Obstacles towards a work-development-oriented TQM strategy

University dissertation from Luleå : Luleå tekniska universitet

Abstract: The following thesis originates from the results of a research project carried out in collaboration between Luleå University of Technology and the University of Gävle, with the assistance of nine Swedish and three American companies. Over the past few years, a dramatically increased interest in quality has been observed. This has been particularly noticeable in companies where facilitators, quality catalysts and activity developers are hired; at universities with an expanding curriculum as well as in everyday life when you see or hear the word "quality" in advertisements or conversations. In Sweden, quality-oriented strategies have become one of the leading methods to develop industrial companies, instead of focusing on work organisation and work development that was the main strategy in the later part of the 80s. The major interest of the author is to describe the interaction between quality and work development and the thesis has the following purposes: "Describe how companies can work with TQM and work development" and "Find how different companies can deal with obstacles related to the implementation of a work-development-oriented TQM-strategy". Case studies at Dayco, Ericsson Cables, GM:son Frost and ProfilGruppen are carried out to get a relevant description of how companies can work with TQM and work development. The empirical background together with the theoretical framework, concerning TQM and work development indicates that companies work differently with TQM. Even if the studied companies commit themselves to TQM, and the same core values the differences are obvious in terms of customer focus, continuous improvement and practical TQM approach. An SPC approach is applied to predict the outcome of an implementation process of a work-development-oriented TQM-strategy and to find assignable causes, or obstacles of this process. The findings, obstacles and the elimination of them, are presented under the headings: Management, Continuous improvement, Tools, ISO 9000, Work development, Process orientation and Union. The main obstacles as to work development are limited resources, lack of knowledge and the management's perspective concerning work development. Here, the union traditionally plays a significant role in modulating the public opinion, but in TQM tasks its role as a natural discussion partner is not that clear. This is important since these discussions are a core activity to secure the providence of the employees with the suitable competence and decisive authority to carry out their work in the spirit of TQM. Not only shall everybody be involved in the daily work, but also participate in the improvements and analyses. To reach beyond management programmes without substantial changes in the basic work processes and work organisation, it is important to focus on organisational structure and learning organisation. Continuous improvement as a way of working, lends importance to the concept of learning organisation if a company is to ascend the TQM-ladder. This is the case both in terms of level in the Swedish Quality Award and in terms of fulfilment of the work- development-oriented TQM-strategy presented in this thesis.

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