Total Quality Management (TQM) emphasizes the continuous improvement of product and processes to ensure long term customer satisfaction. Its a problem solving focus encourages employees empowerment by using the job related ingenuity & expertise of the workforce. Cross functional teams develop solutions to complex problems often shortening the time taken to design, develop or produce product and services. Since a team may not include a representative of management, therefore the dividing line between labor and management often becomes blurred. In practice as workers themselves begin to solve organizational problems thus adaptation of TQM generally requires cultural change within the organization as management reexamines its past methods and practices in the light of demands of the new philosophy.

Father of TQM W. Edwards Deming had his way, appraisal system that tie individual performance to salary adjustments would be eliminated. In his view, such system hinders team work, create fear & mistrust and discourage risk taking behavior, thereby stifling innovation.  Deming argues, most appraisal system are based on the faulty assumption that individuals have significant control over their own performance, i.e. the most individuals can improve if they chose to do so by putting forth the necessary effort.

In the basis of his arguments everything done in an organization is done within the frame work of one or more systems. The systems provide limit on the activities of machines, processes, employees and even managers. In a well designed system, it is impossible to do a job improperly. Conversely, a poor system can thwart the best effort of the best employee. If the system itself prevents good work, performance appraisal cannot serve its intended purpose of differentiating among individuals for purposes of salary adjustment. Further, since employees have little opportunity to change those systems, they may become frustrated and demoralized.

Organization need not sacrifice their performance appraisal programs on the altar of TQM. Here are three suggestions for harmonizing the two processes.

  1. Let customer expectations generate individual or team performance expectations.
  2. Include result expectations that identify actions to meet or exceed those expectations.
  3. Include behavioral skills that make a real difference in achieving quality performance and total customer satisfaction.

When performance expectations focus on process improvement as well as on the behavioral skills needed to provide a product or service, total quality, excellent customer service, and appraisal of individual or team performance become ‘the way we do business’.

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