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Limitations of the Total Quality Management Theory

by David Lipscomb

An organization adopts the Total Quality Management system in an attempt to improve quality across the board, spanning all levels of employment. The theory is designed chiefly to increase efficiency, reduce waste and improve overall competence. As with any system, there are limitations that must be identified and overcome for the system to work.

Pulling Away Manpower

Getting everyone in an organization up to speed on a new process like TQM takes time away from actual production. Extensive training in statistical analysis and problem solving -- although useful in the long-term -- has the real potential of reducing worker output by pulling worker activity away from their primary tasks. Employers should keep this ramp-up time in mind prior to instituting TQM in their workplace.

Cost in Time and Money

Implementing TQM systems can take many years. Employees come and go, with each of them requiring this training to stay up to speed with the rest of the organization's goals and members. Training takes time and involves significant investment by the company in dollars and resources. As such, TQM implementation must be viewed as a long-term investment that will not immediately improve process across all individuals and departments.

People Fear Change

Although some executives might have a clear understanding of TQM theory and implementation, not every employee will. Global changes in training and processes create fear, uncertainty and doubt within organizations. TQM implementations are top-down initially, but rely on bottom-up improvements to each employee's output and efficiency. If there isn't total buy-in, the process will be hindered. Sometimes radical new implementations are viewed as precursors to massive organizational changes, such as layoffs or restructuring. Organizations attempting to implement this system may initially experience a reduction in output, employee turnover and possible harm to the company's culture.

Reduction in Innovation

Total Quality Management systems are fundamentally designed to mitigate risk. This is achieved by maximizing each process taking place within an organization. In some roles, such as engineering, marketing and other fields that often require outside-the-box thinking in order to break through, TQM's inherently systematic and process-oriented nature can serve as a barrier. Development can occur slowly -- or not at all -- creating a deadly status-quo environment that sometimes causes companies fixated on TQM systems to watch more flexible companies surpass them.

About the Author

David Lipscomb is a professional writer and public relations practitioner. Lipscomb brings more than a decade of experience in the consumer electronics and advertising industries. Lipscomb holds a degree in public relations from Webster University.

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