Venture Knowledgist Quality Integration
QUALITY MANAGEMENT IN NETWORKED AND
Quality is the most important business factor for organizations'
performance and competitiveness, and this is still more valid issue
when the business has changed more and more dynamic and organizations
are operating flexibly in complex networks of heterogeneous partners.
This is not only situation of business companies but also of public
civil service organizations and third sector not-for-profit organizations.
Quality concept is primarily related to organizations' outputs (products)
to other parties. However, this necessarily reflects organizations'
internal business management/leadership, business processes, innovations,
and relationships with external interested parties, especially customers,
suppliers and partners. All these aspects are - especially in flexible
networked business cases - crucially related to the management of
business information and knowledge. Tacit (implicit) knowledge is
more significant than the explicit information from the organization's
success point of view. Solutions of ICT (Information and Communication
Technology), especially based on Internet technology (e-business),
have today a very essential role in realizing all business fundamentals
and increasing networking of the organizations. All these aspects
have radical effects in all major principles and practices of the
professional quality discipline. Therefore new creative solutions
are required and are also possible for the needs of business-integrated
quality management (QM) and quality assurance (QA).
Fundamentally quality emerges from the different parties' interactions.
The risk is to rashly design and install procedures and systems based
on taken-for-granted ways of thinking in the situations where, in
fact, real-time doing, creativeness, and learning are more important
for success than formalized planning. Especially multifarious collaborative
innovations are the new foundations for success of business and also
A professional quality approach is in dynamic networked business
environments at least as important as in conventional business environments
but very apparently in many cases more important but also more difficult
to get realized. Dynamic business environments are characterized by
continuous changes and effects of global interactive independent actors
especially involving competing or conflicting political, social, and
psychological factors. In general quality is understood as fulfilling
the needs and expectations of all interested parties of an organization
effectively and efficiently through organization's products. In general
those products consist of goods and services, and they are realized
through business processes. Quality in products, business activities,
and the whole organizations is always affected by general situation
and culture of the business community and society (see figure 1).
Dynamics of the business breed many difficulties for realizing quality
management in a professional way but it also gives very new and extraordinary
possibilities related to new technological and collaborative tools
if only the foundations of the new business behaviors are understood
deeply. A core issue of quality management, the company-wide business
integrated realization of quality, is primarily based on the beneficial
use of data, information, and knowledge, and including corporate wisdom.
Means of information technology especially related to Internet and
e-business are very promising for professional quality applications,
and even quality experts should be familiar about their general development
situation and able to use their possibilities.
Due to competitiveness also in these environments companies must
strive towards excellence of business performance. That is also the
major intention of all modern quality efforts. Business excellence
can be achieved by deploying appropriate professional means with superior
effectiveness and efficiency irrespective of the dynamics of business
environments. The crucial issue is that organizations realize the
vital requirements of the new changed business environments. That
is also a necessity for the development and implementation of new
practical methodology and tools for quality management and quality
Figure 1. Comprehensive connections between quality relating factors
Dynamic and networked world of business
Organizations living and working in blurry world are driven by three
- Speed - All aspects of organizations operate and change in real
- Connectivity - Everything is electronically connected to everything
else: processes, products, people, businesses, companies, countries,
- Intangibles - Every offer has both tangible and intangible economic
value based on organizations' innovations. The intangible is growing
faster. Information and knowledge issues (especially tacit knowledge)
These factors have significant effects in all management structures
and actions (including quality management), and the business can't
any more be managed in traditional ways.
Organizations in the business networks are heterogeneous, and the
local rules organize their interaction. Key concepts are self-organization
and emergence. Diversity is essential when anything novel and creative
is emerging in a network. There is no common strategic plan, blueprint,
program, or anything of that sort. However, there is the ongoing coherent
pattern of some form of order. Nobody will never see or understand
the full pattern of what is emerging. However, developing more reflective
conversations with each other on what people feel is emerging will
inevitably alter what does emerge. In this sense the great importance
is the conversational life of organizations and understanding oneself
in group contexts.
Power is an aspect of relating to each other. As soon as one enters
into relationship with anyone, he/she is being constrained by them
and is constraining them at the same time. Paradoxically people and
organizations, at the same time, we are enabling and being enabled.
This is important to understand in cooperating organizations.
Within organizations there is no single one person to control the
organization - not even the CEO may have this ability. Nevertheless,
with a lot of people interacting, there are still coherent patterns
of behavior that keep emerging - both good and bad. Human freedom
is paradoxical. Authorities can call a meeting and force us to follow
the procedure. But what they can't force is to make it meaningful.
