Introduction on system view
People and organizations in their interaction
display a complex interdependent system.
This system may in turn be inﬂuenced by a
higher system which may be unknown to
people and organizations at that level. It is
when people and organizations “graduate” to
a higher level of existence that they become
aware of the higher system. In this sense,
greater understanding, but not complete
understanding, is said to be achieved.
We are all aware of a quality management
system operating in a society as illustrated in
Figure 1. The inputs into this system are
capital, technology, raw materials, human
resources and information. Through an inter-
connected matrix of linkages inside the
system, the components of the system can be
simply categorized under: human resources,
ﬁnance and R&D. The output of the system,
in the form of goods or services, is consumed
in a market in exchange for an activation
energy, i.e. revenue. Otherwise, the system
cannot operate continually.
According to the Principle of Wuxin, ﬁve life
elements are needed to keep any system going
(see Figure 2):
(1) The element of wood, which corresponds
to the function of leadership and human
resources. The dominant life value is
(2) The element of ﬁre, which corresponds to
the function of marketing. The dominant
life value is rites.
(3) The element of earth, which corresponds
to the function of operations. The domi-
nant life value is trust.
(4) The element of gold, which corresponds
to the function of ﬁnance. The dominant
life value is justice.
(5) The element of water, which corresponds
to the function of intellect commonly
operating in the ﬁelds of R&D, quality
assurance and information technology.
The dominant life value is wisdom.
When the ﬁve elements are moving in unison
and in balance, the dynamism of the system is
sustained. Latent talent can be generated and
chaos or entropy is reduced. This is in line
with the current topic of quality of work life
which has been deﬁned as the process used by
The TQM Magazine
Volume 9 · Number 4 · 1997 · pp. 250–254
© MCB University Press · ISSN 0954-478X
The Tao of quality –
Lim Chong Chuan
Lim Chong Chuanis Managing Director of Quality First
Technology, Kuchai Entrepreneurs’ Park, Kuala Lumpur,
Nowadays, quality practitioners appear confused and
divided with regard to the issues of ISO 9000, TQM,
business process re-engineering and so on. Opines that the
confusion or conﬂict can be reconciled if one can look at
the evolution of total quality detachedly and holistically.
Works out a Tao of quality framework. From the analysis of
a system view of a business, the MBNQA model and the
EFQM model, ﬁrst highlights the essence of TQM based on
the concepts of quality management systems and then
combines it with some prevailing life values in a relation
diagram to form an open system framework of values.
Calls this open system framework the “Tao of quality
framework”. Supports the view that there are different
levels of existence and there is a different TQM model
appropriate at each level. To make each TQM model
relevant, it has to be associated with the prevailing
dominant life values at that level. If an organization
culture can perform as is appropriate to that level, it will
build up energy and competence. The sustained practice
will eventually transform the organization to the next
higher level of existence.