Research Proposal: Six Sigma and Quality Management

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¶ … Sigma and Quality Managemnet

Six Sigma and Total Quality Management

Today's economic agents are more and more pressured into delivering high quality products and services, at extremely competitive prices. This challenge has been raised by a multitude of factors, two of the most important ones being the growing forces of globalization and the incremental and changing demands of the customer base. In order to answer this emerged challenge, organizational leaders develop and implement a wide series of strategies. They for instance invest more and more in their human resource, which is considered the most valuable asset; this is mostly true within the services industry, where the staff members directly determine the levels of customer satisfaction. Aside from employee motivation and stimulation however, contemporaneous managers also focus on the technologies used throughout the operational process, the techniques and means of delivering the products, and so on.

All the efforts mentioned above, and some others alongside with them, are organized under the generic term of Total Quality Management, a novel approach to business, by which organizational leaders focus on introducing quality efforts at all stages of the organizational processes. Six Sigma is in a way similar as it also focuses on improved levels of quality, but its applications are somewhat different and even more novel and ingenious. The aim of this report is then that of presenting the two concepts as they are depicted within the specialized literature, and revealing the applications of the findings. Before launching such an endeavor however, it is necessary to clearly understand the two ideologies of Six Sigma and TQM.

2. The Total Quality Management and Six Sigma Concepts

The specialized literature presents the reader with a myriad of definitions of total quality management; despite the usage of different formulations however, the essence of the various explanations remains the same. J.M. Juran for instance argues that "Total Quality Management (TQM) is the set of management processes and systems that create delighted customers through empowered employees, leading to higher revenue and lower cost." Joel Ross and Susan Perry on the other hand argue that TQM is "the integration of all functions and processes within an organization in order to achieve continuous improvement of the quality of goods and services. The goal is customer satisfaction" (Ross and Perry, 1999).

The concept of TQM is extremely vast, referring to improvements that could be made at all organizational levels, with the ultimate purpose of enhancing product quality and the adjacent customer satisfaction. TQM is then a new means at the disposal of the modern day managers, by which they are able to respond to the challenges of incremental customer demands. The Six Sigma concept is on the other hand more specific than TQM in the meaning that it does not refer to such broad applications, but to particular actions which can be taken by organizational leaders in order to enhance the satisfaction of the final customer. The Six Sigma approach is constructed on numerous business models, most of which are traditional and long established ones. The Six Sigma will as such include references to various ideas on how to improve customer satisfaction and products quality, meaning that it is also constructed on the premises of total quality management. DH Stamatis (2004) goes as far as to "define Six Sigma as 'TQM on steroids'."

The core principle behind the Six Sigma ideology is that of delivering products in full accordance with the specifications of the customer. The necessity is for any process to not register more than 3.4 defects within one million opportunities; a defect is understood as a deviance from the initial desires of the customer. The Six Sigma approach is generally achieved through two separate processes -- DMAIC and DMADV, where:

DMAIC stands for: define, measure, analyze, improve and control, and DMADV stands for: define, measure, analyze, design and verify.

DMAIC is generically used onto already existent processes, which perform at inferior levels, and for which the company's demands materialize in improvement features. DMADV on the other hand is constructed and implemented for new processes, which are now introduced within the organization and which strive to perform at superior levels of quality. Both DMAIC and DMADV are implemented by Six Sigma specialists -- Green Belts and Black Belts, and overseen by Master Black Belts (iSixSigma, 2009).

The Six Sigma ideology is once again novel and interesting due to the roles it assigns to various members from within organizations. Models developed before the Six Sigma would generically assign quality control and improvement roles to the staff members within the manufacturing department. The new model however states that these roles are assumed by people at all levels of organizational operations. To make matters even more interesting, it assigns martial arts terminology. In this order of ideas, the first category is represented by Yellow Belts, who are individuals trained to work with quality improvement; then come the Green Belts, who are regular employees that also focus on quality improvement, and do this under the supervision of the Black Belts, who are in charge of Six Sigma implementation on specific projects, and which fall under the direct supervision of the Master Black Belts. These play the generic role of coaches, and similar to the Black Belts, they devote all of their time and energy to Six Sigma endeavors. The last link is offered by champions and executive leaders, who oversee the integrant and universal application of Six Sigma across the overall entity (Harry and Schoreder, 2000).

3. Literature Review

Gopal Kanji (2002) argues that business excellence is the core element of any organizational triumph, and goes on stating that business excellence is achieved through performance measurement. In a modern context in which the organizational success is given by the company's ability to satisfy the changing needs of various categories of stakeholders (customers, employees, shareowners or the general public), the measures of performance have to focus on the company's ability to satisfy the needs of these categories. With these premises in mind, Kanji promotes his own model of performance measurement.

The Kanji Business Excellence Measurement System (KBEMS) is constructed on two components, each assessing performance criteria. The first set of criteria focuses on leadership features and assesses the means in which the company is able to satisfy the customer by focusing on his needs; implement management by fact and improve the organizational processes; focus on the role of the human resource and improve their performances and finally, integrate all the above in a continuous process of organizational improvement. The second component of the KBEMS model revolves around the organizational values and virtually assesses the process excellence, the organizational learning and the satisfaction of the stakeholders (Kanji).

While this model is a strong theoretical foundation for quality management within any organization, its virtual application is impeded by a lack of specific models. Otherwise put, the satisfaction of the various categories of stakeholders is a wide concept, and its measurement raises numerous challenges and implies the necessity to use numerous other models. All in all, while it is an interesting approach to quality control, it is rather general. It does nevertheless have the major benefit of assessing the company as a uniform system, which must measure and enhance its performances at all organizational levels and in relationship to all categories of stakeholders.

A similar view is forwarded by Manu Vora (2002), who argues that business excellence can be attained through an increased emphasis on quality control. Unlike Kanji, the approach taken by Vora is more specific and as such more believable and more easily implemented. What the author virtually argues is that the final results of an economic agent can be enhanced once emphasis is placed on customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and operational processes. Considering that all these endeavors are successfully managed, the company will retrieve the desired financial results. What is however pivotal is for the strategies implemented in the management of processes and the relationships with the customers and the employees to be integrated in a universal and organization-wide approach. The findings of Vora are even more so relevant as they are supported by empirical finings, retrieved from the experience and results of several companies, awarded with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

A third opinion comes from Bart Victor, Andrew Boynton and Theresa Stephens-Jang (2000). The three academicians recognize the growing importance of quality management, and look at it from the angle of employee processes. This approach is more specific and stands increased chances of shedding some light into an issue so far superficially discussed. Looking at actual empirical results, they find that more than half of the real life implementations of TQM at the level of organizational staff members have failed to retrieve the desired results. The reasons they forward for this failure revolve around the inability of managers to develop and implement a dual model, through which employees focus on both task completion, as well as continuous improvement.

Otherwise put, a necessity arises in a managerial possibility to get staff… [END OF PREVIEW]

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