Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
NATIONAL QUALITY IN THE INTERNATIONAL
1. ' to criss cross through a wide expanse of thought with remarks.
The remarks are akin to landscapes that have been created on these
long and winding travels.' (Wittgenstein)
2. Improving occurs in present time situations. The present moment
manifests the real effects of the past, it provides a direct temporal
connection to the future and sows its seeds. We create new history
3. As an international concept, 'quality' has changed over the years.
A true picture of the issue can be discerned only by taking a look
at how the concept has been realized in companies, including also
public sector organizations. 'The aspects of issues most important
to us remain hidden due to their simplicity and triviality. We cannot
notice them because they are always before our eyes.' (Wittgenstein).
When understood according to its standard definition (cf. the widely
known and used ISO 9000 standards) one can say that every organization
has always got a so-called quality system in place at all times.
4. When a company starts investing in quality the emphasis of quality
is initially on technological flawlessness. Typically the next stage
emphasizes customer focus and satisfaction (first in intentions and
eventually also in action and results). This expands quite naturally
through experienced needs to stakeholder satisfaction. In addition
to customers stakeholders (interested parties) include owners, employees,
partners, and society/nature. Once the company's business success
is also taken into account here, quality takes on the meaning of business
performance excellence. At this point the word 'quality' is not really
needed any more in the company's day-to-day operations, but neither
does it need to be feared or prohibited. Such a development history
as described here is a natural one for a company in a competitive
situation. The same course of developmental stages may also take place
in a monopoly situation, as well as in the case of public services,
but this calls for a broad mind and active influencing from the leadership
people of the company.
5. Quality-related practices have generally developed (and continue
to develop) from quality assurance to quality leadership due to the
effects of reactionary and defensive reasons. (Here quality leadership
and quality assurance are understood according to their standard (ISO
9000) definitions, i.e. quality leadership aims at superior competitiveness
of one's business, whereas quality assurance strives to create customer
confidence). A more natural course of development, should be the opposite,
as true quality assurance can only be based on genuine quality leadership.
However, the quality skills of CEOs have typically been fairly weak
and case-specific, which has lead to quality technique experts gaining
the upper hand or no influence at all.
6. Companies in small countries, such as e.g. Finnish companies, typically
follow others as regards quality. They are typically not recognized
as benchmarks or World Class Quality models worthy of following. Even
though the level of technological expertise in some fields - such
as the wood p industry in Finland - is at the highest level in the
world, quality leadership approaches applied even in these fields
have been of mediocre standards. Learning through trial and error
is typically deceitfully slow.
7. In small countries, companies typically acquire their quality-related
ideas from second or even third hand resources instead of learning
them from their original sources. People of such countries can seldom
be found in influential international positions in the field of quality,
such as participants in ISO 9000 efforts or as key speakers at quality
8. Terms prevalent in international quality-related discussion include:
Comprehensiveness (the quality-topic covers a company's business in
its entirety), systematicity (a company is run as an entity consisting
of processes), integration (quality is seamlessly integrated with
business leadership practices), consistency (several different and
mutually compatible functions are required for taking quality into
account comprehensively), and the focus and alignment of the business
with strategic considerations. In order for a company to reach business
excellence, all of these must always be realized in an innovative
and unique manner.
9. Over time, there has been gradual improvement in integrating quality-related
activities with the company's business. In such integration, Total
Quality Management (TQM) elements play a crucial role in leading and
directing a business. The modern realization of TQM does not - and
neither does the implementation of ISO 9000 standards - imply building
a so-called quality system, which has in fact been genuinely opposed
by many CEOs either silently or clamorously. Genuine company-wide
wide integration TQM calls for both vertical (strategic) and horizontal
(operative) integration. Vertical integration has to do with directing
the entire organization, organizing it into units and process solutions,
resourcing, and company assessments and reviews. In horizontal integration
TQM elements are realized in particular key and support processes
in order to produce and deliver products.