What they can force is to have people follow procedures, but they
cannot force them to produce something that has value and quality.
Organizations are complex responsive processes of relating. In this
situation it is better to use the term active processes rather than
to talk about passive systems (or organizational structures). Central
to these complex responsive processes of relating are communicative
interactions among people and power relating among people.
Paradoxes are normal and natural in organizations' dynamic operational
patterns. These patterns are both stable and unstable, and predictable
and unpredictable, at the same time. All this gives a different paradoxical
attitude about control because in complex responsive processes, although
nobody is to control the processes and nobody is to control the conversation,
it is nevertheless controlled - self-organization is itself a form
of control. In the interactions with each other people constrain and
enable each other, and that is control.
Two examples are very central issues from the quality management's
point of view in networked situation, the concepts of organization
and management. These both concepts have very changed states when
compared with the traditional business environments. Corporations
have changed into virtual business communities whose borders are rather
vague (see figure 2). There is no more any single clear organization
where one could implement e.g. a quality management system. Nobody
is any more managing this kind of complex organizational entity but
there are many individual actors with different roles and performance
options depending on access, reach, and control characteristics of
the actors. There may be always also disturbing or even hostile agents
in the business networks.
Figure 2. In networked business environments there is no more any
single organization. Individual actors of the network have different
roles and performance options depending on access, reach, and control
characteristics of the actors.
Agility versus maturity is a hot question of the management and the
quality management of dynamic organizations. Agility means dynamic,
context-specific, aggressively change-embracing, and growth-oriented
issues. The maturity school is on the contrary appreciating established
planning, documentation, systems, etc. World wide discussion is in
a situation of dilemma bringing forward on one side requirements of
maturity-models and standards, and on the other side the manifesto
for agile development (see figure 3). In fact, the both approaches
are needed simultaneously, but the big question is how. Flexible and
agile systematic approach is seen possible even from the quality point
of view when using new modern principles for business process management
and advanced information technology.
One of the most common practices in organizational management is
planning. However, accomplished organizational activities often turn
out to be different from the plans that were formulated. A major reason
to this is that planning cannot reflect organizations' real dynamic
nature. Typically organizations pay too little attention to the present.
It is mostly only about the vision for the future or understanding
of the past, so that one can make predictions. However, we are always
acting in the present. The present is actually the only time in which
one can ever do anything. The future is actually in the present, in
the form of expectations. But we are also always acting in the present
on the basis of our past. So the past is in the present, in the form
of the particular story we are telling ourselves as we are doing what
we are doing. Present time focus means that we should try to understand
what everyone is actually doing - and not doing - and why this is
happening. To clearly understand just what it is that we are doing
together in groups, or in organizations, that leads to the emergent
patterns that are our experience. These patterns of behavior are just
the core of an organization. They happen as a result of all the things
that people are thinking and feeling and doing.
Figure 3. The maturity and agility schools represent contradictory
approaches as expressed by the well-known Agility Manifesto
Why then do we design various control systems - including quality
management systems - and put together strategic plans? The purpose
being served is that they are social defense against anxiety, to find
some kind of defense mechanism or procedure to avoid the anxiety.
The problem is that we seem to mindlessly design and install procedures
and systems that are based on totally taken-for-granted ways of thinking.
A lot of the systems that we put in place today actually make people
Knowledge issues are emphasized when
moving from traditional to the new quality management approach
Professional quality principles and methodology for quality management
has long roots and development around the world during decades since
1920s. Now major recognized sources of contemporary quality approaches
- ISO 9000 standards and their derivatives
- Quality awards criteria and business excellence models
These quality management references are still useful. The most essential
guiding principle and strategy for their realization is integration.
That means that genuinely achievements of quality can take place only
within normal business activities. Standards and business excellence
models are guidance documents that emphasize systematic managerial
responsibilities and actions. These reference materials consider key
aspects of business systems, organizational structures, business environments,
interested parties (stakeholders), business performance and targets,
management and leadership, technology, products (goods and services),
business processes, work and "employeeship", customs and
customers, and company culture. All these aspects are still relevant
in the new business circumstances but their substances should be understood
in new ways (e.g. see figure 2). This means that remarkable innovations
are necessary also in quality thinking and practices.
