The Realization of Attractive Quality : Conceptual and practical perspectives within the TQM system

Abstract: Within the quality community, quality management is often pictured as and referred to as rapidly evolving and continuously learning by interaction with the surrounding world. In general, an ability to evolve and transform is also seen as most desirable and the only choice for long term survival. In line with this picture, quality scholars, consultants, and practitioners strongly accentuate the necessity and great benefits from continuous improvement as well as systematic collection and usage of facts about what customers really value, to guide such improvement. This is reflected in the exhortations “improve continuously”, “focus on the customer” and “base decisions on facts”, found with minor variations in most modern quality literature. Strong exhortations mainly directed outwards, towards the many leaders and organizations out there. Towards leaders and organizations that still have not grasped the necessity and great winnings from continuous improvement, that are still not fully applying modern quality initiatives like Total Quality Management (TQM).   However, while seemingly being busy exhorting others, doubts have been increasingly raised concerning whether TQM, as currently applied, actually lives up to these exhortations. Does TQM itself continuously improve and evolve? Is the current application of TQM really taking into account facts in the surrounding world about what customers value?   When viewing TQM as a system, as now is commonly done, the problem implied is a lack of system goal fulfillment, questioning if the current TQM system’s structure and processes are really purposeful. More specifically the critics highlight the inadequacy of the current reactive one-sided defect avoidance focus, stressing that defects do not matter much if you are making a product no one wants to buy. What can be referred to as “an obsession with error avoidance” is in fact shown to stifle both innovation and value creation.   As for what the TQM system currently is missing, the shortcoming is often referred to as a lack of focus on Attractive Quality. That is, a lack of focus on a different kind of quality elements, often described as being unrelated to the dissatisfaction expressed, but strongly contributing to the customer’s positive emotions, such as delight. The inclusion and realization of Attractive Quality has been widely emphasized as important and urgent for more than 20 years. However, a more systematic inclusion and realization within the TQM system has remained no more than merely “a vision”. A situation seemingly supporting the argument that TQM really has failed in terms of continuously evolving and improving. An inability to learn and adapt that in the long term will jeopardize the survival of the entire TQM system.   This thesis then aims to move “from a vision to reality” both in terms of exploring the realization of Aattractive Qquality within TQM, and in a wider sense towards realizing the desired state of TQM as truly evolving and alive. In doing so the thesis addresses the three questions of what, why and how the vision of a more systematic creation of Aattractive Qquality creation actually should and could be realized within the system of TQM. Among the results presented in this thesis are a new two-dimensional perspective on Attractive Quality and a re-understanding of the TQM system. The thesis also introduces a new methodology called Attraction Detection Study (ADS) as part of the concluding suggestions about how Attractive Quality could be more systematically created within the system of TQM.