10. A common problem in quality system -centered development projects
- including, unfortunately, a large number of Finnish quality improvement
projects - has been that plans have been drawn up for systems. However,
the opposite should be the case: Plans ought to be based on business
visions and strategies and, based on these, systems and systematicity
should be created for realizing these plans.
11. The following development stages can be discerned in the TQM
integration of a company: (a) distinct and typically technical quality-related
measures, (b) quality assurance, usually as a distinct measure, (c)
mutually supporting quality leadership and quality assurance, (d)
TQM as a comprehensive leadership principle, and (e) business performance
excellence achieved through TQM principles.
12. In practice, integration cannot genuinely succeed if the leadership
systematics of the company have not taken shape clearly or if it in
fact functions on an ad hoc -principle. In such a case there are no
natural 'fixing points' for TQM systematics to be found in the company's
leadership. This has easily lead to the construction of distinct 'quality
systems' in companies thanks to quality professionals and the general
standardization in the quality field. The retroactive effect of such
systems has been to promote disintegration in quality management.
There have even been calls for constructing special quality systems
in some fields of business and in the public sector.
13. In reality, instead of constructing and maintaining a quality
system, quality leadership amounts to managing a complex range of
business-related issues. Quality systems have often been criticized
of being bureaucratic and this reflects clearly how the whole issue
has been misunderstood. "A diverse issue cannot be managed with
simple means" (the so-called Sir W. Ross Asby's Law). The situation
is under the director's control only if control variability is greater
that variability in the object to be controlled. This amounts to an
impossible situation for many company CEOs and leads to two possibilities.
Either the leadership stifles activities or, alternatively, leadership
is only apparent leadership which has no real significance. The principles
of modern quality thinking can be found already in the canons of Christianity,
the basic teachings of which deal with the alignment of activities.
14. It is common to try and force the direction of an organization
into a mold of rules based on rationality alone. In such cases the
meaning of or possibilities included in myths etc. are not appreciated.
'Action stems mostly from feelings, not logic. Logic is applied to
actions only afterwards.' (Vilfredo Pareto). For example, well-functioning
plans have, in fact, often turned into tools of "autocommunication"
(i.e. communication with oneself), that is, into corporate mantras.
15. Simultaneously with distinct quality systems falling prey to criticism,
a crisis has also befallen companies' strategic planning systems,
and the need for new forms of action (e.g. the scenario technique
and Hoshin planning) has become apparent. It seems that the Americans
are giving up the concept of 'strategic quality planning' which has
been around for quite a long time, and the more natural integrated
strategic planning is replacing it.
16. A lack of consistency is manifested in companies by the presence
of several distinct measures pertaining to or touching upon quality
which have been initiated by various different expert groups, such
as quality and financial experts, human resource development and risk
management persons, environmental protection, IT and data security
specialists, and people in acquisition.
17. Several different corporate leadership trends have developed
under various names alongside the TQM trend. The quality field, and
quality experts in particular, need to be aware of these trends and
be able to utilize them. Useful and timely topic areas for quality-related
activities include the principles of a learning organization, knowledge
management, and the balanced scorecard. These are competence areas
of today's quality professionals. As a matter of fact, quality professionals
are the right people to coordinate these topics in a company with
the aim of promoting business performance. However, in most companies
the truth is quite different. Numerous quality experts have focused
narrowly only on creating and maintaining a quality system.
18. Different trends are harmful to a company if they are manifested
as 'isms' and as e.g. leadership doctrines competing for resources
within a company and forming distinct leadership systems. Maintaining
separate leadership systems for specific areas leads easily to a chaotic
situation in which it is impossible to comprehensively lead a company
systematically and effectively in accordance with company objectives.
This is why CEOs do not do this, but rather lead the company on the
basis of their own intuitive views, while various expert groups construct
and maintain distinct leadership systems alongside business leadership.
Thus, a so-called quality system which has been specifically built
with a quality objective in mind is not in fact a real leadership
system adhering to e.g. the aims of the ISO 9000 standards, as in
reality it is realized through an unsystematic leadership approach.
