formulated quality philosophy is necessary for the success of a firm’s quality improvement project. The philosophy adopted must contribute to the firm’s long term success. In addition, the philosophy must be shared by all the organisation’s employees. In most organizations, there is a clear division between the firm’s management team and the employees. However, quality programs are only successful if there is no distinction between the low level employees and the management team. To eliminate the division, firm’s management teams should formulate new and practical goals which incorporate all the employees. This will make it possible for the employees to adopt the total quality management approach in all their activities.

Despite the fact that firms are aimed at attaining short term profits, management teams should not only be focused at profits as the measure of their performance. However, the management teams’ priority should be attaining total quality management. This arises from the fact that total quality management contributes towards the firm’s long term success. Through total quality improvement, it is possible for a firm to undertake quality improvement.

In order to motivate employees in their operation, various firms have developed reward incentive programs. However, these programs are not focused towards attainment of quality improvement. The resultant effect is that the firm’s operations are production driven. In some cases, some of the instituted reward incentives cause conflicts between the firm’s employees hence limiting cooperation which is paramount in attaining continuous quality improvement.

Inefficient quality improvement programs

Rahim (1994, para. 10) is of the opinion that a firm’s quality improvement program should be unique. Therefore, firms should develop quality improvement programs which are significant to the firm’s operation. As a result, it is possible for the firm to adapt to the program. According to Rahim (1994, para. 11), some firms adopt quality improvement programs belonging to other firms and modify them to fit to the firm’s operation. Despite the modifications, these programs prove to be ineffective since they do not fit the organization’s needs. According to Rahim (1994, para. 22), firms should develop quality improvement programs which are customized to their operations. This means that the program will be in line with the organization’s policies, culture and practices.


The concept of total quality management is paramount in the success of a firm. For a firm to effectively implement the concept of total quality management, a clear definition of quality should be developed. This will enable the firm to formulate relevant quality improvement policies. Through incorporation of total quality management, a firm is able to produce products and services which result into a high level of customer satisfaction. Through attainment of a high level of customer satisfaction, the probability of the firm surviving in the long term as a going concern entity is increased. In addition, quality management can increase a firm’s operational efficiency.

This arises from the associated quality improvement concepts such as employee training. In addition, operational efficiency is also attained through incorporation of the concept of teamwork. It is also important to integrate quality improvement tools such as benchmarking and the PSDA cycle. These tools will aid in the process of planning the quality improvement program in addition to determining whether the firm is progressing towards its quality improvement objectives. Xerox Incorporation is an example of firm’s which have succeeded as a result of incorporating the concept of benchmarking.

Total quality management is an organizational wide phenomenon. This means that firm’s management teams should ensure that they develop a comprehensive understanding regarding the firm’s operations. In addition, a high level of commitment should be ensured between the low level employees and the top managers. One of the ways through which this can be attained is by ensuring that there is effective organizational leadership (Bass & Avilio, 1994, p. 34). In addition, an open communication should be adopted within the organization.

There are a number of ways through which effective leadership can be attained within the organization. For example, the management team should implement an employee involvement program (Bauer, Duffy & Westcott, 2006, p.54). This can be achieved by soliciting the views of the employees regarding quality. As a result, the firm will be able to identify various areas in relation to the quality of the firm’s products and services which should be improved.

Employee involvement is also paramount since the quality of the firm’s products is dependent on the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees. Considering the fact that employees are usually resistant to change, integrating new concepts within the organization can result into resistance. By involving employees in the quality improvement program, there is a high degree of the firm attaining its total quality objective. This arises from the fact that the employees understand the need for improving quality. This will increase the chances of success.

Despite the benefits associated with quality improvement, there are a number of internal and external challenges which may hinder a firm in its quest to implement quality improvement. For example, the management team may be inefficient in planning the quality improvement program. This may result from lack of appreciating the importance of quality improvement. In addition, the management team may not be totally committed to the quality improvement program.

This may arise from increased focusing on short term objectives such as profit maximization. Failure of the program may also result from a high level of employee’s resistance due to existence of a poor relationship between the employees and the management team. Implementation of the quality improvement program requires a firm to have substantial financial and human capital. Considering the fact that resources are scarce, a firm’s efforts towards attainment of quality improvement objectives are hindered.

Despite a firm’s effort to integrate quality improvement through incorporation of employee training, achievement of the predetermined objectives may be difficult if the training being offered is not effective. Other gaps which exist in a firm’s effort to attain efficiency in its operations relate to ineffective measurement inefficient quality improvement programs and lack of adopting a proper operational philosophy. Poor planning


Considering the benefits associated with ensuring the success of a firm’s quality improvement program in an effort to attain quality management objectives, it is paramount for management teams of firm’s in different economic sectors to consider the following.

  • Ensuring an organizational wide commitment. This should be attained by integrating effective leadership concepts within the organization. For example, bottom-top communication should be incorporated. This will aid in development of a strong relationship between the various organizational levels. In addition, it will be possible for the management team to identify areas of inefficiency and hence taking proactive measures.
  • Firms should develop a total quality management strategy which incorporates the firm’s long term objectives. Attainment of quality should be one of the firm’s long term objectives.
  • Firms should develop a quality improvement program which is in line with the organization’s culture, practices and policies. This will increase the probability of the program succeeding.
  • Firms should institute continuous training within their strategic management processes. Training will aid in integration of new operational concepts considering the dynamic nature of business environment. This will culminate into improvement of the firm’s operational efficiency. In addition, training will also contribute to employee empowerment. The resultant effect is that the employees will develop a positive attitude.

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Richardson, T.L., 1997. Total Quality Management. Washington: Delmar Learning Schiller, R., Kovach, M. & Miller, M., 1994. Total quality management for hospital nutrition services. New Jersey: Jones & Barlett Learning.

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