Defining Quality

In our pages, quality doesn’t mean just good or even excellent. It means total quality management, TQM for short.

March 31, 2002


Kim Sweet

Quality is an overused adjective, one that has been taken out of context so often that it has lost its meaning. Like unique, a word that should be applied only to those people, products and ideas that truly are singular. (Yes, the dictionary notes that unique has been broadened to mean strange, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.)

In our pages, quality doesn’t mean just good or even excellent. It means total quality management, TQM for short. The first time I heard of TQM, a business school professor was describing it as an out-of-date management fad.

No one ever said having an MBA made you smart.

Introduced to U.S. manufacturers from Japan in the 1980s, TQM has developed a strong following among builders of new homes, especially the big companies that turn out thousands of homes each year and refer to them all as “product.” What does this matter to the remodeling industry, in which businesses tend to be small and the emphasis is on service?

What matters is that TQM works, regardless of the type or size or age of company. Past winners of the National Remodeling Quality Award (now the National Housing Quality Award) can tell you that. The list encompasses a wide range of remodeling firms: different volumes, different specialties, different staff structures. That’s OK, because TQM doesn’t prescribe a rigid methodology.

In Quality Management: Best Practices for Home Builders, author Ed Caldeira defines TQM as “a leadership philosophy, management practices, organizational structure and working environment that fosters and nourishes personal accountability and responsibility for customer-focused quality and a quest for continuous improvement in products, services and processes.”

That sounds like what we all want, regardless of exactly how we go about achieving it. Dan Betts of Deck America in Woodbridge, Va., featured this month in Great Practices, is applying Six Sigma to his already outstanding marketing program. Closer to my home front, the entire staff of Professional Remodeler and the rest of the Reed Residential Group gathered from around the country last month for the first of a series of meetings designed to bring an already high-performing, close-knit team to an even higher level.

We discussed every one of the eight components of the NHQ Awards and how they apply to our business. We analyzed the book Leadership Ensemble, listened to our service and support departments tell us about their roles, shared business results, and strategized about next steps. After four days together in a conference room, we emerged ready to take on the world.

Living quality is more exhilarating than writing or reading about it, and that’s why this year PR is taking quality from print to in person with the industry’s first quality-based management conference, Professional Remodeler Benchmark. Are you ready to make your company a quality one?

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