Juhani Anttila
Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
Helsinki, Finland
www.QualityIntegration.biz

 

NEW PRINCIPLES, TOOLS, AND INFRASTRUCTURES FOR QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN MODERN CHANGED BUSINESS ENVIRONMENTS
From quality management to quality of management - How to avoid burn-out in quality management

Introduction

Business environments have been changed remarkable during the recent years. However, development of quality management has not accommodated sufficiently along with these general trends. Therefore we have serious problems in quality approaches in organizations. That has also caused frustration within the whole quality discipline. There is a strong need for reform and modernization in quality management approaches to be applied in modern organizations. This paper discusses new principles, tools, and infrastructures that are based on deep understanding of the modern business environments and recent innovations in quality management tools and practices.

From confusions and problems to clarity, excellence and sustainable success

Understanding problems

In many cases quality development has not redeemed its promises indisputably. There are serious problems in the prevalent quality management approaches. These include the following:
- Business management is not involved / committed. - Quality is a specialist issue.
- Communication between business managers and quality experts is not effective.
- Quality initiatives - e.g. building distinct quality systems - are not business-centered.
- People don't recognize or understand - not even experts - difference between quality management (QM) and quality assurance (QA) as these concepts have been defined in the standard ISO 9000.
- There are lots of different, distinct, and competing quality methodologies on which even quality experts don't share the same opinions. This applies e.g. to ISO 9000 standards, performance excellence models (quality awards criteria), lean manufacturing, and SixSigma methodology.
- There are many other specialized managerial initiatives that compete with quality development e.g. environmental management, human resource management, risk management, knowledge management, information technology governance, corporate governance, social responsibility, etc. Even conflict situations may occur between different expertises within organizations.
- Quality initiatives in many organizations are certification-emphasized, that are not necessarily enhancing business performance. Certification is commercialized and lost its credibility.
- Often quality related actions are only reactive and very little proactive, e.g. in applying standards.
- Formal documentation is highlighted instead of a comprehensive management and application of business information and knowledge.

There is a lack of innovations in the field of quality practices and methodology. One may wonder whether it has been created anything remarkable new for organizations' quality development after Deming, Ichikawa, and Juran. Quality discipline has not been able to follow the general development of organizations' business development and trends of the society at large (figure 1).

Figure 1. Ability to adapt is a great problem of quality profession.

Genuinely all quality initiatives and measures should strive for enhancing overall operational (business) performance, effectiveness and efficiency, productivity and profitability, satisfaction and confidence, competitiveness, etc. Overall business or organizational performance consists of non-financial and financial facts relating to business processes and products (goods and services) that also permit evaluations and comparisons relative to organizational goals, standards, past results, and to other organizations. Main performance dimensions are:
- Customer-related performance
- Operational performance, including process, project and product performance and human resource performance
- Financial and marketplace performance

Performance relates to both business activity and its results. Overall performance refers to performance from the entire organization's point of view and is linked to organization's valid mission, vision, and strategic focus.

In organizational practices, there are many different concepts in use for describing specifically and quantitatively a business performance. These terms are not, however, used clearly in practice. E.g. the following concepts have caused much confusion:
- Performance - Performing ability (activity) and its achievements ("an sich"). All items have always a certain performance.
- Service level - Requirements agreed by contracting parties, service level agreements (SLA's)
- Grade - Fulfilling general standard requirements, e.g. hotel categories
- Quality - Degree of fulfilling needs and expectations of all stakeholders
- Excellence - Quality excelling challenging references

Interestingly, the basic concept quality is not at all a clear issue in practice. It has many understandings and interpretations even among quality professionals. One should also note that the ISO 9000 standard term "requirements" is very often confusing. According to the official definition it means stakeholders' needs and expectations.

Definitions of same terms may be different in different references. One may have additional difficulties when using translations in different languages. The key concepts should always be clarified according to the context and viewpoint of the case in question. More important than the definitions is the communication process for mutual understanding of the concepts.

