IBM Corporation’s vision does support the main tenets of total quality management. In particular it does give direction to the company to be more responsive to customers, innovate and entrust responsibilities to employees. However, because it does not follow a model of TQM, its initiatives are sporadic, reactive and driven from the top. On the other hand in case of Ford Motor Company that has adopted TQM has anticipated quality needs, forecasted customer preferences and invested money in training personnel.
IBM claims that its values shape everything that it does and influences every decision it makes. The company says that its employees share its values and these are applied to the personal work of the individuals and their interactions with the outer world. On the other hand any organization that wants to improve its quality and wishes to use TQM first selects a model of quality improvement and conducts a self-evaluation. In case of IBM the values that are adapted by IBM are “dedication to every client’s success, innovation that matters, for its company and for the world and trusting personal responsibility (IBM Press Room 2006). One of the values that IBM proposes is dedication to every client’s success. The similarity of this value to TQM is that TQM begins with an understanding of the customer needs. The difference between TQM and IBM is that IBM makes an assumption that its employees know the success factors of the clients. On the other hand TQM stresses on continuous collection, analyzing and taking action on the basis of information collected from the clients. TQM emphasizes collecting information about the clients’ competitors and competitor’s customers. The second point is that IBM stresses on innovation however TQM is focused on process improvement to achieve breakthroughs and continuous improvements. The similarity is that even in process improvement there may be a great deal of innovation. For every breakthrough, there may be innovation required. On the other hand TQM emphasizes continuous and incremental improvement. Thirdly, IBM puts emphasis on “trusting personal responsibility” on the other hand TQM insists on empowering employees where people are valued (Oakland. J, 2003) . In other words both quality and IBM puts emphasis on the value of employees but what is important is the differences in approach. It can be seen that in case of customers and employees, TQM has a more proactive approach than that valued by IBM and in case of innovation; TQM emphasizes a combination of continuous improvement and dramatic advances.
The organization that has adopted Total Quality Management is Ford Motor Company. The management style of Ford was formed much before in 1979 when Ford brought in TQM master W. Edwards Deming as a consultant to counter the competition from imported cars. However, IBM had brought in the Hay Group as a consultant in 1996 in an attempt to turnaround IBM. Deming had overhauled the quality system of Ford Motors and had moved the company from in-house quality procedures that were detection oriented to a system that gave importance to prevention. In 2003 again IBM felt the need to call in Hay Group. The problem IBM was facing was that it was not as responsive to its clients needs as was expected of it. Its responses were not fast enough. In this context, Donna Riley, IBM’s vice president of global talent had felt that the company’s managers were not up to the mark and were prepared to take on the new urgency of response expected of them in the current competitive industry. Riley felt that the managers were not sensitive enough to changes. This was a move in the correct direction but this was a reactive move from IBM. This was a reaction to developments in the market and the industry. On the other hand Ford proactively declared that all suppliers would have to undergo inspections and evaluated their quality, commercial, delivery and technical. Only those suppliers that were allotted Q1 would be allowed to work for Ford (Plunkett.W, Attner. R, & Allen. G 2005). From the inception Ford’s top management has shown a strong commitment to TQM. In case of IBM a large section of the top managers still treat customers as someone to whom goods are sold. Relationship building is not yet the norm. In response to interventions made by outside consultants and their recommendations, there is an attempt to treat customers as clients and build long-term relations with them. Still the majority of IBM managers treat a customer as a person to whom a server needs to be sold. Ford, on the other hand established benchmarks and invites customers to inform them of their improvement in performance. Attracting additional work actually helps increase the sales of the company. Ford informs its customers that their cars are not just lower cost cars but are also quality cars. IBM wants its employees to change from “command and control leadership” to “collaborative influence” IBM wants its employees to break away from the old-style thinking. On the other hand with every Q1 quality standard allotted Ford employees receive a boost to the morale and pride in its company. The employees know the effort that went into quality improvement and are very proud of the results and of their company.
The Total Quality Management style of Ford Motors has been practical. One of the key factors in the auto industry has been a shortage of trained technicians. The government is estimating that there are more than 37,000 vacancies now. Ford used TQM principles and set up training curricula for specific programs (Plunkett.W, Attner. R, & Allen. G 2005). It has ensured that there are training programs for entry-level technicians, specialized technicians and master technicians. These curricula are taught in 100 vocational schools and colleges. The result is that there are 700 personnel who have cleared Ford’s training programs and have not yet got jobs. To ensure that the services provided by Ford’s a dealer are of impeccable quality, Ford has got involved in training and recruiting personnel at the dealers. These are the personnel who do maintenance and light repair work. Currently these mechanics must have excellent training because most cars have computer run electronics. Ford has been able to ensure that its dealers have excellent trained technicians and will be able to service the cars of tomorrow.
On the other hand IBM seeks to improve its work force by going in for cultural diversity. The IBM style of management is to use diversity in the work force to create a work/life balance, provide greater employment to women and bring in people with a disability. This initiative is in line with the values be held by the company namely respect for individual. In addition, diversity supports the other value of the company namely innovation. It is strongly believed in IBM that diversity generates new standpoints, helps use different knowledge and engenders innovative ideas, methods and suggestions.
There are a number of total quality management practices that can be integrated into IBM. First, IBM wants to be more responsive to its customer needs, what it can learn from Ford is that Ford invests millions of dollars in a future in which car purchasers would expect far more than a motor car from the dealer. In short Ford is future looking and does not hesitate to take risks in anticipating the future needs of its customers. IBM should also anticipate the changes in customer needs, the market conditions and competitor actions. IBM should also invest in estimating the future technological changes that may take place in the market place. IBM should continuously and systematically collect, analyze and forecast future needs based on consumer research. Second, IBM is actively seeking to replace its managers. What is should learn from Ford is that IBM should educate and train managers throughout the company and improve their interpersonal skills especially the ability to collaborate with others on the job. IBM should help its employees define a road map for personal development through improving skills and abilities. The third lesson that IBM should learn from Ford is that IBM should continuously integrate customer needs forecasts with other information and use planning process to initiate action throughout the company to improve quality in day to day activities and realize future goals. IBM has recognized that customers should be treated as long time clients, however what it needs to do is to continuously assess the needs and aspirations of customers and deliver services and products that meet their needs.
To sum, what IBM Corporation needs to do is to select and adopt a model of TQM. It should endeavor to improve the quality of every hardware it makes, should have in place a system that will respond to customer needs with alacrity that matches the best in the industry and develop a pride in its employees. What IBM can learn from Ford is that IBM should train and develop its employees not fire them, it should anticipate innovations and not merely act in response, it should analyze customer needs and predict changes and not merely attempt to fulfill customer needs.