Especially information and knowledge issues should be taken seriously
into account. Traditionally particular stress in quality management
has been placed on explicit management information including manuals,
procedure documents, instructions, etc. In dynamic businesses, however,
tacit (implicit) knowledge contents are more significant (see figure
4). In fact, tacit knowledge-based management is the core issue characterizing
dynamic businesses (e.g. see figure 3). Some examples that, however,
are very central issues for quality management are questioned here:
- What is the essence of real responsibility of a top manager?
- What is the role of "hidden" structure of a business organization?
- What are the weak signals anticipating changes in the business environments
and among the partners?
- How could we understand continual improvement as organizational
- How to manage immaterial parts of our products, especially services
and knowledge contents?
- What are the linkages between the explicit business processes and
the internal mental processes of our workers?
- How to manage with rational, non-rational (emotional), and irrational
(spiritual) intelligence in the business situations?
- How to achieve benefits from innovativeness of the personal?
- What does it mean and require creating and strengthening confidence
among our stakeholders (i.e. achieving quality assurance happen in
Figure 4. The real quality management system is predominantly a mental
system and a common managerial thinking / behavior model or managerial
memory of an organization.
Thus, the major challenge of the new approach of quality management
is how to manage with information and knowledge. An organization needs
to share information and knowledge among employees and people in the
interested parties, locate information and knowledge sources, push
information to users, or create a central location to navigate through
data that one can benefit from. This is also most essential for quality
management and quality assurance.
In these contexts conventional quality systems, quality manuals or
quality records, traditional work of quality managers, or third party
certifications have very little or no beneficial role for quality
management. In fact, they may even cause more harm than advantage.
Quality management system should be understood primarily as a mental
system, a common behavior model (see figure 4), or organizational
memory, and as an organization's general concept for a good systematic
management. For the same reason also texts of the quality management
standards and criteria of the quality awards represent only a very
minor part of the entireties those documents imply in real practice
in organizations. That is also reason why there are so many different
opinions about those documents. Deep tacit knowledge gives us good
bases also for understanding the standards and business excellence
models as the very same substance but only seen from different perspectives.
Quality management system means quality of management carried out
in a systematic way covering the whole organization. There are management
actions on several levels in an organization including the whole organization,
its business units or functions, business processes, and individuals
and teams. Both strategic management and operational management are
needed. Leadership emphasizes managers' or superiors' personal and
human aspects in conducting their business actions. Business leaders
are typically generalists and strongly acting individuals with strong
organizational positions. They know the right things but are not necessarily
interested in right methodologies. Therefore their tacit knowledge
is being highlighted in their managing actions. Their strengths especially
consist of awareness and self-management. Thus, top executives always
give their own personalized insight and flavors into the organization's
management system. This is also very essential element increasing
dynamics and flexibility in managing.
Also on the operational employee level tacit knowledge has a crucial
importance for the personal performance in carrying out the work.
That is additionally emphasized by the fact that nowadays all organizations
are knowledge-based businesses, and all workers are knowledge workers
because the work is based typically on knowledge, competence, skills,
creativity, and even wisdom of the workers when they are handling
different kinds of data and information in their work, and doing interpretations,
judgments, and decisions for producing valuable outputs to the interested
parties. Requirements and conditions of the job have been changed
from old-fashioned "tailorism" to more human centered.
Modern information and communication
technology is challenging for dynamic businesses
In order to manage blurry and strongly information / knowledge content
situations, organizations have invested in IT solutions. However the
development and use of the IT solutions has very often been problematic
in practice. During the past years nearly every new application and
idea created by software industry has made the jobs of people more
complex and difficult for them, rather than simplifying their duties.
Corporate-wide systems are complex and typically designed for a specific
purpose and function, and the IT department has deployed many different
and often unrelated applications and modules to fulfill the information
and processing needs of the entire organization. An incredible amount
of training time is needed for employees to learn how use such a complex
suite of applications. The corporate intranets were originally designed
and implemented to meet the needs for shared information across the
organization. As intranet sites grew larger, a new set of problems
created chaotic situations with information access, information maintenance,
knowledge-sharing, and security. There are a lot of doubts about the
real benefits of the existing business Internet, intranet, and extranet
Modern electronic business solutions, especially related to Internet
(e-business), have become almost obligatory in all kinds of organizations
but typically they have only not necessarily made the total situation
easier because e-business is much more than only technological issue.
Typically researchers, implementers, and promoters of the e-business
are not at all familiar with systematic professional quality management
principles and practices. Practical business people don't see the
real problem or they see the business situations too chaotic in order
to have possibilities to touch the quality of applications systematically.
