Achieving Sustainable Performance Through TQM and Market Orientation: A Proposed Framework for Empirical Investigations - Page 4

Control-oriented and learning-oriented goals of TQM.

Besides the ‘internal-external’ perspective earlier discussed, the learning-control dimension is another perspective to describe the goals pursues by a firm adopting TQM. This perspective provides an avenue to disentangle the complex elements of TQM and hence facilitates the theory building (Sitkin et al., 1994). According to this view firm focuses on internal operations more than its external concerns is consistent with control-oriented goal of TQM, whereas heavier external emphasis on markets and customers is more related to learning, exploration and adapting to the changing environment.

Control-oriented is an expanded closed system view to include suppliers, employees, and customers, yet remain focus on internal operations (Sitkin et al., 1994). Control-oriented goal means the firm emphasises internal efficiency and its related objectives, as the firm attempts to control and reduce both production and marketing costs. However, for simplicity it is generalised to an input-output definition of efficiency (Sitkin et al., 1994). Moreover, firm has greater control over costs than it does over activities undertaken in the marketplace (Dickson, 1992). By the same token, downsizing, restructuring, delayering or reengineering, which involve ‘remodelling the organisation’ to increase productivity, operational efficiency and reduced costs reflect firm’s control-oriented goals.

Efficiency objective is a deliberate attempt to achieve operational excellence; that is doing ‘right first time and every time’ and excels in doing the individual activities along the process of value delivery. The strategy of zero defects and zero defection are also consistent with this emphasis. Control-oriented goals aim to optimise the firm’s operational performance, which in TQM terms can be indicated by its operational process optimisation, product reliability, and cost effectiveness (Reed et al., 1996).

The control-oriented goals implies that TQM focuses on improvement activities on processes for current products to satisfy today’s customers (Dervitsiotis, 1998) in the existing served markets. This strategy of searching for operational excellence is effective, when no trade-offs required between lower costs and unique position in the marketplace (porter, 1996). According to porter simultaneous improvement of cost and differentiation is possible only when the firm’s best practises are far behind the productivity frontier or when the frontier shifts quickly outward.

On the contrary, learning-oriented goal is based on open system view, stressing challenges to those system boundaries from the outside, and keeping boundaries as permeable as possible to facilitate second order learning (Sitkin at al., 1994). For example, controlled-oriented goal may view customer satisfaction encircles the present served market, while the learning-oriented goal concerns more with the new customer segments, and with developing products with features beyond what the expressed needs of existing users. Because learning focus is related to experimentation, it encourages exploration of new market or technology to create a new marketspace through industry foresight (Hamel and Prahalad, 1994). Hence, learning-oriented goals promote firm’s exploration efforts, beyond its existing served market, and thus stimulate new products development, technology diffusion, and process innovation.

Learning-control goals, like internal-external dimensions are not mutually exclusive options for a firm to pursue. Such dimensional perspectives however, challenge the standardised TQM packages, which rely on a rigid set of operating parameters and universal approach to quality orientation. By analysing the quality orientation in this manner, it could help to explain the possible reasons for some TQM failures, partly attributed by the ‘miss-match’ of TQM goals with practices, which in the past has tarnished the great potential benefits from its effective implementation.

The quality orientation adopted in this thesis is clearly synthesised from the goal perspectives and firm’s internal-external dimensions. As illustrated by Figure 1.2, it is the resultant of learning emphasis and a firm’s focus, and is depicted in relation to stages of quality evolution and market orientation practices. The proposed model provides a framework for analysis of TQM orientation in terms of its internal emphasis and its external dimension.

Dale (1996) based on his extensive practical work on TQM proposed five clusters of organisations on a quality orientation continuum. Each cluster displays a unique set of operating characteristics with potential ‘hybrid’ boundaries between clusters as an organisation progresses to a more advanced stage of quality practices. His positioning model of TQM adoption suggests organisations benchmark against advanced practices, hence begin a series of continuous improvement along the TQM journey.

By assessing the degree of firms’ adoption of TQM, based on critical lists of operating principles, it is possible to cluster organisations on the basis of similar practices. Subsequently, each cluster can be correlated to their market orientation practices and their corresponding performance measures.

Figure 1.2 Quality orientation continuum

Quality orientation continuum

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