Essay Preview: Quality Control
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The current business environment is characterized by intense competitiveness and businesses have to constantly reengineer their operations in order to develop and maintain a competitive edge. When it comes to developing and maintaining a competitive edge, the management of a business organization has three strategies at its disposal: differentiation, cost leadership and developing a niche market (cited in Bank, 1993). Adoption of differentiation strategies is directly related to the concept of reversing the direction of the product life cycle. According to the product life cycle theory, a product goes though four distinct stages: introduction, growth, maturity and decline. The process of differentiation makes it possible for business organizations to change the sequence of progress that their products go through. Differentiation is the process of adding new features to products in order to make them appeal to new market segments. As a result, even when a product has hit the decline stage, its demand can be rejuvenated through the addition of new features which appeal to new segments of the market that had not been targeted before. The process of cost leadership is directly related to quality control. As for the third strategy of developing a niche market, the management targets a very specific segment of the market in order to develop a commanding position. These are the three most powerful competitive strategies that the management of a business organization can implement in order to create a unique selling proposition that will attract market attention away from its competitors. However none of these strategies will work without the process of quality control.
The importance of quality control cannot be overemphasized. Quality is the single most important determinant of the degree of success that a business will enjoy in the market. However the concept of quality control might create the mistaken impression that it is only the quality of the final products and services that have any importance at all. That is by no means the case. When management attention is focused on the quality of final products and services, that objective is rarely attained. This is so because an organization is a collection several closely linked operations which consist of marketing, sales, production, finance, logistics and supply chain management. Unless quality control is ensured in all these operations, the final product will not have the level of quality that is necessary for the development of a competitive edge that will be powerful enough to give the business a profit-generating market presence. Several management concepts have been experimented with for creating the kind of quality control that will ensure quality throughout the different organizational functions. The most popular practice so far has been the implementation of total quality management (Besterfield, 2002).
The concept of total quality management focuses on the interconnectedness between different organizational functions so that any defects in one of processes will have a negative impact on all the other process chains. As a result, when organizations operate under the umbrella of total quality management, the managements in those organizations need to make sure that information flows smoothly between the different process chains so that they can coordinate their efforts in quality control. An example of the difference between total quality management and the traditional form of strategic management is the process by which the finance department would deign the working capital management system. This process consists of three components: order to cash, purchase to pay and forecast to fulfill. If the finance department were trying to improve the efficiency and the effectiveness of the working capital management system then it would have to coordinate the improvement process in conjunction with all the other departments in the organization which are involved in any of the three aforementioned components. As a result, in this organization which is practicing the concept of total quality management, the finance department would have to work with marketing and sales in order to make sure that the time taken for orders to be converted to cash is minimized. According to the traditional style of strategic management, the finance department would have set its own dictates in setting order-to-cash targets regardless of whether it would be possible for sales and marketing to attain those targets. As a result, the improvement targets would be meaningless because they would not be attainable. Under the umbrella of total quality management, this state of affairs avoided because all the departments involved work together to set the targets. The concept of total quality management has been practiced through many applications. One of the most popular of these applications is the balanced score card method. According to the balanced scorecard method, an organization is viewed from four perspectives: financial, customer, learning and growth, and internal processes (Evans, 2004).
Quality control is impossible unless the performance measurement system can assess to what extent the different targets have been attained. The balanced scorecard method facilitates the development of this performance measurement system. The performance measurement system according to the traditional style of strategic management used to focus on the past by emphasizing on the attainment of financial targets. Therefore, as long as the organization reached revenue targets, it was considered to be enough in terms of the efficiency and the effectiveness of different organizational functions. However this is not a sufficient assessment of quality control particularly in the current business environment of fierce competitiveness because the competitiveness requires that a business should be in a constant process of change as far as its resource allocation processes are