On the other hand, normally the quality practitioners don't know even
fundamentals basics of the the e-business. Therefore one can report
very little practical and effective implementations of quality and
quality management in the field of e-business or they are very trivial.
E-business provides, however, much bigger challenges for quality management
and quality assurance.
Portal is a modern solution for knowledge-content businesses. Portal
is a single, Web-based interface into the world of heterogeneous and
incompatible information and knowledge sources distributed across
the telecommunication network. The key quality management related
solution is an organizational portal with quality management applications:
"A cutting-edge gateway to quality-related business reality for
enhancing quality awareness, improved use of expertise, performance
management and interested party confidence." This kind of portal
provides automatic services for quality management to the members
of an organization as well as to its partners. Portals use Internet
technology, but basically a portal is very different from simple Internet
or intranet pages of organizations. Portal has general features that
are beneficial for all kinds of knowledge-based activities including:
- A consistent view of the relevant business community
- Information organization and search capabilities
- Direct access to knowledge and resources
- Direct links to relative data and knowledge experts
- Individual identity and personalized access to content
Although information systems were originally developed for the needs
of explicit data and information, the modern ICT solutions are, however,
very useful also in the area of tacit knowledge. That is based on
the fact that new technology makes possible effective cooperation
and collaboration between knowing individuals and collaborating groups
around the world.
An interesting topic is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency
of the use of knowledge and information via a portal. The biggest
challenge for these solutions is the poor use of business related
knowledge and information that may appear in many forms (see figures
4 and 5). Important knowledge may be missing. It may be unused because
the needed knowledge is not available or accessible when needed or
is not in a useful form. It may be used but not appropriately or at
opportune time and place, or it may be misused. As one can see, a
greater challenge than to stretch the usefulness of explicit knowledge,
information and data to its extreme is to bring about a radical improvement
of utilization of tacit knowledge. Internet technology makes it possible
to create multifarious access interfaces to the business information
and knowledge, and related shared services. Especially information
security aspects are emphasized when developing the quality management
of information and knowledge.
Figure 5. Challenging to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency
of the use of knowledge and information
Web-based collaborative learning and group work environments emphasize
the word group work. The system has a wide variety of uses such as
personal management, computer-supported collaborative cooperation
and learning, carrying out projects, and setting up communities. Its
main strengths include a customizable group system which allows many
groups to work simultaneously on a shared database with tools for
projects, calendar, tasks, forums, links, chat, reviews, voting, files,
instant messages, profiles, and many more. System's abilities offer
a work ground for various kinds of organizations. Designed to ease
the problems with group based working, the solution makes it possible
to work in groups, inside and outside the organization. This gives
advantages to organizations which have a lot of work groups that have
to be in contact with each other around the globe. As an example,
a virtual network of experts, e.g. quality managers, of a corporate
may be created on this basis.
Quality assurance (QA) aims at creating and strengthening confidence
among organization's partners, especially customers. Traditionally
QA practices have been very inflexible and standard-based solutions
that are not fulfilling the needs of dynamic businesses. Genuinely
QA should be realized in a way that is most efficient and suitable
in the light of a customer-case requirements and taking into account
the competitive aspects of the marketplace. Thus quality assurance
can be seen as a value-adding part (i.e. a service-element) in a company's
products-offerings (see figure 6). The e-business technology creates
completely new "e-certificate" solutions for quality assurance
that may be useful also for dynamic business cases. E-certificate
is also an essential QA feature of a quality management portal.
Figure 6. QA is based on factual process-based information for customers'
confidence. It is a communicational service-element to the customer
for which Internet possibilities may be effectively and efficiently
Flexibility and networking are today very essential requirements
for all kinds of organizations to react against dynamic changes of
society and business environments. Especially e-business based on
electronic technology has enormous effects and consequences to everything
including the behavior of individuals, groups, organizations, corporations,
and societies. Quality management and quality assurance are still
crucial issues for business competitiveness and may be handled in
a professional way also in these changed conditions. One should only
have profound knowledge on realities of e-business and professional
principles and methodology of the modern quality approach. All this
is a challenge for quality professionals who are developing business
integrated quality solutions for the new business situations. Organizations'
difficulties in adapting to these challenges are normally originated
from stagnant and passive systems of management. Point of departure
to respond to the flexibility requirements is just in the minds of
the key persons of the organizations, flexibility in thinking and
seeing new opportunities, and to facilitate learning of the whole
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