Separate quality systems such as these are based on a misunderstanding
of the ISO 9000 standards and they usually result in more harm than
19. It is best to realize TQM, environmental management, occupational
health and safety (OHS) management systems together with the company's
normal leadership system. This is already taking place in the most
developed companies, even though the standardization of these areas
is badly fragmented. When understood correctly, the ISO 9000 standards
are very applicable as tools in the leadership planning of all these
20. Distinct leadership trends typically try to penetrate an organization
through different expert groups and are usually based on approaches
developed by internationally renowned consultants. In practice, these
different approaches always contain considerable amounts of the same
ingredients. For example, they usually require significant input and
strong commitment from the leadership and are based on a process-like
model of operations. Collisions between different approaches can be
avoided when only one company-specific model is followed in the company's
business leadership and development. Such a model allows for the utilization
of ingredients from various different approaches. It does, however,
require courage on the part of the leadership to act as a figurehead
of the company's unique quality ideas and practices instead of leaning
on nondescript general standards.
21. In many countries there is still a gap between the quality approaches
of service and industrial companies. Industrial companies have quality
professionalism which has been developed for decades. In the service
industry, on the other hand, the main influence concerning quality-related
issues has come from academically trained marketing professionals.
There are many signs indicating that these two fields have in reality
still not met and cannot even communicate with one another. For example,
researchers at business schools have recently come up with ideas concerning
customer satisfaction which have been published and discussed in quality
literature for a long time already. However, the distinction between
service companies and industrial companies is very theoretical and
downright detrimental to TQM. All companies are service companies
and many of them produce also goods. At its core, TQM is about good-quality
leadership and it does not make any kind of distinction between service
and production companies. Cooperation between experts in all fields
is required in order to realize the quality objectives of a company.
In implementing quality principles there is no fundamental difference
between service and production companies.
22. The difference between service and production fields is partly
due to the fact that the concept of product has not been understood
in an effective way. The issue would undoubtedly call for research
inputs, but the definition found in the ISO 9000 standards could be
used as a good and concrete basis. In this definition a product is
examined as an entity which includes, in addition to human and mechanic
(automatic) service elements, also material goods phases. Thus for
example the expression 'products and services', which is still used
in many connections, sounds meaningless. In a sense, it also belittles
service industry entrepreneurs, implying that they are incapable of
seeing their services in a professional way as products. The product
entity includes the actual intended product as well as harmful unintended
products such as material and mental pollution.
23. Understanding the concept of service has proved to be difficult
in practice. For example, even many so-called service companies have
never clearly considered the essence of their products. The standard
definition for service is promising. According to it, 'service' refers
to the result of service companies' actions (in practice, processes)
to the customer, who also participates in this result through his
or her own actions. The action itself does not constitute service,
but rather its more permanent result (e.g. the experience produced
by a travel agency) which the customer retains even after the activity
24. Well known, systematic means for product feature management (e.g.
QFD, demand management, the Kano customer satisfaction model) are
applied fairly infrequently in Finland. One can also utilize product
data management (PDM) tools, for which promising real-life experiences
are also available. These approaches are suitable for all kinds of
25. Improvement efforts aiming at company-specific performance excellence
call for the courage to distinguish oneself from other companies.
In reality this can happen only by building on one's own unique strengths.
It is thus natural that the quality systematics implemented indicate
has company-specific characteristics. This means that one should not
construct a so-called ISO 9000 quality system into one's company but
rather implement quality systematicity modified for the company's
own needs. One cannot distinguish oneself as superior by using a standard
formula. Quality measures are still reactive in most companies, where
the point of departure consists of so-called nonconformities.
26. A strong inclination to rely on external consulting, etc. resources
is an indication of the company's leadership's weak commitment and
abilities in quality management. Certificates, for example, are often
signs of such a situation. Companies that publicize vigorously their
quality system certificates manifest symptoms of quality thinking
that is still at the mediocre level of the 1970s and of a weak leadership.
