By Steve Rizer
There are several reasons why construction companies’ total quality management (TQM) systems fail, Thomas Frisby, who owns a construction consulting firm, told attendees of a webinar that WPL Publishing held earlier this month. TQM, the concept of customer satisfaction through quality processes and continuous improvement, was developed by W. Edwards Deming after World War II and used by the Japanese to become an industrial giant.
One reason why TQM programs fail is because it is often implemented as a separate, and sometimes costly, unproductive activity, Frisby said during the March 1 webinar, entitled “Total Quality Management for Improved Project Success.” “It isn’t a separate activity. It is an inherent part of what you do (or should do).”
Such programs also fail because policies and procedures are not followed up with implementation, The Frisby Group owner stated. “The best policies and procedures on the globe have never managed a company or project. Procedures and processes help us know the best practices for managing/supervision, but it takes the understanding and commitment by qualified personnel to make it happen. Like a CPM [Critical Path Method] schedule, procedures are tools. They represent the race car. It takes the driver to win the race.”
Frisby added, “The expert who helps you set up a TQM-type program is not going to run your company. It takes leadership and continual commitment at all levels. Procedures without ownership are like row boats without oars.”
Other reasons for failure include a lack of training and communication of all individuals involved in a project, a gap between management rhetoric and actual performance, a failure to measure results, and egos. Over-institutionalized politics also can become a problem, Frisby said. “I have a hard time, frankly, dealing with big companies because of that.”
During the webinar, Frisby outlined several steps that can be taken to improve TQM programs, such as establishing a standard, developing a process to meet the standard, training people about the process, and getting input from those people doing the work. He additionally outlined Demings’ 14-point TQM program as a model for construction businesses to follow.
For information about obtaining a set of recordings of the webinar, call WPL Publishing at (301) 765-9525.