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Whatever happened to TQM?

Many 21st-century hoteliers may be too young to have experienced the wonderful world of 20th-century Total Quality Management, otherwise known to process-improvement aficionados and devotees as TQM.

I would like to let them and others know that prior to its untimely demise, TQM enjoyed widespread attention and great popularity throughout our industry, especially during the 1980s and 1990s, until it was eventually overshadowed by ISO 9000, lean manufacturing and TQM’s big brother, Six Sigma.

As many TQM veterans know, Total Quality Management consists of organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to its customers, a program which had great appeal to many hoteliers in search of new ways to stay competitive.

While there is no widely agreed-upon approach, TQM efforts typically draw heavily on the previously developed tools and techniques of quality control, as pioneered by W. Edwards Deming during the post-war industrial recovery period in Japan. Deming offered 14 key principles to managers for transforming business effectiveness, which he  presented in his book “Out of the Crisis,” and although Deming does not use the term in his book, he is universally credited with launching the Total Quality Management movement.

At the tail end of the trend in 2001, our regional vice president at that time experienced what he called an “epiphany” after he had attended a TQM leadership course at one of our hotels in Asia, which, according to him, was a “life-changing moment.”

And so it was for all the hotel and divisional management teams under his direction, as we also had to undergo the same five-days TQM leadership program and afterwards prepare and execute at least two TQM projects each year in our properties, the results of which would to a great extent determine not only our annual bonuses, but also our career progression.

I must admit that I, together with many of my senior colleagues, was a little skeptical at the outset. However, after completing the leadership program and receiving our highly coveted certificates, we all embarked upon our own TQM journeys, which for many of us led to even greater success, primarily by ensuring that whenever we encountered a process-requiring improvement, we followed TQM from beginning to end. The process involved meticulously and methodically following the 10 essential steps (our company’s version) listed below in order of execution:

1. Project selection

2. Data collection

3. Project data analysis

4. Root cause diagnosis

5. Solutions proposed

6. Confirmation of solutions impact

7. Standardization of solutions

8. Set-up of maintenance system

9. Process review

10. Celebration of success

TQM process-improvement projects that my own property teams tackled since my “conversion” have been numerous and include:

  • Check-in and checkout times
  • Room-service delivery times
  • Room-cleaning times.
  • Guest complaints
  • ADR, RevPAR, occupancy
  • Utility costs
  • The engagement of our guests in our environmental-conservation programs
  • Waste in our kitchens
  • Staff punctuality
  • The delivery of fruit baskets to rooms before guest arrival
  • Minibar discrepancies

I have more thoughts to share about TQM. Watch for a second post on the topic tomorrow.

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