According to the integrating principle, the CEO of a company always
has a personal and decisive role in TQM - whether he or she participates
in it actively and intentionally or not.
27. Leadership or quality leadership cannot be standardized. It manifests
- as it should - the leading person's personal approach and style.
The only common denominator between all successful leaders is their
own awareness of what is right. Only on this basis does one succeed
or fail. Quality leadership is evident especially in decisions and
in forwarding them as well as in the leader's own development towards
stakeholders, including the leader himself as a person. It is common
today for leaders to have problems in managing their time, but this
is, however, a sign of problems in managing oneself.
28. Over the years, the quest for performance excellence has developed
from rigid formal scoring of the leadership (e.g. McKinsey 7S) to
company-specific appearance (Pursuit for WOW!). The leading authority
in the field has been for many years now the American Tom Peters.
29. The modern quality approach is paradoxical in nature in the sense
that excellence is pursued through day-to-day and mundane activities.
The 'quality system' concept and the various 'rituals' associated
with it often seem - at least initially, before one grows numb to
them - unnatural. A more natural way to proceed is to start from the
existing quality systematicity found in all companies. The strengths
and weaknesses of this approach can be mapped and thus it systematicity
continually increased. This also provides an opportunity to effectively
utilize ISO 9000 standards and quality award criteria as well as other
30. The efficient development of TQM through organizational learning
requires that the following three preconditions are met (cf. Peter
Senge): (a) the issue is understood, (b) efficient tools are available,
and (c) innovative leadership conditions are in place. According to
many distinguished sources most quality-related initiatives have failed.
The basic reasons behind such failures can usually be found in the
fact that the aforementioned preconditions for organizational learning
have not been met. Such flops are also often deceptive as companies
have often not necessarily even noticed the failure themselves. In
these cases unrevealed possibilities have been missed.
31. The comprehensive Total Quality Management of both a company
as well as at a nation-level is a fuzzy concept as it involves always
development stages and differences in degree. General quality award
criteria and approaches have proven to be favorable means to assess
the TQM (and overall business performance) level of a company. Evaluated
thus, our companies do not rank very highly in a global context. The
state-wide TQM level can also be examined critically with the scoring
principles of quality award criteria. At least in Finland nobody has
utilized this yet.
32. Interestingly, questions concerning company leadership knowledge
issues have arisen lately. Once again the issue has been encountered
through problems. Fact-based leadership, strategic and operative measures,
knowledge and its quality have also become issues in quality discussions.
It is interesting that knowledge can never 'float' freely, as it is
always entwined in action and has a carrier, such as a document, medium,
or expert. Thus, special knowledge products do not exist and the issue
falls back on the ordinary concept of product (goods or services).
Because people play a central role as regards knowledge, taking a
look at the concept of work in a new challenging way becomes an important
33. Until quite recently, people issues (personnel issues) have been
discussed in relation with quality almost solely in connection with
training and responsibilities. However, it has now become apparent
that knowledge, creativity, and participation aspects have become
a part of quality systematicity. Maybe at some point this will also
have an impact on quality documentation and bring about radical new
improvement in this area as well. After all, documentation should
take effectively into account the needs of different user groups.
The distinction between so-called tacit and explicit knowledge becomes
a important question in this connection.
34. When digging in even deeper into issues concerning personal quality,
the question of the basic nature of work is inevitably encountered.
New views of work as a results producing, creative, and social forms
of action have been presented in Japan (Nishibori and Kondo) and USA
(O'Toole). According to these views an integral part of work should
always be joy.
35. Various different 'quality tools' (better called TQM tools or
business excellence tools) have been developed around the world over
the years. The assortment of such implements may seem chaotic, despite
the fact that they have been arranged into groups of various sizes,
such as 7 + 7 + 7 + 127 + etc. tools. The utilization of tools in
companies has often remained at a rather random level. However, there
are also exemplary cases, in which a company has considered the issue
and then selected a useful 'toolkit' for itself, especially for its
leadership needs, and implemented the needed measures for its utilization,
such as training and support. Managing the issue calls for a systematic
view and management of the tools. It is especially important to distinguish
the company's business requirements from the tools. A tool has only
instrumental value and it does not know how it should be used; only
a user of the tool can know this. A tool should not be allowed to
take the lead. Taking a tool into use is always an investment question.
