Total Quality Management (TQM) Defined

Putting the new definition of quality into the management methods of a company requires a departure from some deep-rooted traditions in American business. Now outdated are the beliefs that the company sets the standard of quality and that the time to measure standards is at the end of the process. If a shrub was unsatisfactory at the time of delivery, it was replaced. If a poinsettia had whiteflies when delivered, the grower apologized to the retailer and replaced it. If the patio wasn’t graded cor­rectly and surface water ran toward the house, it was torn out and done again. Heads may have rolled later back at the company. All such action awaited delivery of the product or service before applying standards or measuring client satisfaction. That was the old way, and it isn’t working anymore.

Total quality management (TQM) recognizes the client as the only real quality inspector of a company. It also regards the provision of a product or service as a process, a series of steps that begin with the first contact with the customer and proceed through to delivery of the product or service, the billing, and the follow-up. The process may have many steps or only a few, but each step must be designed to fit efficiently with those that come before and after. Each step must also be totally understandable to the person responsible for accomplishing it. If each step in a process is understood by the person doing it, and every step of the process is done properly, then the result will be correctness. The product or service at the end of the process will meet the company’s standards and satisfy the customer with accompanying cost efficiency and reduced waste. As the quality goes up, the costs go down.

Total quality management Managing a company in a manner that allows continuous improvement of its services, products, processes, and organization to satisfy the requirements of its customers and exceed their expectations.

Horticultural businesses that want to apply TQM must begin by identifying all of the processes that make up the business. Then the steps within each process must be recognized and assessed to learn whether each step links efficiently to those on either side, or whether there is duplication, omission, or an opportunity for confusion.

Here is an example of a sequence of processes in a flower shop.

1. Receive customer inquiry.

2. Make the sale.

3. Prepare the arrangement.

4. Deliver the arrangement.

5. Bill the customer.

6. Follow up to determine customer satisfaction.

Each of these processes can in turn be divided into several steps that flow in sequence. In our example, the process of preparing the arrange­ment might include this series of steps:

1. Order the flowers and greens.

2. Order the containers, picks, water-retention media, wire, tapes, and other construction materials.

3. Schedule the work.

4. Construct the arrangement.

5. Package the arrangement in preparation for delivery.

In a large shop, and during a busy season, several people may be involved in the process. Each employee must be trained to understand his or her particular role in each process, and how to do it efficiently and effectively. The employee must then pass the output of his or her effort to the next person who will use that output in the accomplish­ment of the next step in the sequence. If each step is done correctly and each process proceeds with maximum efficiency, the job will be accomplished without waste and to the highest standard. Management attention can be focused on each step within the processes to isolate and correct problems before they affect the end product or service.

Here is another example of processes and steps in a landscape job:

Sequence of Processes

1. Sell the job.

2. Schedule the job.

3. Procure the materials.

4. Install the job.

5. Clean up.

6. Bill the client.

7. Honor all guarantees.

8. Follow up to determine client satisfaction.

Steps in the Procurement of Materials

1. Review the take-off list (quantities of materials needed).

2. Check sources for availability of materials.

3. Determine dates when materials are needed at the job site.

4. Order materials and specify delivery dates.

5. Receive delivery and verify the orders.

By monitoring each step in each process, managers are able to identify time-consuming repetitions, distracting sidetracks, or gaps that make the landscape service less than it could be. Correcting small prob­lems within the process, training employees to do their jobs correctly, and passing the output to the next employee in a form that permits the next step to get underway on schedule with all needed data or materials is the new role of managers.