UM seeking an education in 'Total Quality'

March 12, 1991|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Sun Staff Correspondent

COLLEGE PARK -- The University of Maryland here will attempt to become the Xerox Corp. of higher education, the American Express of college billings and the Nordstrom's of student services.

Dr. William E. Kirwan, president of the College Park campus, announced yesterday that the state's largest university will institute a program of quality improvement similar to those that have turned around troubled businesses and factories.

The program, called "Total Quality," is an amalgam of management programs developed by management consultant Edward Deming, best known for turning many Japanese factories into nearly error-free producers of high-quality goods.

These programs, which emphasize pleasing customers and making every employee responsible for finding and correcting errors, "have been very successful in the private world. But they have not been widely implemented in education," Dr. Kirwan said during a break at yesterday's kickoff luncheon for the program.

With the help of a Xerox Corp. executive whom the company has, essentially, donated to the university, Dr. Kirwan said he bTC and his top managers have already received 20 hours of training in quality improvement management. "We were impressed by the benefits that could accrue to the university, and we were impressed by the enormity of the task before us," he said.

Dr. Kirwan said it will likely takefive or six years to spread the quality program throughout the university. Among the more difficult tasks will be to find a way of bringing the quality program to classrooms, since there isn't an applicable model, he said.

Charles Kendig, the Xerox quality manager who will spend 1991 training university employees in quality improvement, said that part of the problem is that the university, unlikemost businesses, has several groups of customers. Besides keeping students happy, the university must serve the parents, who often pay thetuition bills, taxpayers who subsidize the university, state officials who oversee the university budget, employers who hire graduates, alumni and others, he said.

But since some university departments have simpler demands to meet, Dr. Kirwan said that he will order departments such as security, food services and the library system to start widespread quality training now.

"If our library serves students better, our admission process is most efficient" and other services are well-run, "more talented faculty and students will come here . . . The state government will be pleased with what we are doing, our alumni will be satisfied" and all the university's customers will be happy, Dr. Kirwan said.

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