Challenging excellence

Only performance excellence may ensure sustainable success for organizations - excellence that is originated from organizations' operational activities (business processes) and not only being superficially outstanding. Excellence means excelling, surpassing the certain reference levels of performance. Challenging references include:
- Exceeding own performance goals and targets
- Succeeding in business performance within own industry branch in average or being among the best competitors
- Evidencing world class performance including benchmarks and best practices, and particularly among different business branches

When striving for practical and effective solutions for quality management, all recognized references emphasize integration and innovation.

An innovative quality approach is particularly needed in market driven business environments. There are no single solutions to business challenges. One must always develop organization-dedicated innovative and unique approaches. In competitive business environments multiple different choices for quality management should be encouraged. There are extensive national movements for strengthening innovation in all kinds of organizations, e.g. in EU and USA. This has often seen as the next wave of the international quality movement. Innovation should take place also in the development of the quality principles and practices.

Integration is the main strategy for excellent performance by quality management. Integration implies:
- Implementing effective and efficient quality principles and methodology embedded within normal business management activities (especially in business processes) including strategic management and operational management
- Enhancing continually the business performance in a systematic way and by collaborative learning in the organization
- Acting against distinct "quality systems" (that factually means lack of integration). Integrating only e.g. ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 aspects into one system is not yet any integration in a business sense.

Business-separated quality initiatives are artificial (disintegration). Standards-initiated quality approach in an organization is absurd and ineffective. Integration deals with all necessary expertise areas of business management.

Cornerstones and goal of an organization's successful management and performance excellence are summarized in figure 2. Excellent performance and quality are originated in good management ofn organizations and are based on:
- Clear understanding of the guiding ideas, concepts, and principles
- Effective management tools
- Effective innovative management infrastructure

Figure 2. Cornerstones for striving for excellence in quality of management

Organizational identity and profile

Starting point to the quality development is organizational identity and knowing environment of the organization. An organization's integral and holistic oneness is created by the organization itself. An orgnization's ethos - the way of life, the mindset - should be in harmony with its environments. All organizations - and also all business communities - have distinctive characteristics.

Business leaders' duty is to establish, maintain and develop the holistic business identity of an organization in the real business environments. Even quality initiatives should be aligned with that.

There are useful practices and tools available to define organization's business profile. Malcolm Baldrige performance excellence criteria's clauses P1 and P2 define a framework for the organizational profile as a snapshot for the organization including the key influences on how the organization operate and the key challenges it faces. Also in the ISO 9000 standardization, there is under consideration a particular approach for the same purpose (figure 3). This will be a methodology to provide important information on any organizations business bases and realities before going to the application of the standards and other knowledge sources for performance improvement.

Figure 3. Organizational profile defining managerial grid developed in the ISO 9000 standardization committee

Operational realities and environments

In excellent quality realizations organizations take seriously into consideration their operational environment as a whole and their own identity in this environment. All organizations whether they are large or small, profit or not-for-profit exist and operate in an environment that is complex, ever changing, volatile and ambiguous - an environment where the dominant features today are uncertainty and change. Moreover, every organization has an impact on, and is impacted by, its environment in a unique way, and for that and other reasons each and every organization has a unique identity. However, despite each organization having a unique identity, all organizations have a number of features in common. All organizations have a single management system (which may be implicit or explicit, simple or complex) that is the focus and responsibility of top management. All organizations also share the purpose or aim of creating a benefit, or value, by producing some kinds of products that are offered to customers. While some organizations are created to achieve a short-term objective, most expect to sustain their activities over a long period.

The true operational business reality is different from appearance, or the reality we perceive explicitly. Actual and apparent reality may be distinguished with the terms implicate and explicate order. The implicate order is to be a metaphysical entity related to things and actions as well as consciousness (figure 2). It is the fundamental underlying substructure of everything. It is a vast and deeper level of reality out of which our reality unfolds and where everything is enfolded into everything. The implicate order is continually unfolding into what we experience as the manifest world, the explicit order.

