ERIC Identifier: ED347404
Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Lankard, Bettina A.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Adult Career and Vocational Education Columbus OH.
Total Quality Management: Application in Vocational Education.
ERIC Digest No. 125.
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a concept introduced by business and
industry to establish standards and techniques that ensure the quality of
products leaving and reaching firms through continuous actions rather than
through one final inspection. It relies on the experiences, expertise, and
commitment of all members of an organization to improve the processes by which
customers are served. To operationalize this concept in educational
institutions, a number of implementation models and strategies have been
developed. This ERIC DIGEST focuses on some of those methods of implementation
and their applicability to vocational education, and describes the benefits that
can be realized by adopting a quality improvement process.
Three quality theorists whose work has most
influenced the quality planning processes initiated by U.S. businesses are W.
Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and Philip B. Crosby, Sr. The theories of each
of these individuals have a common theme--participatory management that involves
input, problem solving, and decision making by all members of an organization
and its customers (Spanbauer and Hillman 1987):
promotes the role of management as one of facilitating workers to do their best
by removing barriers that prevent high quality work and by involving workers in
decision making. He emphasizes process improvement as crucial to product
suggests that management problems are related to human element errors. He
promotes management training in quality concepts and the use of quality circles
to improve employee communication across levels. His focus is on understanding
promotes a "prevention" process wherein requirements for quality conformance are
jointly written by managers and workers and address the needs of the customer.
He promotes a "zero defects" standard in which the cost of nonconformance to the
standard is eliminated.
Although each of these theorists focuses on a specific theme, all of the
theories are reflected in a general way in Crosby's model, which presents four
pillars that support the quality process in any organization (ibid., pp. 25-26):
Participation and Attitude. The new concept of quality must be introduced and
supported by management.
Quality Management. Quality councils, established throughout the organization,
are crucial to management of quality.
Participation. Employees must be given comprehensive training about quality
concepts so that they will commit to the concept.
Reinforcements for employee efforts and achievements should be planned and
offered at different levels through the organization.
These pillars to support the quality improvement process reflect a philosophy
that places customer satisfaction as the organization's primary goal, with the
word "customer" referring to internal customers (workers in other departments
who are dependent on receiving high quality work to do their jobs successfully)
as well as to external customers (the ultimate users of the product or service)
(Crumrine and Runnels 1991).
TQM requires a change of attitude on the part of an organization's management
and staff wherein all workers are encouraged, empowered, and committed to seek
out improvements in process, products, and services and to accept responsibility
for solving problems as they arise. It promotes the use of interdisciplinary
teams of workers who must work cooperatively and collaboratively to achieve
common objectives and requires the backing of management as evidenced by
allocation of time for team meetings and the identification of areas for staff
MODELS OF IMPLEMENTATION
Although the TQM philosophy is
sound, implementation success is varied depending upon the strategies employed
to achieve the organization's goals of quality improvement. Several
implementation models are described by Seymour and Collett (1992): the "cascade"
or "trickle down" model, the "infection" or "bubble up" model, and the
The "cascade" model involves educating and training senior officers of an
organization in TQM principles. These officers then develop a vision and plan
for the organization that they pass down to division and unit officers, who also
receive training in TQM and subsequently implement the agreed-upon plan.
Although this model creates movement and a sense of purpose, its weakness is
that it suggests (or leads others to decide) that there is one right way of
doing things, which is counter to the TQM philosophy.
The "infection" or "bubble up" model does not rely on top-level commitment
but uses voluntary pilot programs to demonstrate success and then promotes the
TQM philosophy through the organization by reference to those programs. This
approach encourages individual initiative; however, it often lacks the
commitment and leadership from senior officers that is so important to
The "loose-tight" model is an approach in which senior officers function as
facilitators as well as leaders. The officers demonstrate commitment and engage
in detailed and comprehensive planning that involves employees, often assembled
in teams, to execute quality improvement procedures. This model combines the
strengths of the "cascading" and "infection" models.
In analyzing these models for their applicability in institutions of higher
education, Seymour and Collett (1992) point out the varying levels of visibility
among the three approaches to implementation. Although their comments are
directed to postsecondary institutions, they can be correlated with similar
characteristics evident in secondary schools. Seymour and Collett suggest that
the high-visibility "cascade" model may be more appropriate at smaller
institutions where everything tends to be highly visible. Large campuses,
however, are fragmented into specialized academic disciplines and autonomous
centers and research units; therefore, they may opt for the low-key visibility
more common with the "infection" model. The "loose-tight" model, which combines
low-key and high visibility, may be most appropriate for a number of
institutions that have a more "middle of the road" approach to TQM. Whichever
implementation model is employed, it should be appropriately linked to the
"institution's mission, its culture, its strengths and weaknesses, its
opportunities and threats, and the number and location of change agents and
would-be champions" (ibid., p. 9).
Actual implementation of a
quality improvement approach to operations requires movement from the
philosophical concept of TQM to a strategic framework for implementation.
According to McCormack (1992), when TQM efforts do not meet expectations, it is
often because of poor tactics and lack of a strategic framework.
