What Is Total Quality Management?

Total Quality Management, or TQM, is a systematic approach by a company’s management to focus all of a company’s or organization’s functions on continuous quality and improvement. As businesses practices have evolved over the years, TQM has become a key factor for improving an organization’s production capabilities. TQM focuses on encouraging continuous improvements from everyone within the organization, from the bottom of the corporate ladder all the way to the top. In TQM, everyone participates in improving products and services. TQM is not a complete fix-all to the many problems that plague an organization but instead is a system that is designed to improve how a company functions.

TQM has been widely used in all kinds of industries from manufacturing, service industries, education, local and federal governments, and research. At the core of TQM is a long-term approach to success through customer satisfaction. By setting a high standard, it improves overall performance and productivity. TQM encourages this same standard to be applied to all areas within an organization.

History of TQM

No one really know exactly when the term Total Quality Management started. It may just be one fo those things that naturally evolved through practice. The term “Total Quality Control” was a concept from a book by Armand Feigenbaum titled  Quality Control: Principles, Practice, and Administration, published in 1951. But the actual expression “Total Quality Management” didn’t appear until sometime during the economic boom of the 1980’s.

One theory on how it got started was that it was a misinterpretation in translation from Japanese terms. In the Japanese language, there is no difference between the words “control” and “management” as there is in the English language. Another theory states that the term Total Quality Management was used in 1984 by the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command to describe its Japanese-style management approach to quality improvement. Whichever may be true, it seems that the concept of TQM has its origins in Japanese business management. It should benoted, though, that the work of Joseph M. Juran, Philip B. Crosby, and Kaoru Ishikawa, and the philosophy of W. Edwards Deming, otherwise known as The Big Four, were instrumental in developing methods of  performance improvements in 1984 which were first tested at the North Island Naval Aviation Depot.

Deming’s 14 Points

Probably the most important concept in implementing TQM is Deming’s 14 points, a set of management practices to help companies increase their quality and productivity. These fourteen points are:

  1. Create constancy of purpose for improving products and services. This allows you to remain competitive while providing jobs.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy. Today’s levels of business are no longer tolerant of common defects, mistakes, or delays.
  3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Instead, rely on statistical data to prove that quality is evident in a product.
  4. End the practice of awarding business on price alone; instead, minimize total cost by working with a single supplier to improve incoming supplies.
  5. Improve constantly the systems for, production and service. There should be a continuous improvement of quality of a product and reduction of waste.
  6. Institute modern methods of training on the job. Statistical methods should be used to determine when an employee has been properly trained.
  7. Adopt and institute modern methods of leadership. Production supervisors must be able to assist employees to do a better job. Improvement of quality will automatically improve productivity.
  8. Drive out fear. Fear acts as a barrier to improvement.
  9. Break down barriers between staff areas and departments. People in different areas must be able to communicate and work as a team.
  10. Eliminate slogans, posters, exhortations that demand a higher level of productivity for the workforce without giving any methods.
  11. Eliminate numerical quotas for the workforce and numerical goals for management. Instead, offer aid to employees and supportive leadership.
  12. Remove barriers that rob people of pride of workmanship. Also, eliminate merit systems and rating systems such as annual appraisals.
  13. Institute a vigorous education program for all employees and encourage self-improvement for everyone.
  14. Put everybody in the company to work accomplishing the transformation. Top management structure must be designed to oversee the implication of all the 13 points.

How Does TQM Apply To Your Business

TQM can apply to any business. TQM is all about taking extra time to look over your product to make sure that is assembled correctly and that there are no defects. TQM is implemented to help cut down on waste by making sure that the product is put together properly. For example, in manufacturing, each person on an assembly line will end up checking the work of the person in line in front of them. The first person takes a component and places it in its correct spot. Then the next person checks to make sure that the component is in the right place and then places the next component in before sending it to the next person. This way every person ends up managing the quality of the person before them. The benefits to working like this is that it is a safeguard to make sure the product is manufactured properly and it cuts back on waste of producing a large number of defective pieces. This method of checking and rechecking by other employees can also be used in an office setting or any other type of business.

TQM is designed to make sure that your customers are satisfied with your product. By not producing defective products, you end up saving money that can be used to purchase superior materials for an even better quality product. Taking the extra time to educate your workplace and set up a successful TQM system will help your product be better and your customers will notice the higher quality of the product they are buying. TQM is also beneficial because it gives your employees a sense of responsibility and importance in their job which helps to make them a better employee.