Business environments of all kinds of organizations from small and big companies to public and not-for-profit organizations have been changed from certainty and predictability to uncertainty and ambiguity. That includes the following:
- All are linked with everything else, all linkages are not known.
- Organizations are operating in emergent and self-organizing networks of actors.
- There are many heterogeneous global actors in virtual networks.
- Business processes are complex responsive processes of relating.
- There is a paradox freedom of the actors ("both-and" instead of "either-or")
- Simultaneous there are requirements for agility and maturity.
- Significance of immaterial issues (information, knowledge, services) is greater than of material issues.
- Transaction phenomena and related costs are key aspects for forming business organizations and arrangements.
- Increased speed of activities and change are prerequisites for all business.
- Employees and business leaders are under immense pressure and stress.

These environments cause a lot of difficulties and problems but provide also new opportunities in the realization of quality management. Practical experiences from development within different organizations prove that organizations could cope with and adapt for the new business requirements for quality management according to the thinking framework of figure 2. This requires suitable solutions for new changed business environments including:
- Changes in the basic concepts and principles of quality management for understanding the issue clearly and effectively reflecting new thinking and understanding of the topic
- New tools that are necessary / useful and suitable for considering organizational identity and profile (e.g. figure 3), and for developing a business-integrated approach of quality management, performance evaluations, documentation / information / knowledge management, and quality assurance. These are especially based on new organizational operating and learning theories leveraged by new information / knowledge technology.
- Quality management approaches and infrastructural aspects for operating in complex and networked business environments

Principles and models for a good management

Quality management concepts

Traditional basic concepts of quality and quality management according to the ISO 9000 standard are still valid in today's business circumstances but they must be understood in an innovative and integrative way. The very basic concepts in this context for any quality approach are quality, quality management (QM) and quality assurance (QA).

Regarding the concept quality there are in use many different definitions even among quality specialists. Threfore it is very pracmaticly useful to use standardardized definition of ISO 9000 at least in business contexts: Quality = Degree of fulfilling needs and expectations of all stakeholders

QM equals quality of management: Degree to which coordinated activities by the management of an organization to direct and control the organization fulfill the needs and expectations of organization's all stakeholders. Quality management is the responsibility of business leaders and it is taking place through the managing actions of business leaders. Quality experts have an assisting role. This is also the meaning of QM in the recent ISO 9000 standards and the issue is further emphasized in the next generation of the ISO 9004 standard for year 2009.

Quality management system (QMS) is the basic concepts for getting quality of management happen in any organization in a systematic way. There are two parts in this concept of QMS:
- Management system (of an organization), MS: A system to establish policy and objectives (of an organization) and to achieve those objectives
- Quality, Q: A qualifier (attribute) characterizing a management system (MS) to which degree it fulfils the needs and expectations of organization's stakeholders

The term quality management system has caused a lot of confusions, especially when translated into different languages. And many organizations are still using concept quality system (QS) although it was removed from ISO 9000 standards already almost ten years ago. Perhaps therefore still QMS is understood as a system for quality that is a very artificial issue in practice.

QMS is principally aimed for organization's own internal business management needs and purposes for business excellence. In order to differ from the others an organization could use a particular title for its QMS. E. g. a company that emphasizes innovativeness in its business - and also in its quality approach - calls its QMS as IBR - Innovative Business Realization.

QA is for the external purpose of business for creating and strengthening confidence within customers (and other stakeholders) in business relationships. QA is particularly a communication issue between an organization and its stakeholders.

Both QM and QA are always needed in practical organizational cases. The concept (QMS) relates to both QM and QA. QA is a sub-item of QM. In the ISO 9000 standard family QM and QA were designed to be a consistent pair of these QMS items. If an organization has not explicitly used ISO 9004 but only ISO 9001, the organization should ensure consistency of its ISO 9001 solution directly with organization's business system. ISO 9001 is only for QA.

