Total quality management involves a continuous focus on optimizing quality, both of processes and products. While perfection is impossible, monitoring and improving organizational strategies can make a company more attractive to consumers, providing a competitive edge. As with any organizational initiative, strong leadership can help ensure success.
Abstract or fuzzy objectives aren’t enough to inspire workers. Instead, excellent leaders establish clear, well-defined objectives for quality improvement. For example, improving customer service might be too general a goal. Instead, an effective leader might divide customer service process into various categories and then define measurable and objective quality benchmarks for each category.
Excellent leaders must have the communication skills to give marching orders in ways that inspire and motivate rather than discourage followers. Leaders also should play a strong role in drafting new policy initiatives and guideline changes, which will help ensure the organization’s new focus on quality has the best chance of succeeding.
Changing the status quo is always difficult. Old practices die hard. But excellent leaders know that total quality management is essentially a continuous overhaul, and no process is so good that it can’t be improved. For that reason, excellent leaders must aggressively pursue change, circumventing or eliminating any institutional barriers that hinder organizational growth and development. Stubborn managers who resist change might need replacing, for example, and a strong leader won't hesitate to fire such people when necessary.
Total quality management doesn’t work if only a few departments of an organization focus on self-improvements. The entire organization must work together to make improvements at every stage, level and department. In other words, leaders must be committed enough to make changes throughout the entire organization, not just make improvements to a few small areas.
Excellent leaders are in the thick of things, working alongside their followers to improve the organization. From designing training and education protocols to analyzing results of new initiatives, leaders must be personally involved to ensure high standards are upheld and to inspire followers to keep working hard. By acting as both a teacher and a role model, an effective leader inspires workers to achieve higher quality standards.