THE ROLE OF TOTAL QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN THE FACE OF CHALLENGES: A STUDY IN LAFARGE JORDAN.

Author:Al-Ali, Asaad Hameed
Position:Abstract
 
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INTRODUCTION AND PROBLEM

Many companies are facing significant challenges as a result of the global financial crisis which has affected their ability to practice their main activities and gain profits. These challenges have led them to narrow their budgets in line with the financial difficulties they face especially in developing countries such as Jordan. As a result of the economic and political conditions in surrounding areas, many companies, including Lafarge-Jordan, are facing challenges to survive and grow, which has highlighted the importance of Total Quality Management (TQM) as a potential strategy for tackling these challenges.

Jordan provides an interesting location in which to examine TQM as although over the last decade, the country has delivered significant structural reforms in health, education and industry, more work is required to enhance the investment climate in the country and political instability involving the Syria and Iraq crises, remains a significant difficulty.

Therefore, this study seeks to ascertain how employees working within a large organization in Jordan perceive the benefits of TQM in addressing some of the problems businesses such as it are currently facing in terms of securing their continued survival and growth. The study focuses more specifically on the TQM dimensions associated with customer focus; integrative relationship with suppliers; process management; human resources support; senior management support; and continuous improvement. It focuses on the challenges faced for companies in relation to planning and management; cost reduction; and gaining competitive advantage.

RESEARCH IMPORTANCE

Currently there is limited empirical evidence available about the effect of alternative TQM practices on different business performance measures (Sadikoglu & Zehir, 2010), particularly within the context of a company operating within a developing country such as Jordan. There are therefore a number of research gaps that need to be addressed including: gaining a better understanding of the key challenges facing companies such as Lafarge-Jordan when trying to grow and further establish itself within its sector in the face of significant business challenges; and acknowledging that differences in the perceptions of the acceptability of different TQM tools amongst the workforce in this sector, in this global setting is still relatively unexplored.

LITERATURE REVIEW AND PREVIOUS STUDIES

Understanding Total Quality Management

Due to the vast diversity and perspectives of quality management and Total Quality Management (TQM), achieving a consensual definition is problematic (Idris & Zairi, 2006). However, according to Baird et al. (2011), TQM can be described as an integrative organisational-wide philosophy that aims to continuously improve the quality of products, services and processes to meet customer expectations. Similarly, Talib et al. (2011) describe TQM as a total system approach which works across all functions and departments, involves all employees, and aims to consistently meet or exceed customer requirements.

There are many different types of TQM practices identified in the current literature including those which are focused around factors such as: senior management support and leadership (Talib & Rahman, 2010; Khamalah & Lingaraj, 2007); customer focus, satisfaction and orientation (Mahapatra & Khan, 2006); employee support, engagement and involvement (Lakhal et al., 2006; Samat et al., 2006); training and education (Ueno, 2008); and continuous improvement (Fotopoulos & Psomas, 2009). Furthermore, a distinction is often made between these practices into "hard" and "soft"" TQM. "Hard" practices are those which are considered to be most pertinent to production and operations management, where statistical techniques or performance standards, for example, are used to assess quality. "Soft" practices, on the other hand, are those which have a more qualitative focus incorporating elements such as leadership, employee involvement and team work (Yunis et al., 2013). According to Khan & Naeem (2018), who examined the impact that soft quality practices have on hard quality practices, found that soft quality practices can lead to improved innovation which in turn impacts on organizational performance.

Since its formation, the TQM concept has evolved considerably resulting in the development of a range of models and techniques such as Six Sigma, Kanban, Total Productive Maintenance, Lean, Just-in-time, and Productivity Improvement which are all commonly used today in a range of different settings and industries (Dhongade et al., 2013; Shafiq et al., 2017).

Understanding Organizational Performance and Challenges

In general, organizational performance refers to the extent to which an organization meets its stated objectives and in the existing literature, a wide range of measures exists to assess levels of performance including both financial and non-financial measures (Jabeen et al., 2014). Studies assessing the impact of TQM on performance identify a wide range of performance variables including: customer satisfaction levels (Lin et al., 2005); financial and market results (Sila, 2007); employee satisfaction and loyalty (Jun et al., 2006); and innovation and quality outcomes (Prajogo & Sohal, 2004). Others, such as Idris & Zairi (2006) propose the use of established models such as the Balanced Scorecard developed by Kaplan & Norton (1996) to gauge performance outcomes related to different critical factors of TQM implementation. Much less is written about how a TQM model can be used to face challenges during difficult periods Callejo, 2012).

The Relationship between TQM and Performance

Tanninen et al. (2010) claim that TQM practices can influence organisational performance through two key processes. The first is through improved internal performance resulting in increased efficiency, reduced waste and subsequently a higher return on assets. The second is through improved customer satisfaction which results in enhanced brand value and customer loyalty which in turn leads to higher levels of sales and market share.

In line with this, Summers (2006) argues that TQM practices can lead to the improvement of the quality of products, make better use of resources, lower costs, minimize errors, and reduced delays in production and delivery time schedules which all subsequently enable an organization to acquire greater market share and boost performance. This view is supported by Kumar et al. (2009) who found from their study of TQM and performance that TQM practices significantly improved employee participation and morale, increased efficiency in operating procedures, reduced the level of customer complaints, and ultimately enhanced profitability. Similarly, Sinkovics & Roath (2004) argue that TQM practices help to direct performance by influencing the way in which routine business operations are carried out and by providing a foundation for longer term business success and overcome different kinds of challenges.

Despite these identified benefits, there are some mixed findings on the effectiveness of TQM in achieving competitive advantage. Across different countries including the US, the UK and Australia, certain studies have indicated that there has been a lack of tangible results associated with the implementation of TQM (Sadikoglu & Zehir, 2010; Soltani et al., 2005; Taylor & Wright, 2003; Sohal & Terziovski, 2000). Similarly, according to Sabella et al. (2014), the performance improvements resulting from implementing different TQM practices are not ubiquitous and are very mixed in nature.

In particular, previous studies have reported variable results with regards to the relationship between hard and soft TQM practices and organizational performance (Yunis et al, 2013). Rahman & Bullock (2005) argue that when measuring the impact of TQM, the distinction between these hard and soft elements of TQM is essential as they claim that they affect performance in different ways. They concluded that the elements of soft TQM including workforce commitment, shared vision, customer focus, team working and cooperative supplier relationships, were all significantly correlated with organizational performance, and discovered that in order for certain hard TQM elements to have an impact on performance, such as technology utilization and continuous improvement enablers, the soft TQM elements must first be in place. This suggests that organizations should not view individual TQM practices in isolation, but instead view them as a collective means of promoting quality improvement across all areas in order to ultimately enhance performance and should also acknowledge the unique individual relationships between them (Baird et al., 2011).

Enablers and Inhibitors

Enablers and inhibitors have an influence over the relative impact of TQM, with enablers being the positive forces that facilitate the speed of positive progress, and inhibitors being the negative forces that impedes it (Idris & Zairi, 2006). Within the current literature on TQM and performance, a range of enablers and inhibitors have been proposed, and indeed Talib et al. (2012) highlighted seventeen such TQM enablers.

One of the most common factors that is identified in previous studies as impacting on the effectiveness of TQM is organizational culture (Prajogo & McDermott, 2005; Kumar & Sankaran, 2007) with numerous authors referring to the need to change the organizational...

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