Monday, October 22, 2007

TQM As a Tool to Affect Organizational Change

While Total Quality Management has proven to be an effective process for improving organizational functioning, its value can only be assured through a comprehensive and well­thought­out implementation process. The purpose of this chapter is to outline key aspects of implementation of large­scale organizational change which may enable a practitioner to more thoughtfully and successfully implement TQM. First, the context will be set. TQM is, in fact, a large­scale systems change, and guiding principles and considerations regarding this scale of change will be presented. Without attention to contextual factors, well­intended changes may not be adequately designed. As another aspect of context, the expectations and perceptions of employees (workers and managers) will be assessed, so that the implementation plan can address them. Specifically, sources of resistance to change and ways of dealing with them will be discussed. This is important to allow a change agent to anticipate resistances and design for them, so that the process does not bog down or stall. Next, a model of implementation will be presented, including a discussion of key principles. Visionary leadership will be offered as an overriding perspective for someone instituting TQM. In recent years the literature on change management and leadership has grown steadily, and applications based on research findings will be more likely to succeed. Use of tested principles will also enable the change agent to avoid reinventing the proverbial wheel. Implementation principles will be followed by a review of steps in managing the transition to the new system and ways of helping institutionalize the process as part of the organization's culture. This section, too, will be informed by current writing in transition management and institutionalization of change. Finally, some miscellaneous do's and don't's will be offered.
Members of any organization have stories to tell of the introduction of new programs, techniques, systems, or even, in current terminology, paradigms. Usually the employee, who can be anywhere from the line worker to the executive level, describes such an incident with a combination of cynicism and disappointment: some manager went to a conference or in some other way got a "great idea" (or did it based on threat or desperation such as an urgent need to cut costs) and came back to work to enthusiastically present it, usually mandating its implementation. The "program" probably raised people's expectations that this time things would improve, that management would listen to their ideas. Such a program usually is introduced with fanfare, plans are made, and things slowly return to normal. The manager blames unresponsive employees, line workers blame executives interested only in looking good, and all complain about the resistant middle managers. Unfortunately, the program itself is usually seen as worthless: "we tried team building (or organization development or quality circles or what have you) and it didn't work; neither will TQM". Planned change processes often work, if conceptualized and implemented properly; but, unfortunately, every organization is different, and the processes are often adopted "off the shelf" ­ "the 'appliance model of organizational change': buy a complete program, like a 'quality circle package,' from a dealer, plug it in, and hope that it runs by itself" (Kanter, 1983, 249). Alternatively, especially in the under­funded public and not­for­profit sectors, partial applications are tried, and in spite of management and employee commitment do not bear fruit. This chapter will focus on ways of preventing some of these disappointments.
In summary, the purpose here is to review principles of effective planned change implementation and suggest specific TQM applications. Several assumptions are proposed: 1. TQM is a viable and effective planned change method, when properly installed; 2. not all organizations are appropriate or ready for TQM; 3. preconditions (appropriateness, readiness) for successful TQM can sometimes be created; and 4. leadership commitment to a large­scale, long­term, cultural change is necessary. While problems in adapting TQM in government and social service organizations have been identified, TQM can be useful in such organizations if properly modified (Milakovich, 1991; Swiss, 1992).
TQM as Large­Sale Systems Change
TQM is at first glance seen primarily as a change in an organization's technology ­ its way of doing work. In the human services, this means the way clients are processed ­ the service delivery methods applied to them ­ and ancillary organizational processes such as paperwork, procurement processes, and other procedures. But TQM is also a change in an organization's culture ­ its norms, values, and belief systems about how organizations function. And finally, it is a change in an organization's political system: decision making processes and power bases. For substantive change to occur, changes in these three dimensions must be aligned: TQM as a technological change will not be successful unless cultural and political dimensions are attended to as well (Tichey, 1983).
Many (e.g., Hyde, 1992; Chaudron, 1992) have noted that TQM results in a radical change in the culture and the way of work in an organization. A fundamental factor is leadership, including philosophy, style, and behavior. These must be congruent as they are presented by a leader. Many so­called enlightened leaders of today espouse a participative style which is not, in fact, practiced to any appreciable degree. Any manager serious about embarking on a culture change such as TQM should reflect seriously on how she or he feels and behaves regarding these factors. For many managers, a personal program of leadership development (e.g., Bennis, 1989) may be a prerequisite to effective functioning as an internal change agent advocating TQM.
Other key considerations have to do with alignment among various organizational systems (Chaudron, 1992; Hyde, 1992). For example, human resource systems, including job design, selection processes, compensation and rewards, performance appraisal, and training and development must align with and support the new TQM culture. Less obvious but no less important will be changes required in other systems. Information systems will need to be redesigned to measure and track new things such as service quality. Financial management processes may also need attention through the realignment of budgeting and resource allocation systems. Organizational structure and design will be different under TQM: layers of management may be reduced and organizational roles will certainly change. In particular, middle management and first line supervisors will be operating in new ways. Instead of acting as monitors, order­givers, and agents of control they will serve as boundary managers, coordinators, and leaders who assist line workers in getting their jobs done. To deal with fears of layoffs, all employees should be assured that no one will lose employment as a result of TQM changes: jobs may change, perhaps radically, but no one will be laid off. Hyde (1992) has recommended that we "disperse and transform, not replace, mid­level managers." This no layoff principle has been a common one in joint labor­management change processes such as quality of working life projects for many years.