Principles of good management

There are many appreciated references for principles of a good / excellent management. Especially the following four sets of principles for a good management could be used in all organizations:
1. ISO 9000 standards - Quality management principles:
     a. Customer focus
     b. Leadership
     c. Involvement of people
     d. Process approach
     e. System approach to management
     f. Continual improvement
     g. Factual approach to decision making
     h. Mutually beneficial supplier relationships
2. Malcolm Baldrige Criteria - Core values and concepts:
     a. Visionary leadership
     b. Customer-driven excellence
     c. Organizational and personal learning
     d. Valuing employees and partners
     e. Agility
     f. Focus on the future
     g. Managing for innovation
     h. Management by fact
     i. Social responsibility
     j. Focus on results and creating value
     k. Systems perspective
3. EFQM Criteria - Fundamental concepts of excellence:
     a. Results orientation
     b. Customer focus
     c. Leadership and constancy of purpose
     d. Management by processes and facts
     e. People development and involvement
     f. Continuous learning, innovation and improvement
     g. Partnership development
     h. Corporate social responsibility
4. Deming Application Prize Criteria - Total quality management (TQM) principles:
     a. Distinctive performance improvement through the application of TQM:
          i. Challenging and customer-oriented business objectives and strategies under the management leadership
          ii. Proper implementation of TQM to achieve the business objectives
          iii. Outstanding results obtained for the business objectives
     b. TQM understanding and enthusiasm:
          i. Aiming at long-term success through benefits to customers and other interested parties
          ii. Managing the organization putting 'quality' in its core
          iii. Top management leadership, vision, strategies, and policies
          iv. Participation of organization's all members based on human resource development
          v. Developing and applying effective quality management methods
          vi. Improving and transforming organization's constitution for sustainable success

Although these references use different titles and phraseology their contents are very similar and they all relate to good principles for managing an organization.

When applying these "standard" principles in a particular organization one should take into account organization's specific business needs and situations in an innovative way.

As an example, a company tried to take into account all aspects of the mentioned references and apply them in their modern business environments. They focused the results into following seven fundamental principles for managing the organization towards performance excellence:
a. Centering on customers' needs and expectations individually
b. Envisioning the future challenges
c. Valuing employees
d. Managing the organization as a system of responsive and agile business processes
e. Appreciating multiple means for discovering, collaborating, and learning in order to continually enhance organization's business performance
f. Networking and valuing partners
g. Anticipating timely changes in the needs and expectations of the market and society

Defining these principles by the team of executives of the company was really a challenging exercise for quality of management.

Management models

How could an excellent performance of management be achieved? There is a huge amount of studies, research and literature on management. There are also many competing schools for a good management, and plenty of managerial tools are available. Many feel the situation confusing. On behalf of management development, it is made so much that the thing itself may disappear.

There is no single model or standards that could describe what a good management practice is. However, management can be always developed better and more effective in a systematic way. Systematic management could be more effective and efficient than unsystematic and in that context adequate models, tools, and standards may be useful.

A well-known general and recognized model for all areas of management is PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) model or Deming / Shewhart cycle. In organizational environments the PDCA model is to be applied in three different scopes that cover the whole area of QM:
- Control: Managing daily operations in business processes for ensuring the specified results. Normally rectifying nonconformities is carried out in connection with control.
- Prevention and operational improvements: Solving acute problems, preventing nonconformities, responding to acute changes in business circumstances, and finding / implementing operational step by step improvements in business processes
- Breakthrough improvements: Innovating and implementing strategically significant changes in the way doing business

Due to the fast development of the modern business environments, particularly the breakthrough management has become more relevant than earlier. It is a today a must for sustainable success.

