Satisfying clients results in success
TOTAL Quality Management - known as TQM - are the latest buzzwords in the business community.
There are many who believe it is an excellent way of ensuring the continued success and dynamism of any commercial organisation.
But what does it mean? And what should firms that want to adopt the approach do? Calvin Cheung is the managing director of TQM Consultants in Wan Chai.
The firm has 10 offices in provinces throughout China and Mr Cheung has considerable experience in implementing quality management systems.
But he is the first to admit there is no easy way of defining Total Quality Management.
''If you ask experts what it is, everyone will give you a different answer. It is really an approach towards satisfying the demands and needs of your customers,'' he said.
''It is about creating a climate of quality in every area of your company, a way of getting the whole organisation to improve its performance in every respect.'' Mr Cheung said one of the most important steps in TQM was ensuring that each level of the company realised the importance of quality in its area of work.
That meant from the senior and middle managers, to the operators on the shop floor.
Mr Cheung said: ''Workers have to know what their organisation's intention is, what they are all about.
''They also have to understand the importance of their work and their role in the company, and also the importance of quality in everything they do.'' Mr Cheung said he believed firms that had already been certified with one of the ISO 9000 international standards of quality had the basic foundation to implement full TQM in their organisation.
The ISO system gives an exhaustive list of written guidelines and checks to ensure that every area of a business is reaching set quality standards.
''It is very useful, as it gives set procedures and guidelines to follow to improve quality,'' he said.
''But it is only a foundation. There are some firms that get ISO certification, but there is no real culture of quality in their company.
''They get certification and sit back, but the real drive and need for quality in every area of the company may not fully be instilled at all.'' Mr Cheung said there was no one formula that could be applied to a company to take it beyond the quality levels set by ISO 9000.
''Every company is different and you have to look at their strengths and weaknesses very carefully,'' he said.
''After certification, the process of training your staff and educating them is only just beginning. There has to be a constant move towards improvement.
''One approach is benchmarking, where companies swap information and look at how other firms deal with certain situations and problems - but you have to be aware that every organisation is different and may need its own solutions.'' Mr Cheung said many firms were now beginning to realise they had to adopt a cohesive policy towards quality management if they were to prosper in the marketplace.
''In many cases, their customers in Europe and elsewhere are demanding they meet quality standards if they are to remain as suppliers,'' he said.
''Many firms are also beginning to realise the benefits of instilling a quality culture in their company.'' In one example in China, Mr Cheung said firms were now able to cope with the big problem of staff turnover because quality management gave them the systems and know-how to train workers who were more highly motivated and skilled.
''I think more and more companies realise the benefits of adopting the quality approach,'' Mr Cheung said.