Another systems consideration is that TQM should evolve from the organization's strategic plan and be based on stakeholder expectations. This type of planning and stance regarding environmental relations is receiving more attention but still is not common in the human services. As will be discussed below, TQM is often proposed based on environmental conditions such as the need to cut costs or demands for increased responsiveness to stakeholders. A manager may also adopt TQM as a way of being seen at the proverbial cutting edge, because it is currently popular. This is not a good motivation to use TQM and will be likely to lead to a cosmetic or superficial application, resulting in failure and disappointment. TQM should be purpose­oriented: it should be used because an organization's leaders feel a need to make the organization more effective. It should be driven by results and not be seen as an end in itself. If TQM is introduced without consideration of real organizational needs and conditions, it will be met by skepticism on the part of both managers and workers. We will now move to a discussion of the ways in which people may react to TQM.
People's Expectations and Perceptions
Many employees may see TQM as a fad, remembering past "fads" such as quality circles, management by objectives, and zero­based budgeting. As was noted above, TQM must be used not just as a fad or new program, but must be related to key organizational problems, needs, and outcomes. Fortunately, Martin (1993) has noted that TQM as a "managerial wave" has more in common with social work than have some past ones such as MBO or ZBB, and its adaptations may therefore be easier.
In another vein, workers may see management as only concerned about the product, not staff needs. Management initiatives focused on concerns such as budget or cost will not resonate with beleaguered line workers. Furthermore, staff may see quality as not needing attention: they may believe that their services are already excellent or that quality is a peripheral concern in these days of cutbacks and multi problem clients. For a child protective service worker, just getting through the day and perhaps mitigating the most severe cases of abuse may be all that one expects. Partly because of heavy service demands, and partly because of professional training of human service workers, which places heavy value on direct service activities with clients, there may be a lack of interest on the part of many line workers in efficiency or even effectiveness and outcomes (Pruger & Miller, 1991; Ezell, Menefee, & Patti, 1989). This challenge should be addressed by all administrators (Rapp & Poertner, 1992), and in particular any interested in TQM.
Workers may have needs and concerns, such as lower caseloads and less bureaucracy, which are different from those of administration. For TQM to work, employees must see a need (e.g., for improved quality from their perspective) and how TQM may help. Fortunately, there are win­win ways to present this. TQM is focused on quality, presumably a concern of both management and workers, and methods improvements should eliminate wasteful bureaucratic activities, save money, and make more human resources available for core activities, specifically client service.
Sources of Resistance
Implementation of large­scale change such as TQM will inevitably face resistance, which should be addressed directly by change agents. A key element of TQM is working with customers, and the notion of soliciting feedback/expectations from customers/clients and collaborating with them, perhaps with customers defining quality, is a radical one in many agencies, particularly those serving involuntary clients (e.g., protective services). Historical worker antipathy to the use of statistics and data in the human services may carry over into views of TQM, which encourages the gathering and analysis of data on service quality. At another level, management resistance to employee empowerment is likely. They may see decision making authority in zero­sum terms: if employees have more involvement in decision making, managers will have less. In fact, one principle in employee involvement is that each level will be more empowered, and managers lose none of their fundamental authority. There will undoubtedly be changes in their roles, however. As was noted above, they will spend less time on control and more on facilitation. For many traditional managers, this transition will require teaching/training, self reflection, and time as well as assurances from upper management that they are not in danger of being displaced.
Resistance in other parts of the organization will show up if TQM is introduced on a pilot basis or only in particular programs (Hyde, 1992). Kanter (1983) has referred to this perspective as segmentalism: each unit or program sees itself as separate and unique, with nothing to learn from others and no need to collaborate with them. This shows up in the "not invented here" syndrome: those not involved in the initial development of an idea feel no ownership for it. On a broader level, there may be employee resistance to industry examples used in TQM ­ terms like inventory or order backlog (Cohen and Brand, 1993, 122).
Dealing with Resistance
There are several tactics which can be helpful in dealing with resistance to TQM implementation. Generally, they have to do with acknowledging legitimate resistance and changing tactics based on it, using effective leadership to enroll people in the vision of TQM, and using employee participation.
A useful technique to systematically identify areas of resistance is a force field analysis (Brager & Holloway, 1992). This technique was originally developed by Kurt Lewin as an assessment tool for organizational change. It involves creating a force field of driving forces, which aid the change or make it more likely to occur, and restraining forces, which are points of resistance or things getting in the way of change. Start by identifying the change goal, in this case, implementation of TQM. Represent this by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. Slightly to its left, draw a parallel line which represents the current state of the organization. The change process involves moving from the current state to the ideal future state, an organization effectively using TQM. To the left of the second line (the current state), list all forces (individuals, key groups, or conditions) which may assist in the implementation of TQM. These may include environmental pressures leading to reduced funds, staff who may like to be more involved in agency decision making, and the successful applications of TQM elsewhere. On the other side, list restraining forces which will make the change implementation more difficult. Examples may be middle management fear of loss of control, lack of time for line workers to take for TQM meetings, and skepticism based on the organization's poor track record regarding change. Arrows from both sides touching the "current state" line represent the constellation of forces. Each force is then assessed in two ways: its potency or strength, and its amenability to change. More potent forces, especially restraining ones, will need greater attention. Those not amenable to change will have to be counteracted by driving forces.

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