Three key elements of TQM are employee involvement, empowerment, and teamwork. These are all interrelated since all begin with a corporate culture that values the employee. The key thread between the three elements is the innate ability of employees to perform. That is, employees, when placed in an environment that rewards them for making the right decisions, will reach beyond themselves to perform above what is expected.
In fact, all three elements have a place in TQM (continuous improvement philosophies such as Lean Six Sigma included). All require employee involvement since the employee is the closest to the process. In addition, a culture of continuous improvement rewards employees for exceeding expectations. This culture also trains and facilitates those that cannot seem to reach their full potential. Finally, teamwork is critical for ongoing projects used to implement the philosophy.
In most organizations, what gets done is what gets rewarded. Employees learn quickly what get rewarded and then try to mimic this behavior. In a TQM organization, the following behaviors get rewarded:
- Employees that participate and contribute
- Employees that cooperate rather than compete
- Employees that solve problems/provide solutions
- Employees that help others succeed
- Employees with a professional attitude and behaviors
- Employees who can manage (organize) themselves
- Employees who are proactive
- Employees who work for the benefit of the organizations, others, and themselves. (McLaughlin, 1995).
Ask yourself the following questions regarding an organization in which you are associated with or have been in the past.
- Can you think of additional employee traits that support the TQM/continuous Improvement?
- Have you experiences any of the behaviors mentioned above? How did it make you feel?
- Have you had a negative experience with these behaviors?
- Which of these behaviors do you feel is the most (least) important?
- What are the positive (and negative) repercussions that can be experienced when supporting this type of organization?
- If you had a â€œmagic wandâ€ what one behavior do you wish you could change in your present organization?
- What would you recommend or suggest to achieve some or all of these behaviors?