Quality initiatives make sense on an intuitive level. What company doesn’t want to improve its operations, reducing waste and improving the quality of its projects, especially those in the construction industry? These companies in particular need to monitor and affirm quality in all aspects. Unfortunately, for many companies, implementing total quality management (TQM) techniques in practice is an idea that rarely becomes a reality — or at least not altogether. Roughly two out of three quality initiatives fail or fall short.
In my earlier article “Total Quality Management in Construction Firms,” I explained how TQM initiatives manifest in construction companies, and I explored the principles that those programs share. However, understanding those elements is only part of the conversation about quality management in the construction industry. You also need to pay attention to what makes TQM programs successful.
The following are key elements that most successful total quality management projects share and should be considered during project implementation.
For a construction company to be successful with total quality management, it needs to plan for the implementation of those techniques. Adding a steering committee or other governing body can help establish quality policies and monitor company progress towards meeting such standards. Further, any quality initiatives that your company might adopt need to be integrated into the whole of company operations, instead of conducted as an operational afterthought.
Companies with successful TQM efforts in place also communicate those initiatives to their staff in a meaningful way. This goes beyond merely issuing a memorandum and offering training. Successful total quality management tends to involve explaining that a quality initiative exists and relaying specifically how the company plans to achieve those performance goals. Through the steering committee and senior management, employees are helped to understand the role they play in TQM efforts within the company as well as how those initiatives will trickle down to resource allocation.
Employee involvement contributes to total quality management success as well. From the role of management to the awareness of each employee, the more that employees are aware of and involved in quality initiatives, the more likely those efforts are to be successful. While recognition is critical, involvement is just as essential.
Employee involvement matters, but you should know that it takes almost everyone to be effective. Even if 70 percent of your team are apprised of your company’s quality management efforts, you are not going to see anywhere near the same level of success with TQM as you would if 90 percent of your employees are participating in your initiatives. In this way, time and resource allocation can be transparent. Findings show that employees, especially non-management staff, need to be involved in the monitoring and analysis of total quality management activities for them to be successful.
Implementing appropriate training programs will help too. The most successful TQM initiatives systematically help employees learn what quality management is, understand how the company intends to accomplish its performance goals, and develop problem-solving skills that they can use to meet those objectives.
Moreover, those training programs are subject to evaluation from management to measure effectiveness. Instead of the programs being blindly developed, they are continually honed into their best, most effective versions.
Tools and Techniques
Also, keep in mind that employees will need access to the tools and techniques associated with total quality management to be successful. Devices such as process maps and check sheets help you keep a close eye on what has already been accomplished or how often an action occurs – but they are just a beginning. Charts and graphs that illustrate cause and effect, relationships between variables (e.g., scatter diagrams), and variations in production will help your company establish priorities.
Finally, remember that finding success with total quality management is not something a company does alone. In 80 percent of the most successful cases, both customers and suppliers are involved in the total quality management process. You could hold joint meetings during which you share best practices, set goals, or participate on industry councils devoted to the cause. The key is to have a regular exchange of information – and that is particularly true in construction.
Companies in the industry benefit from the involvement of external groups more than many other industries because so many entities contribute to customer satisfaction. Aside from subcontractors, design professionals and architects, as well as materials suppliers, contribute to the ultimate success of any project.
Meet the Author
Gary Alongi, CPA, CCIFP®
Aldrich CPAs + Advisors LLP
Gary Alongi brings over two decades of experience helping his clients reach their highest level of success. His extensive knowledge of the construction industry allows him to provide value-added services that save clients money, helps them comply with regulations and requirements, and take advantage of opportunities helping them grow their business. American Institute of Certified…
- Audit and assurance services
- Certified Public Accountant
- Overhead rate (FAR 31) audits and compliance
- Certified Construction Industry Financial Professional (CCIFP®)