“IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT” WHY THE QUALITY REVOLUTION IS STALLING IN THE US

Topics: Total quality management, Management, Quality management Pages: 6 (1956 words) Published: January 25, 2014
“IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT”

“IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT”
WHY THE QUALITY REVOLUTION IS STALLING IN THE US

Abstract
Despite the documented success of firms like GE, Boeing, Xerox, and etc. in adapting Total Quality Management (TQM) in their corporate culture, the US still keep losing market shares especially in the car industry to Japan. When foreign competition pressured the US into a trade deficit in the early 1980’s, American firms finally took notice of TQM principles championed by Deming and Juran. However, the contradiction between Deming’s TQM principle and the traditional corporate culture caused most Americans to resist the change unless the firm’s survival faced a threat. This is because of the strong influence of John Adam’s division of labor and Frederick Smith’s scientific management principle which of course define the strong cultural impact of the Industrial Revolution. This prevailing attitude to resist due to the firm’s past successes can be coined by the phrase “If it ain’t broken don’t fix it. “IF IT AIN’T BROKE DON’T FIX IT”

WHY THE QUALITY REVOLUTION IS STALLING IN THE US

In May of 1977 T. Bert (Thomas Bertram) Lance, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget during the 1977 Carter administration, popularized the adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” when he was quoted in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce newsletter, the Nation’s Business. In the newsletter he explains that the trouble with the government during those times “is fixing things that are not broken and not fixing the things that are broken.” The phrase which simply means if something is working adequately well, leave it alone could well be one of the reasons why the quality revolution seem to be stalling, with the US still playing catch up with foreign competitors for the last 30 years. Traditional corporate culture in the US is a derivative of Adam Smith’s principles of division of labor reinforced by Frederick Taylor’s scientific management (Hammer, M. and Champy J., 2003). Our text describes corporate culture as “an organization’s value system and its collection of guiding principles.” It further states that it “is an important factor for sustainability and long term success of any organization” (Evans, J.R. and Lindsay, W.M., 2011). The above statement is true in any corporate culture whether it’s following Taylor’s or Deming’s philosophy. In the next few paragraphs, I explore how resistance to change in general and the mantra “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” in particular affected the US corporate culture’s transition from Taylor’s scientific management to Deming’s Total Quality Management, hence stalling the Quality Revolution in the US. After the Second World War, the whole world felt Japan’s quality revolution helped by Deming’s TQM philosophy. However, because of the huge market of American made products after the war, American manufacturers did not take notice of TQM until the early 1980’s when foreign competition pressured US manufacturing into a trade deficit (Nixon, J.M., 1990). Motorola and Ford were the first of few US companies to adapt TQM which Motorola successfully implemented, winning the coveted Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 1989 for their impressive six sigma process (Nixon, J.M., 1990). GE, Ritz Carlton, Xerox, Texas Nameplate, Inc., and Jenks Public School are other US companies that successfully implemented TQM (Evans, J.R. and Lindsay, W.M., 2011). Despite the above mentioned successes, US companies continue losing market shares to foreign competition. This loss is substantiated in 2007 by the following report in Cleveland.com by R. Schoenberger: “Even in former Big Three strongholds such as Ohio, Ford, GM and Chrysler have declined while Toyota, Honda and Hyundai/Kia have boomed. Although we've long known that domestic automakers were losing ground to foreign companies, the Plain Dealer found that the decline was quicker and more widespread than...

References: Nation’s Business. (1997, May). U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved from
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/if-it-aint-broke-dont-fix-it.html
Hammer, M. & Champy, J. (1993), Reengineering the Corporation: A manifesto for Business
Revolution
Evans, J.R. and Lindsay, W.M. (2011), Managing for Quality and Performance Excellence.
Schoenberger, R. (2007, October). U.S. car makers lose ground in a hurry to foreign competition.
Elmuti, D. & Kathawala, Y. (1999, April). Small Service Firms Face Implementation
Challenges: Additional Training Needed for Owners, managers, workers
Cole, R. E. (1995), The Death and Life of the American Quality Movement. Oxford, NY:
Oxford University Press.
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