Some clues for today's young professionals, most of whom have no theoretical background in quality-related programs: catching up and keeping up.
Total quality management (or TQM as it is generally called) is to the 90s what MBO (management by objectives) was to the 70s: a management concept originating in the private sector, being adopted by the public sector and revolutionizing management styles everywhere. Buzzwords such as statistical process measurement, employee empowerment, and client surveys are gaining in prominence, while the theories behind them are gaining in acceptance.
Articles, journals, and books are being written about TQM. Lectures are being given on the latest TQM trends. Quality institutes devoted to the dissemination of TQM literature and advice are being created. Government agencies are hiring consultants to learn how to adopt TQM practices. And the entire month of October is now National Quality Month with the Baldrige Awards being announced right before the World Series. As these references indicate, it would seem that TQM is beginning to come of age by leaving the infancy of its creation and embracing a new generation of prospective managers.
Many, if not most of today's young professionals did not have the opportunity to study TQM in school and consequently do not have a firm foundation on this burgeoning field. Most of us spent hours poring over every other management theory and technique in existence without touching upon TQM. The aim of this article is to bring the young professional up to speed on the implications of TQM and assess the relevance of TQM for his or her career.
Is TQM Coming of Age?
Is TQM for real or is it merely another trendy fad that will be disposed of along with Wayne's World t-shirts and quiche. One indication of TQM's influence on government is the results of a summer 1992 phone survey by the National Governor's Association (NGA) that showed 36 of the 50 states have some type of quality management effort underway.
It also may be timely to note that one of the first states to establish a formal quality management effort was Arkansas. According to NGA's report, "TQM Initiatives in State Government" (August 1992), Arkansas's plan ensures that every government agency has its own quality team, and the governor presides over a central quality team of agency heads. There is also a quality management board consisting of private sector, legislative, and state budget representatives to promote and …