36. The ISO 9000 standards constitute a framework tool for understanding
quality systematics in its entirety. The ISO 9000 standards have had
a significant global effect on the development of the quality practices
of companies and countries. One even hears talk of an ISO 9000 phenomenon.
Unfortunately very often - probably in most cases - the original and
intended meaning of the standards have not been understood or have
been downright misunderstood. Important factors that have lead to
this situation include, on the one hand, the obscurity of the standards
themselves and, on the other hand, the fact that their implementation
for certification has become a business. It is typical for the actual
modern excellence principle of the standards to fade into the background
in certificate-oriented quality assurance. Some have even come to
believe that the standards do not even strive towards TQM at all.
Fortunately this kind of certifying has not completely halted genuine
company-specific implementation of the standards. However, for many
companies, the certification trend has been more damaging than rewarding,
as it has slowed down the pace of improving genuine TQM. Companies
that want to distinguish themselves from the crowd in striving for
excellence need understanding and courage. It is a difficult and individualistic
37. It is fortunate that, despite the certifying trend, it has also
been possible to utilize ISO 9000 standards in a company-specific
manner, which is in fact their basic purpose. Unfortunately, this
has generally not been widely communicated. According to an expert
opinion, if there are roughly 250,000 ISO 9000 certified companies
in the world, there is a threefold number (750,000) of companies that
utilize the standards in their own way to improve their business performance.
Many of these are not even interested in obtaining a certificate.
These companies, many of which have perhaps also understood the core
purpose of the standards, should be brought more to the fore. Companies
typically follow global developments, whether they be positive or
38. In a free world there ought to be alternative means for companies
to demonstrate their performance in addition to certificates. To promote
this idea, a special 'resistance' movement to certifying was born,
namely the Supplier Audit Confirmation (SAC) movement. However, progress
in this direction has been rather slow.
39. The quality communications (and undoubtedly also the quality of
communications) of companies as a whole is still at an immature level.
Effective communication of one's excellence is thus not possible and
simple means, such as certificates, are chosen instead.
40. The unfounded idea that ISO 9000 standards and quality award criteria
represent different levels of breadth, depth, and development concerning
TQM is still common. However, they have the same leading principles,
objectives, and subject matter. The differences do not thus originate
from the systems in question but rather from the ideas entertained
by those who utilize them.
41. The principle of 'continuous improvement' has been present in
TQM for years. However, in practice it has often been realized only
through reactive, separate and limited measures. Focusing quality
measures only on negative issues such as defects and nonconformities
can be rather depressing in practice. Positive challenges can provide
a more stimulating point of departure to innovative development. Considering
the issue in a more modern vein, it seems natural to replace continuous
improvement with proactive organizational learning. The difference
here is more than just semantical.
42. National quality associations or other such organizations have
a central role to play in quality improvement at the national level.
How can such influence be assessed? In Finland, for example, the number
of personnel employed by the Center for Excellence Finland (CEF) has
grown considerably. The number of services and operations has also
increased. But what is the influence of such an organization on the
nationwide development of TQM? Has it achieved anything noteworthy
or has it merely made sure that the country has not completely fallen
off the bandwagon of international developments (i.e. has CEF acted
as a 'representative' of international trends in Finland)? What is
the TQM level of CEF itself as measured e.g. with quality award criteria?
43. It has been indisputably demonstrated through company-level studies
that one can influence the competitiveness of a company with resolute
and appropriate strategies and measures much more effectively than
with any other more traditional means.
