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Exam Qns # 20 attempted in summary by Joyz Sim of Class B

“Business Process Re-engineering is little more than a repackaging of Total Quality

Management”. How far do you agree with this assertion?

Before stating my assertion, let me define what is Total Quality Management (TQM).
As per American quality gurus - Deming (1986), Juran (1988) & Japanese writer –
Ishikawa (1986), TQM is a business discipline and philosophy of management which
institutionalizes planned and continuous business improvement. The real test of quality
management is through customer satisfaction. TQM assumes that quality is the outcome
of all activities (through all function and all employees) that took place within an
organization, and to ensure this, organizations need quality systems (driven by top
management) and a quality culture (where employees are empowered to solve quality
issues at their level).

Hill and Wilkinson (1995) further refined 3 elements of TQM which is 1) Customer
Orientation (Aim – satisfied internal & external customers) 2) Process Orientation (Aim –
synchronized horizontal quality chain activities and reflection of systems theory) 3)
Continuous Improvement (through & incremental changes and which improvements stem
from front-line employees)

One critique of TQM:

- With TQM, there is a structure where results are easily measured. Teams who are able to
achieve a standard of quality and efficiency will be further motivated to excel and
endorse the firm’s commitment to quality. Work ethic will be rekindled too.

- Establishing a corporate quality culture is a form of brainwash? A criticism of cultural

change strategies is that the organization attempts to ‘teach’ & ‘mould’ employees the
managerial ideologies for the benefit of the organization and not for the benefit of the
employees. In creating a corporate quality culture and not making it as effective as it
should be, where some organizations go all the way to influence the way the employee
behaves, (like a ‘brainwash’) and advocates TQM but having the top management not
‘doing the talk’. However, people are not ‘cultural dopes’ (another academic way to
describe this slang is ‘culturally naive’) and they can judge such ideological appeals.
Employees will know sooner or later if top management is not sincere in following up on
maintaining the quality culture.

Meanwhile, Michael Hammer (1990) came up with the term ‘Business Process Re-
engineering’(BPR) (Hammer & Champy 1993). Bureaucratic methods and scientific
management are seen as breaking down the natural flow of work through an organization
and imposing an artificial structure of departments and divisions. ‘Re-engineering’ of the
business process was look upon as the solution by working from the basics and showing a
willingness to ‘obliterate’ the old structure and ways. Fundamental task and information
flows are redesigned as end-to-end activities. Re-engineering is strongly customer
oriented (customer rules to the extent that possible delays caused by functional
structuring i.e. red tapes are not acceptable) and allied with information technology (IT) –
both of which have inherent process potential. Similarly, information flow naturally
across formal (bureaucratic) boundaries, and can thus be the basis of redesign. Waste is
minimized and the firm becomes leaner. Examples of BPR solutions: one-stop shopping
and direct line financial services. (Single uninterrupted business flow)

A commonly listed problem of BPR is that most of the time it fails though some may say
that it cannot fail because a firm’s existence is at stake and generally we can never proof
if it failed because we will never know whether not implementing BPR may work too. As
careful redesign and massive resources are required to make BPR work, we see that in
reality this process is very difficult to administer. Also in view that BPR reduce waste of
resources and trims down the size of a firm, it is often used by management for
retrenchment exercise – thereby also intensified working pressures. Also, BPR is part of a
long succession of supposed innovations that are marketed as the solutions to managerial
problems. Thus, for BPR to remain popular and compete for attention among the many
managerial theories and concepts, it preys on managerial anxieties and uncertainties.

Thus to assert that BPR is a repackage of TQM, it is correct in part if we look at the goals
both systems have – i.e. Customer Satisfaction. Also both theories look at the work
process. However, TQM looks at the business process to analyze and determine if it is
working well or not – through employee involvement which looks to be more sustainable.
But BPR immediately looks into re-designing the whole work process and often employs
external consultants to trim the firm’s ‘excess’ and is often too complex and difficult to be
meaningfully sustained.

(References: Marianna’s lecture notes, our 2 textbooks – ‘Principles of Organizational

Behaviour’ & the book by Chris Grey and the article - ‘Making Quality Critical’)