Performance excellence models

By using the PDCA model comprehensively one may also apply the ISO 9000 standards and performance excellence models (quality award criteria) for finding advice to the details. Again organization's own identity, organizational profile, and business needs must be emphasized.

There are complementary similarities and differences in ISO 9000 standards and performance excellence models. Therefore they supplement each other in an excellent way when they are integrated within specific business environments. These widely used reference models have:
- Same general goals:
     o Customers' and other stakeholders' satisfaction
     o Continual development towards organization's performance excellence
- Similarities:
     o Emphasis on top management's full responsibility
     o Structure, and substance items of contents
     o Systematic, comprehensive approach for the quality of management
- Differences:
     o Viewpoints
     o Terminology and language

Both ISO standardization and excellence model organizations support the combined use of the ISO 9004 standard and the excellence models, e.g. the ISO standardization committee TC 176 has developed guidance on promoting the use of ISO 9004 in combination with the performance excellence models as a path to performance excellence. In this work especially the following performance excellence models were examined in a close cooperation with the responsible performance model organizations:
- Deming Application Prize (DAP)
- Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBQA)
- European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM)
- Fundación Iberoamericana para la Gestión de la Calidad (FUNDIBEQ)

Additionall the International Asia Pacific Quality Award (IAPQA) has a large coverage of Asian-Pacific countries. It is using the Malcolm Baldrige Model.

Modern operational infrastructures

Networked business

Modern organizations operate in networked business environments. Genuine networks are unplanned, emergent entities. Their growth is sporadic and self-organizing. Different kinds of actors are involved within today's business networks:
- Companies and organizations (private, public, not-for-profit)
- Business units, competence centers
- Individuals, e.g. experts and business leaders

There cannot be any common values, targets, or strategies in this kind of networks. Each actor has its own reason and interest to be a member of the network. Additionally all actors have always certain networking characteristics and impacts in the network:
- Access: Actor's easiness getting to the resources of the network
- Reach: Actor's potential wielding influence in the network
- Control: Actor's ability to control over the resources of the network

In networked business environments conventional quality systems, quality organizations, quality manuals or quality records, traditional work of quality managers, or third party certifications have very little or no beneficial role for the real purpose of quality management. In fact, they may even cause more harm than advantage. However, the networks themselves may be very useful for quality of the member organizations in the network because of win / win relationships.

Complex responsive processes of relating

Cooperating networked organizations may be patterned through complex responsive processes of relating that consist of many different types of activities (figure 4).

How to manage with networked situation depends on the following three aspects:
1. Identity of the actors: The actors themselves (process / activity / automatic actor / person) and the set of characteristics by which the actors are definitively recognizable
2. Relationship of actors: Level of agreement, degree of certainty, level of win / win
3. Communication between actors: Open / restricted / closed / fuzzy

Figure 4. Activities in complex responsive processes of relating. All kinds of activities may exist in the cooperating business processes. Appropriate management actions should be selected based on the degree of certainty and level of agreement on the issue in question.

If the relating processes are not clearly identified (e.g. by process plans), the situation falls into pieces of interacting process-internal actors, and even may develop towards chaos or anarchy. Some of the relating processes may even be unknown or hostile.

Managerial quality tools

Investing in tools

Managerial quality-tools consist of practical systematic operating models, methodologies, means, etc. and even useful theories. There is a huge amount of different tools for quality management available. Very often these offerings cause confusion in organizations and even among quality experts. Tools have only instrumental value but nevertheless they are important for achieving efficiently targets of quality of management in practice. A business management tool is always an investment including:
- Investigating needs and offerings
- Purchasing
- Commissioning, training
- Documentation
- Maintenance, improvement

Therefore it is essential that tools are effective and efficient, and selected, planned and maintained carefully for organization's real needs. A tool is beneficial only if it is used beneficially.