44. A company is always in an interactive situation with the surrounding
society and the multifarious values as well as thinking and action
modes of its numerous organizations. Our modern environment is very
varied and diverse. The quality culture level of a company is not
a result of isolated development. It is always affected decisively
by the field, country, and time it is in. Environmental influences
have both positive and negative effects on the development of a company.
Distinguishing oneself from one's cultural background calls for great
45. Corporate culture is the basis for TQM realization and for the
success of this realization. For example, the potential benefits of
ISO 9000 do not originate form the standards themselves but from the
way in which a company deploys them, i.e. it is closely entwined with
the company's quality culture level. The same applies in the case
of implementing quality award criteria. How can the quality culture
of a company or a cluster of companies be assessed effectively and
utilized in developing TQM into something competitive? (Cf. Professor
46. The quality culture level of a company is dependent on the societal
influences (cf. Professor D. Seghezzi). And vice versa, the quality
activities in companies also have an effect on societal developments.
This has most probably been the reason for implementing national quality
leadership improvement programs in various countries. Examples include
Japan, USA, and the EU. Are there any signs that such a movement has
already started in our country?
47. An enlightened European company is at least interested in the
ideas and efforts of the European Union to promote quality in Europe.
However, in reality European quality efforts (e.g. the European Quality
Promotion Policy and the European Quality Charter) are generally unfamiliar
and are utilized poorly at the level of companies.
48. There have been no systematic assessments of the quality situation
of an entire society. National customer satisfaction indices, such
as the European Customer Satisfaction Index (ECSI) whose experimental
use has been commenced within the EU on the basis of American and
Swedish experiences, provide product-specific information. Comprehensive
national quality estimates should be combined with competitiveness
reviews as it is, after all, superior competitiveness that is sought
through TQM. A broad review of the status of TQM in Europe was conducted
within the EU a few years back in exactly this way. On the basis of
this study, a need for launching a new quality promotion policy was
born, the purpose of which is to get rid of the old mode of focusing
on certificates towards business performance excellence. How have
such reviews proceeded at national levels?
49. A classic presentation of national improvement is provided by
Dr. Juran's comparison curves between Japan and the USA. Are there
any clear signs that any noticeable change in speed has occurred in
the corresponding curves of European countries? It is not enough for
improvement to merely occur. Improvement should always be examined
in the light of performance excellence, i.e. in relation to relevant
references. In this connection, relevant reference points include
national objectives (have these been set?), competitor countries,
and the most developed countries in the world (excellent comparison
targets, so-called Benchmarks, and best practices). One should also
take into account the costs of efforts in order to be able to assess
which measures are most effective.
50. Peter Senge's model of the three prerequisites for improvement
can be applied also when examining national development. These three
prerequisites are, a general understanding of the issue, tools and
their efficient utilization, as well as a generally effective and
innovative leadership atmosphere at the national level (including
authorities and corporate leaders as well as other influential persons)
to promote the issue.
51. Quality award criteria have evolved into more interesting improvement
tools than e.g. the ISO 9000 standards. There are, however, questions
surrounding the European Quality Award approach. For example, has
the award brought about genuinely superior improvement and learning
throughout our entire European society? Will the quality award system
and culture be able to evolve in accordance with broad national needs?
Has Europe fallen behind its competitors even in developing quality
award systematics, especially in comparison with the systematics of
the American Malcolm Baldrige approach?
52. Broad national TQM questions for which clear-cut objectives cannot
be found include: Have we really started focusing and investing in
national quality improvement? In the development of the national quality
situation, have we left behind the level of ordinary improvement (improvement
on its own) and reached an accelerated stage of improvement? Has the
difference between our own country and other relevant reference countries
remained the same, decreased, or grown? Where do we stand in global
development comparisons? (Europe is apparently still approximately
five years behind the USA and Japan due to the distorted certificate-focused
quality improvement strategy.) Which reference countries should our
TQM development be compared with? What kind of measures and/or indicators
should be used in the comparison and how should they be implemented?
