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QuestionHow HR professionals drive TQMIntroduction

For more than 13 years organizations in India have come under mounting pressure to boost their business performance, measure themselves against world class standards and direct their efforts on the customers. To abet this process, organizations have embraced an assortment of approaches or philosophies. One of such approaches is total quality management (TQM). TQM is an encompassing management approach whose principal tenets are to satisfy (internal and external) customer needs through strategies of employee empowerment and performance measurement. People are at the vanguard of TQM. No matter how sophisticated the quality strategy of the organization is, it will not pass with excellence unless people are earnestly concerned and committed to it. The role of HR professionals revolutionizes under the quality management systems because of changing expectations of stakeholder with regard to human resource management (HRM) responsibilities. At the outset, they have to act upon one of the most arduous tasks, i.e. to bring psychological transition in people. Implementation of TQM requires re-engineering of manufacturing processes and products (a part of BPR), adoption of Just-In-Time (JIT), benchmarking with world class companies, production at zero defect level, and above all, yielding continuous improvement in activities and processes through team spirit. Espousing these practices require employees to awfully change their working approaches they have gone along with for years. In this context, HR professionals have to play a critical role in managing the psychological transition, motivating and enlivening people to achieve total quality. second, the total quality approach contends for a more proactive people-focused approach in which HR professionals adopt total quality to become strategic partners in improvement and business planning. In nutshell, they have to align total quality human resource strategic management with business strategic management. Integrating HR strategy and strategic planning is fundamental to achieving business excellence. Third, they should act as internal consultants to other departments in the organization as members of cross-functional teams so that individual business units are billed directly for personal services they use. Fourth, they must endeavor to unlock the potential of employees and utilize them to productive activities. Ordinary people can be made to do extra ordinary things by involving them in the TQM practice. Fifth, HR must play a key role in building an organization's TQM culture. In some organizations, HR managers champion TQM by sponsoring educational initiatives, communicating successes and bringing in outside consultants to redesign work processes. Other HR departments take a more direct, hands-on role in implementing TQM, training employees in leadership and team building.

Many authors and researchers now concede that effective people management and development is one of the primary means to achieving total quality. Researchers have found that human resources system often get in the way of cultural change that is one of the goals of TQM. Organization needs to align human resource systems with quality goals. To achieve this end, different methods like: communicating about quality through the HR Department; communicating information about quality efforts work best when done in a small' group setting in which it can be personalized; training offered should focus on building quality skills with equal attention paid to behavioral skills and quality tools need for change in performance-management systems; and recognition. Another survey on human resource practices in companies suggests that human resources must partner with other departments in the organization to support TQM effectively. Options include, using human resource representatives as internal consultants to other departments, as members of cross-functional teams, or restructuring the whole department so that individual business units are billed directly for personal services they use. In another study it was found that the conventional HRM practices conflict with TQM and should be changed. In terms of people and their roles, things that need to shift are: to make process improvement part of everyone's job (not just a management/specialist responsibility); for managers to evolve into facilitators; and use of multifunctional teams instead of single teams. In terms of Human Resource Department, the shift needed are: letting line people handle most personnel functions; shrink the number of job classifications; focus on training for everyone; and spend less time on employee relations and wage/classification issues.

A case study in an Indian organization

A study was conducted in Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL)/Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP), a leading public sector enterprise (PSE) in India manufacturing crude steel. The journey of TQM in the company began on 15 September 1995. To provide added impetus to the program, a full-blown TQM Department, i.e. the TQM-ISO Cell was established in January 1997. Presently, many TQM techniques such as Benchmarking, Quality Improvement Projects (QIP), Employee Involvement Scheme, House Keeping, etc. have been implemented very fruitfully which is evinced from the ISO Certification of the company by the Bureau Veritus Quality International (BVQI), UK. The Human Resource Plan of company aims at developing the unreserved commitment, creativity, competence and initiative of the personnel in meeting its business challenges. The first step taken by the HRD Department in the direction of quality initiative was making the alignment between the HR and quality policy in the organization.

The HR professionals in RINL/VSP have played a strategic role at different stages of TQM implementation. They assisted the top management in aligning HR and quality policies, creating and communicating the TQM vision, preparing the organization as well as employees for TQM implementation, generating quality awareness among the employees across the levels, functions, and departments, developing management support to QAPs, organizing quality workshops, formulating quality friendly policies, systems and procedures, changing the conventional mind-set of employees, organizing TQM training programs (on teamwork, total quality advantage, ISO procedures, instructions and documentation, etc.), devising different communication exercises, encouraging team building activities, promoting employees involvement through suggestion scheme, quality circle and other participative forum.

In order to facilitate the TQM progress in the company, the HRD department has made on configuration with other departments. A number of quality action/advantage teams have been constituted in the company with managerial personnel from different departments including the HRD one. Quality policy of the company was also formulated in consultation with the HR professionals. The HR professionals in the company also act as internal consultants to other departments for better implementation of TQM. They act as facilitators and trainers in various quality workshops and advisors to other departments at the time of entering into MOUs with their customer/supplier departments. Implementation of TQM in the company has posed quite a lot of human resource challenges to HR professionals such as, motivating knowledge workers, mobilizing key managerial personnel, obtaining employees satisfaction, overcoming communication barriers, solving problems associated with PSU trappings and vastness of the organization, etc. Thus, following implementation of TQM, from a mere functional department HRD Department has now become an indispensable tower of strength of the organization.





Reference: Palo, S. & Padhi, N. 2005, "How HR professionals drive TQM: a case study in an Indian organization", The TQM Magazine, vol. 17, no. 5, pp. 467-485.

Questions

After reading the above case, please answer the following questions.

1)     Referring to the case study, state the key points highlighted in the implementation of TQM in organisations. (There are no right or wrong answers to this question and it depends how you look at it)

2)     Do you think similar strategy can be used in organisations in Pacific Island countries? Explain with justification.

3)     Referring to Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited (RINL)/Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (VSP) company, what do you think was the strength in their TQM implementation strategy? 

4)     Assume you are the CEO of company which is going to implement TQM principles. Using some of the points from the case study, highlight 3 things you will do first to ensure an easy path is set up for the implementation of TQM in your organisation? 

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