Crumrine and Runnels (1991) offer a model for implementing TQM in a
vocational-technical school or similar institution that identifies five phases
or categories for implementation and the tasks associated with each category:
Commitment. Investigate, evaluate, adopt, and obtain commitment to TQM.
Organizational Development. Integrate TQM into key management processes;
educate, train, and offer support to employees.
Customer Focus. Determine work teams; analyze customers, products/services.
Process Orientation. Identify, standardize, and improve process control.
Continuous Improvement. Develop method for identifying opportunities and
integrating the improvement process into daily operations.
Sutcliffe and Pollock (1992) allude to similar strategies as they discuss the
implementation of TQM in institutions of higher education. They suggest that
"implementation begins with the drawing up of a quality policy statement and the
establishment of an organisational framework for both managing and encouraging
the involvement of all parties in attaining quality through teamwork" (p. 24).
They recommend that all workers throughout the institution be trained in quality
assurance methods, problem-solving techniques, and communication and that
evaluation occur at all levels and include the customers' perceptions as well.
Improving the quality of products and
services is crucial to the public education system. George Westinghouse
Vocational and Technical High School in New York City has realized positive
results from its quality improvement program, the Westinghouse Education Quality
Initiative. Westinghouse is an inner-city school with a high transfer rate, an
aging faculty, and a diverse student population (74 percent Black, 23 percent
Hispanic, and 25 percent female), which is represented by a large number of
single-parent, low income families. By adopting the TQM message and applying
teamwork to resolve such problems as low staff morale, low student performance,
class cutting, and student failure, Westinghouse was able to achieve the
following outcomes: Westinghouse students have become more involved in the
school, the dropout rate has declined, membership in the PTA has grown, and
faculty are more involved in unpaid, after-school brainstorming sessions
One strategy Westinghouse has initiated to realize these outcomes is
interdepartmental meetings where staff work together to resolve problems and
integrate new programs. In the vocational and technical departments, for
example, teachers have collaborated to redesign the ninth-grade program (where
most student dropout occurs) so that entering freshmen are paired with senior
mentors for shop classes. "In the program's pilot year, 28 freshmen who
participated in the program received grades of 85 or better. Of an equal number
of students not in the program, only 14 scored 85 or better" (Schargel 1991, p.
The work at George Westinghouse Vocational and Technical High School
demonstrates the application of total quality management concepts to vocational
education in secondary schools. However, studies show that "the most
comprehensive TQM efforts are found at community colleges and smaller, private
institutions" (Seymour and Collett 1991, p. 3). The units most commonly targeted
in the colleges' initial TQM efforts are the registrar's office, student
affairs, and certain academic units~schools of business and engineering,
continuing education, and graduate school. This may be because these units have
identifiable processes, established boundaries, and ongoing contact with
industry and other extra-campus constituencies, which facilitates strategic
BENEFITS OF IMPLEMENTING TQM
Many of the benefits of
implementing a Total Quality Management philosophy in vocational education
programs are the result of attitude change and teamwork. This is true at Ohio's
Edison State Community College, where initial efforts to adopt quality
management focused on cultural change and getting "everyone to buy into a
mentality that saw students, co-workers, supervisors and employees as valuable
human beings who deserved the best possible service" (Yowell 1992, p. 2).
Sutcliffe and Pollock (1992) promote the use of interdisciplinary,
cross-functional teams and cite the benefits by pointing out that with good
facilitation, these teams can result in "improved communications, increased
involvement, improved quality and efficiency in a general context, and increased
potential for productivity" (p. 22). These and other examples presented in the
literature suggest that educational institutions, as well as business and
industry, can benefit by adopting Total Quality Management principles as they
strive to improve the quality and cost effectiveness of their operations.
Crumrine, B., and Runnels, T. TOTAL QUALITY
MANAGEMENT IN VOCATIONAL-TECHNICAL EDUCATION. Norman, OK: Moore-Norman Vo-Tech
Center, 1991. (ED 340 846)
McCormack, S. "TQM. Getting It Right the First Time." TRAINING AND
DEVELOPMENT 46, no. 6 (June 1992): 43-46.
Schargel, F. P. "Promoting Quality in Education." VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
JOURNAL 66, no. 8 (November-December 1991): 34-35, 77. (EJ 434 016)
Seymour, D., and Collett, C. TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION: A
CRITICAL ASSESSMENT. Methuen, MA: GOAL/QPC, 1991.
Spanbauer, S. J., and Hillman, J. A. QUALITY FIRST IN EDUCATION . . . WHY NOT? USING QUALITY AND PRODUCTIVITY METHODS TO IMPROVE SCHOOLS. 1987.
Sutcliffe, W., and Pollock J. "Can the Total Quality Management Approach Used
in Industry Be Transferred to Institutions of Higher Education?" VOCATIONAL
ASPECT OF EDUCATION 44, no. 1 (1992): 11-27.
Yowell, K. "Quality Management: Systems or Philosophy?" NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL COLLEGES NEWSLETTER 12, no. 2 (Summer 1992).