In a consistent management system, tools are developed and maintained in a proper way. As an example, the following methodologies were the major managerial tools in a "business excellence tool kit" of an organization with which particularly quality experts of the organization were involved:
- Process management model
- Project management model
- Balanced strategy card (developed from balanced scorecard)
- Self-assessment methodology
- Process performance assessment methodology (auditing practice)
- Benchmarking methodology
- Problem solving (e.g. SixSigma process and tools) and innovative performance improvement methodology

Many experiences prove that process management model is obviously the most significant methodology in striving for excellence in managing an organization, even more significant in modern environments. However, other tools from other expert areas, e.g. financial management, human resource management, technology management, risk management, purchasing and logistics, marketing, etc. are also essential for the quality of management.

Leveraging information / knowledge in quality management

Modern organizations are very strongly dependent on knowledge and information. Knowledge / information can never exist only as such but they have always some kind of carriers:
- Fact: phenomenon, activity, process
- Data: measurement or data acquisition device
- Information (explicit knowledge): information file or data base, report, procedure document, publication, book
- Tacit (implicit) knowledge: person, expert, consultant, expert network or system
- Wisdom: community, mankind

Successful organizational management is based on right knowledge and managerial skills to use the knowledge for the current business needs. In fact, quality management is principally management of organizational business information and knowledge. Additionally, exchange of information is necessary between customers, employees, shareholders, suppliers, business partners, and the great public.

The use of information and communication technology (ICT) has been increased overwhelmingly within all kinds of organizations, their management systems, business processes, and relationships with stakeholders. However, this has often taken place in terms of ICT solutions only. This has induced to difficult situations in many business cases. Modern electronic business solutions and ICT systems have become almost obligatory in all kinds of businesses. However, typically they have not made the total situation easier because, in fact, they are much more than only technological issues. One should also take into account thinking, understanding, competences, skills, commitment, and feelings of users of the IT systems. These things are linked to the tacit or implicit knowledge of people.

Also quality management is primarily based on the beneficial use of business related data, information, and knowledge. Multifarious methodologies, tools, and practices of managing knowledge should be used in the context of professional quality applications, and even quality experts should be aware and follow the general development of these aspects. Quality experts and the application of recognized quality references, especially ISO 9000 standards and performance excellence models, have traditionally emphasized explicit information, e.g. documentation, written descriptions and procedures, specifications, agreements, and information records. Tacit knowledge has not been considered as consistently and in the same details and deepness. However, the most voluminous and important part of knowledge from the business point of view is tacit.

Knowing and managing information / knowledge

Traditional business information solutions that have emphasized distinct and rather passive information / knowledge bases include:
- Knowing / learning individuals
- Loose and fragmented paper documents
- Copied or printed manuals, procedure documents, record reports, and certificates
- Fragmented documents in information systems
- Semi-structured information systems or intranets
- Variable share of Office and HTML documents
- Separate IT systems and applications

Also traditional quality management approaches are based on these same means including handbooks, procedure documents, records, etc.

For exchange of information / knowledge, communication (Anttila, 2001), organizations have used separate practices and means that typically have included the following:
- Physical meetings, seminars, training events
- Telephone, telefax
- Mailing
- E-mail
- Net-meetings
- Searching information from Internet, intranet, and extranet
- Group work systems, like Lotus Notes
- Formal e-learning systems

The modern approach is to integrate information/knowledge bases together with communication and collaboration.

Supporting collaborative cooperation and enhancing quality awareness

Separate information / knowledge bases and communication systems and practices are not necessarily effective for leveraging the beneficial use of information / knowledge in an organization. The new approach is striving for integrated and effective solutions consisting of the following:
- Knowing / learning networked people in collaboration
- Portals and portlettes, integrated solutions (using e.g. SOA, service oriented architecture)
- Collaborative group work and social networking infrastructures, Web 2.0 tools and applications
- Semantic web solutions
- Collaborative on-the-job learning

Especially Web 2.0 and social media applications provide challenging new possibilities for quality management. These approaches have been described with concepts "Enterprise 2.0" and "Real Time Economy, RTE" for which there are many applications developed recently.

