TQM and Knowledge Management: An Integrated Approach Towards Tacit Knowledge Management

TQM and Knowledge Management: An Integrated Approach Towards Tacit Knowledge Management

Luis Mendes (University of Beira Interior, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2394-9.ch009
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Abstract

During the last decades, both quality management and Knowledge Management (KM) have undergone a progressive evolution and have been associated with keywords such as competition, creativity, or innovativeness. Moreover, literature points to several commonalities between Total Quality Management (TQM) and Knowledge Management. The main aim of this chapter is to highlight the main commonalities, and to analyze how organizations may benefit from a dual strategic approach based on TQM and KM principles, and how integrated knowledge-based quality management system may benefit the “conversion” process of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, as well as the knowledge transfer/sharing process.
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Introduction

More and more, competition to gain/retain customers is becoming a greater challenge, and is driving organizations to become leaner and more streamlined (Paper, Rodger, & Pendharkar, 2001). These pressures act as driving forces for organizations to adopt different innovative approaches focused on improving processes’ effectiveness, such as Total Quality Management (TQM) or Knowledge Management (KM) (Lawler, Mohrman, & Benson, 2001).

Indeed, during last decades both quality management and knowledge management have undergone a progressive evolution, and have been associated with keywords such as competition, creativity, or innovativeness. Since the early 1980s, the drive for TQM has been at the top of organizations’ agenda to improve quality, productivity, and competitiveness (Hunt, 1992), and has had a significant influence on management thinking and practice. Considered a philosophy based on several guiding principles, and as a continuous improvement-based strategy (Basterfield, 2003), TQM has been recognized around the world as a valid option to gain sustainable long-term competitive advantages (Prajogo & Sohol, 2001).

KM, in turn, has been drawing scholars and practitioners´ attention to its potential important role in achieving sustainable competitive advantages (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). As observed by Kogut and Zander (1992), strategic management literature shifted from a resource to a knowledge-based view of the firm, where knowledge becomes a key important resource for organizational capacity, and leveraging competitiveness. Organizations that efficiently and effectively manage and transfer explicit and tacit knowledge perform better (Riege, 2007). Thus, nowadays, the question is no longer whether or not, knowledge is a critical resource for sustainable competitive advantage, but on aligning KM with organizations´ strategy, and measuring its impact performance. Moreover, although explicit knowledge can be somehow easily shared, it can also be imitated, and thus, since organizations’ competitive advantage lies primarily in the application of a bundle of valuable resources (Wernerfelt, 1984, Penrose, 1959), neither perfectly imitable nor substitutable without great effort (Barney, 1991), it is reasonable to assume that tacit knowledge (not easily imitated), may grow in importance.

Despite the large body of literature in TQM, and although KM and TQM’ contribution for a sustainable development are generally recognized by both practitioners and scholars (Hsu & Shen, 2005; Molina, Lloréns-Montes, & Ruiz-Moreno, 2007), only a few studies have been conducted to try to integrate KM thinking into TQM issues, examining relationships among KM, TQM, and organizations’ performance (e.g. Hsu & Shen, 2005; Ju, Lin, Lin, & Kuo, 2006; Aboyassin, Alnsour, & Alkloub, 2011). For example, the examination of TQM-based management tools shows that its application is interesting from a KM point of view, and can have significant consequences especially in terms of knowledge creation, accumulation and sharing (Johannsen, 2000).

As a result, it is important to clarify the relationships among TQM, KM, and organizations´ performance. The main aim of this chapter is twofold. Firstly, an analysis was performed on both Total Quality Management and Knowledge Management approaches, focusing on differences and commonalities between both approaches. Secondly, a literature review was conducted to analyze and discuss how organizations may benefit from a dual strategic approach based on TQM and KM principles, and how integrated knowledge-based quality management systems may benefit the “conversion” process of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, as well as the knowledge transfer/sharing process.

Key Terms in this Chapter

PDCA Cycle: Also called plan–do–study–act (PDSA) cycle, Deming cycle, or Shewhart cycle, the Plan–Do–Check–Act cycle is a four–step model oriented to organizational change. The PDCA cycle must be repeated again and again striving for continuous improvement.

Knowledge-Based View of the Firm: The knowledge-based theory of the firm posits that knowledge-based resources are usually difficult to imitate and socially complex, and thus are key determinants for a sustained competitive strategy.

Resource-Based View of the Firm: In essence, the resource-based view of the firm is based on the idea that the effective and efficient application of valuable, rare, inimitable resources leads to a sustained competitive advantages.

Quality Awards: National quality awards recognize organizations that have implemented successful quality management systems: and represent a great effort by governments aimed at promoting the awareness of performance excellence as a key factor in competitiveness, and the sharing of successful performance strategies.

Deming: Known as the father of quality and as a significant contributor to Japan's reputation for high-quality products: and innovativeness, W. Edwards Deming is widely recognised as the leading management thinker in the field of quality; his approach to systematic problem solving originated his 14 points which have gained widespread recognition represent 14 key principles to improve organizations’ effectiveness.

Knowledge Management: process of creating/capturing: transferring and applying knowledge in organizations to leverage innovation efforts.

Total Quality Management: Holistic management approach focused on organizations’ continuous improvement, integrating all organizational functions, in order to deliver products and services that meet customers’ requirements and expectations better than competitors, through a strong leadership and an active involvement of all employees.

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