Many organizations which have implemented Total Quality Management (TQM) are finding that the process has either stalled or is not working as well as originally envisioned. This can be particularly evident in an engineering environment where the uniqueness of engineers and their particular culture has not been adequately considered. Winning the commitment of a highly educated group of professionals to the TQM concepts, which are often initially seen as too simplistic, poses special challenges.

Successful TQM implementations are found among technical groups where employees have significant input into creating the new work culture, feel empowered to make changes and are well trained in teamwork. A Coach who is knowledgeable in implementation problems can, when working closely with the technical teams, help them circumvent obstacles and guide them successfully through the difficult early phases. The remaining key ingredient for success is supportive management which leads the change and is both informed and appreciative of the accomplishment being made.

This paper is based on firsthand experience with common problems and results encountered in implementing TQM in an engineering environment. Described in the paper are ways of avoiding these problems through awareness of the unique nature of engineering groups, implementation planning, just-in time training and coaching people in the TQM process. The paper concludes with a focus on the opportunities and results from a successful implementation. These opportunities and results include the benefits each engineer can realize through process thinking, empowerment and teamwork.


As we enter the information age with rapid communication and a need for timely decisions, many organizations are struggling to keep their systems and business practices from becoming antiquated. Traditional organizations with hierarchical structures of five or more supervisory levels are finding it difficult to react quickly enough to changing business situations and meeting customer needs. This has resulted in extensive organizational restructuring and continual change in the workplace.

The transformation process organizations frequently adopt is known as Total Quality Management or TQM. This process encompasses a cultural change in how decisions are made, a need for risk-taking to make improvements, the effective use of teamwork and a coaching role for supervisors. The change process is not a quick fix for organizations but a never-ending journey which has more than its fair share of roadblocks and pitfalls along the way,

When organizations implement TQM, it is important that engineering departments also implement the process within their areas. Some unique aspects of an engineering environment pose special implementation challenges, This paper attempts to address some of these problems and show how they can be overcome through effective implementation planning and coaching individuals through their changing roles.

Philosophy and concepts of tqm

Early pioneers of TQM include American quality experts such as Joseph Juran1 and Dr. Edwards Deming2 who began applying the concepts in the late 1940's. Dr. Deming is largely credited with the transformation of Japanese industry based on the work he began after World War II.

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