53. Developing national TQM is always in the hands of significant
national organizations (e.g. the Ministry of Trade and Industry) and
company CEOs. Has there been any notable or sufficient input on the
part of these actors in the country? Have our company CEOs adopted
the role required from them in national TQM?
54. When is the development of national TQM successful? This requires
more than improvements in merely some individual results. What is
required is an increase in the speed of comprehensive improvement,
just as at the level of companies. In addition to results one should
also assess - as justified by quality award criteria - the approaches
used and their deployment.
55. Regarding national quality development, it would be useful if
there were national measures and/or indicators (a national balanced
scorecard) available to direct developments. However, this would require
a national TQM strategy.
56. Quality implementations in the public sector have a significant
impact on the quality of the entire society, including the activities
of companies. This has been expressly emphasized within the EU. Lately
there has been a considerable degree of awakening to TQM even in the
public sector in Finland, at both national and municipal levels. However,
it cannot be pointed out that something generally significant has
been achieved yet, despite the fact that there are individual good
examples. Problem areas can also be found. Public organizations are
focusing strongly on applying company-like approaches. For example,
severe competing of suppliers has come to play a major role. However,
the competing of suppliers no longer belongs to modern company strategies,
as a an emphasis on long-term supplier and partnership relations is
currently the preferred approach. Companies train themselves long-term
strategic partners with the aim of reducing the overall number of
suppliers. The public sector is thus also faced with the danger that
authorities make quality-related decisions without understanding the
current basic ideas of TQM. In this case quality assurance measures
may be overemphasized and supplier organizations may even be presented
with formal requirements concerning quality systems and their certification.
57. The quality issue is establishing connections with broad societal
frameworks. This is the case, for example, in the quality promotion
policy of the EU, in which quality is viewed as a part of the European
competitiveness strategy which includes productivity and employment.
How can positive effects be created for the lifespan of citizens all
the way from the cradle to the grave through the quality initiatives
of companies and other operators?
58. Companies today function in an increasingly global context. They
cannot emphasize national borders in their corporate names and communications
anymore. Company-specific boundaries are also starting to fade out
and virtual organizations are discussed in earnest. How should quality
systematics be realized in this situation? What will the significance
of national efforts be like then?
59. It is easy to point out various problems and weaknesses in how
we develop our national TQM as well as its development in general.
However, competitive improvement should be based specifically on our
strengths. Strengths must be found from the development of our entire
society. For example, in Finland the greatest opportunities lie in
the development of an information society. In this case the quality
issue could also rely on strengths found at the basis of such a society,
i.e. good training and knowledge (a comprehensive learning system),
investments in research and development, a good basic infrastructure
and penetration of information and communications technology, and
a well organized society. However, one should also always take into
account the needs of the actors in a society, consumers and organizations.
60. Although company CEOs play a key role in company-level and national
TQM, quality professionals can also find challenges of their own in
this connection. What evidence is there for saying that Finnish quality
professionals have taken seriously the challenge of national TQM?
Have they stuck to considering their professional topics amongst themselves
at the levels of concepts, principles (i.e. philosophical), and tools?
In itself, this is important too, but in order to bring about development,
real endeavors are also needed. Can quality professionals grow in
their modes of thinking and acting so that new development global
and societal conditions (e.g. information society) can also be taken
into account as challenges. How do quality experts understand the
needs of company leadership?
61. How a company chooses its own way of proceeding depends always
on the company itself, whether this is explicitly planned or not.
If a company merely follows other companies or e.g. the teachings
of external consultants is also a matter for the company itself to
decide. Improvement becomes challenging when one understands that
'how the world is does not imply that this is how the world should
be' (cf. Hume's guillotine).
62. Quality issues are always based on personal conceptions and feelings.
Even quality leadership represents and requires always opinions. And
this is how it should be! What is relevant are the opinions of company
leaders and other influential persons at the national level, as they
have the best possibilities to be realized. Quality issues are not
objective even at a meta-level.
[This text was presented as a conference paper at the quality conference
in Tallinn, Estonia in November, 1999]