Management learning in organizations has been based on training by traditional or e-learning means. However, investments in these solutions have not proved effective. Only basic management skills including quality aspects may be learned by traditional training programs. Business leaders are busy and not interested in using ordinary e-learning means. E-learning solutions based on "learning management systems" have not been encouraging. Systems are too expensive, learning too boring, search of material (learning objects) too cumbersome, and reusable objects not really reusable. Additional challenge is that half-life of the relevant business knowledge has shortened.

Effective learning is the key for developing quality in management. Organizational and personal learning are prerequisites for enhancing management / leadership skills. These skills are needed at different levels in organizations, including the board, executives, directors, managers, process owners, project managers, and individuals (self-management). On-the-job learning offers cost-effective way to link learning to the organizational needs and priorities. For quality management this particularly means enhancing quality awareness within an organization.Factually 80% of the learning takes place by informal learning and serendipity.

Knowledge Work Environment (KWE) is a modern IT (in this context interactive technology) supported approach to facilitate effective and efficient knowledge-intensive and networked business activities. KWE provides remarkable improvement to the current problems of organizational training / e-learning and documentation applications. Management is most important area of these activities in all organizations. KWE provides means for learning through improving internal and external interactive and collaborative communication of management and experts, and building social knowledge and intelligence. Management learning is integrated with normal managing activities of the business leaders. This is also a very natural way to learn to quality of management.

Effective e-learning requires application of new learning theories like connectivity, interactivity, and sharing information. KWE is to realize these new learning theories in practical business cases. It also facilitates learning in networks which is practical situation in all business cases.


Figure 5. Virtual IT (interactive technology) supported managing / learning environment (KWE) of any organization XYZ by using Web 2.0 tools for quality approach via SAAS (Software as a Service)

KWE (figure 5) consists of ability to lead knowledge workers into electronic work areas, where they work in collaboration to learn by building new knowledge. They have also all relevant explicit information easily available through related documents. The basic KWE tools include blog, wiki, aggregator, forums, and files that are based on proved social software or Web 2.0 technology. Software for the tools-components are available from the open source software community that is the biggest resource in the world for developing software products. KWE replaces also all traditional quality management related documentation.

Advanced self-assessment tools

Many different kinds of evaluations and assessments form an essential part of quality management. Self-assessment by using performance excellence models have proved useful in many organizations but the used methodologies have often been too laborious and too much stagnated to use one single model only. However, also in self-assessments one may strive for new innovative approaches.

An example is 3-in-1 methodology where all contents from Malcolm Baldrige and EFQM models and ISO 9000 standards have been combined in a single assessment scheme that is also easy to modify for particular business needs, e.g. healthcare. An innovative 3-in-1 methodology uses an advanced ZEF (Z-score Electronic Feedback) technology that offers a user-friendly and efficient tool to collect people's tacit knowledge on views and opinions. ZEF is a unique web-based application. Its applicability is broad. Especially, its two dimensional evaluation charts offer effective and illustrative way to show achieved performance in assessment questions and how important the questions are from organization's business point of view.

Quality assurance

Quality assurance (QA) according to ISO 9000 refers to measures with which both customers as well as other stakeholders are getting convinced of the fact that the requirements pertaining to products are met and that the organization has reasonable abilities for that. The essence of good QA is an effective communication. QA has to be grounded in the actual practices and facts of the quality management which have been created on the basis of an organization's business requirements.

