Project Management

The Seeds to Successful Quality Management

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

If you lived through the total quality management (TQM) craze of the 1990s (at least within the United States), you probably saw it come in like a lion and fade like a lamb. During that time, many organizations tried—and failed—at implementing TQM.

It wasn’t that the principles of TQM were flawed, but rather those trying to implement did so by ramming it down the throats of the workforce. I can remember the little blue plate that everyone got that stated “Quality is a race with no finish line.” Who wants to run that race?

Typically, after much fanfare, the task of implementing TQM fell at the feet of human resources, which thought that intellectualizing the concept would win the day. TQM became the silver bullet that evolved into a very expensive, esoteric exercise that never delivered the benefits it promised.

Next came Six Sigma (that owes the majority of its success to Jack Welch, the famed CEO of GE), which also promised to revolutionize how organizations could achieve quality. While still popular today, most found that the push by zealots was to create a huge Six Sigma organization within the enterprise that would evangelize everyone. One of the main assumptions—still practiced today—was the idea of belt levels (like in martial arts). Everyone had to get at least yellow belt training, then most would get green belt …

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