Certification is a methodology for QA. Certification can be done by the company itself (first-party certification or self-certification), by the second party (customers), or by a third party (a service company specialized in certifying services). Self-certification combined with self-declaration is the most genuine and natural way to proceed, which approach has gained interest due to various flaws associated with third-party certifying. However, self-certification requires a strong personal commitment to quality management from the top management of organization. That is why certifying done by an external third party can be a sign of weak management. It also demonstrates obsolete control-centred approach to quality. With regard to third-party certifications - should this become obligatory or necessary in the light of marketing efforts - it is worthwhile to restrict them to questions pertaining to safety, health, environmental protection, and product liability. Serious criticism has been directed at credibility of certifications made by third parties due to the fact that these often entail emphasis on the business objectives of the companies doing certifications. This means commercialization of certification, and consultancy made by certification bodies. One cannot distinguish oneself from competitors by leaning on general third party certifications.

Third party certification is not the only way - and never the strongest - to realize QA. There is a big and serious need for innovations in QA solutions that can reflect excellence and clearly respond to the needs of an organization and its customers. The e-business technology (ICT) creates completely new cutting-edge solutions (e.g. "e-certificate") for QA. E-certificate consists of Internet site(s) or portal solution providing for assurance that an item conforms to a standard or specification indicated by the certificate. It gives also an opportunity to personalize and create partnership-dedicated efficient solution with collaborative extranet technology or social software. This solution is also facilitating flexible real time and bilateral multi-media communication between cooperating partners according to the principle of "Enterprise one to one" (figure 6). With these means an organization may act individually to fulfil QA needs of separate stakeholders.

Figure 6. Customer's differentiation and organization's capabilities for an "enterprise one to one" approach is a challenge also in quality management.

Conclusions

There is a lot of stagnation, doubts, and even frustration about quality related initiatives in many organizations, e.g. application of ISO 9000 standards and quality awards criteria has routinized into stereotypic rituals. Major reasons for this kind of harmful development obviously include lack of innovation, lack of courage to take radically new approaches, and immense busyness of business people. Especially traditional quality management practices have not been enough flexible to accommodate to the needs of modern business environments.

What should be done for rehabilitating the whole quality professionalism and discipline?

When implementing quality management, one should reform QM principles and create new effective professional methodology to be employed in a natural and innovative manner integrated with organization-specific business emphases and within contemporary management infrastructures and business environments. General recognized principles and models of good management can be used as a good starting point for this development. New business approaches and emergent technologies may cause problems but may also offer new challenging solutions.

When striving for competitiveness in these circumstances one could underscore the following aspects:
- Recognizing business performance excellence instead of a narrow quality thinking
- Striving for flexible realization of quality of management and leadership instead of distinct and vague quality management (i.e. management of quality) by using effective managerial methodology
- Applying innovative "systematicity" (systematic approach) of the quality of management and leadership instead of formal and distict quality (management) systems
- Using business-related quality management principles and actions instead of formal and general quality assurance requirements only
- Setting stretched business objectives instead of minimum standard requirements
- Aiming at innovative and unique solutions instead of stereotyped systems
- Relying on genuine and effective internal business performance self-assessments and advanced QA communication instead of third party audits and certifications of "artificial" quality (management) systems
- Getting advantage of tacit knowledge instead of only records of explicit data and information
- Networking with partners and recognized world-wide communities of multifarious expertise
- Supporting various ways of collaborative learning instead narrow-minded continual improvement and formal education
- Having genuine impacts on the organization's quality approach and success by the behaviour of the top management.
- Reinforcing and using organization's own internal awareness and expertise instead of passive use of external consultants

Basically, effective implementation of organization-dedicated business integrated QM does not call for any extra measures or investments. General information sources e.g. ISO 9000 standards and performance excellence models can still be utilized as reference materials innovatively. Experiences have proved that it is always worthwhile to improve the existing management "systematicity" of the organization based on a systematic methodology. This is still more important in new dynamic business environments than in traditional business relationships. For QM the organization must be always ready but never finished.

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[This material has been presented in different forms in different seminars or conferences, e.g. in Prague Czech Republic 2007, Budapest Hungary 2007, Helsingborg Sweden 2007, St. Petersburg Russia 2007]