Total Quality Management

The concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) is one that has aged very well indeed. Even though it can be traced back to the early 1920s when the statistical theory was initially applied to the process of quality control for manufactured products.

The 40s was another period that saw TQM spread to Japan, with professionals like Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum spearheading the development shortly after world war 2. It was during this period that the application of TQM spread throughout the company, shifting away from the idea that only the products needed such control. Gradually, total quality management covered all issues within the organization.

Now that we have an overview of the history of total quality management, we can move on to what it entails in detail.


What is Total Quality Management?

In general, TQM is a management philosophy that helps to focus every organizational function towards meeting the needs of the consumer and achieving predefined corporate objectives. The different units in the company (marketing, finance, sales, design, engineering, manufacturing, and even customer service) are geared towards continuous improvement, and according to TQM, the organization is applied to a collection of processes.

Continuous improvement is then achieved by integrating the knowledge, skills, and experiences of the workers, in a bid to get it right. In fact, the objective of TQM is summarized thus; “Do the right things, right the first time, every time”. This management practice is also very scalable, flexible, and adaptable.

The adaptability has also caused it to receive widespread acceptance in other operations asides manufacturing. It is now regarded as a general management practice that is applicable to the public sector, as well as private ventures.


Related: Quality Assurance vs. Quality Control: Distinctions and Similarities  


What are the Primary Elements of a Quality Management System?

Total quality must be what defines the culture, attitude, and organization of a company whose aim is to provide the best possible products and services for their customers. 

Quality must be worked through and clearly understood in word and practice in these eight primary elements: 

1 Leadership – providing a clear line of sight for understanding and implementing TQM.

2 Communication – clear communication holds everything together, not just from management to employees, but input from employees, and between departments.

3 Trust – born out of the company’s integrity and fair treatment of employees.

4 Training – must be continuous and purposeful, not just in quality in job performance, but also in decision-making, problem-solving, and teamwork. 

5 Recognition – People found and recognized for their positive contributions. This improves self-esteem, productivity, and engagement.  

6 Integrity – honesty and fairness in every situation.

7 Ethics – both company and personal codes of right and wrong.

8 Teamwork – better problem-solving, longer-lasting improvements, and company cohesion.


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What are the Principles of Total Quality Management?

We have aptly summarized total quality management as a tool that involves the continual improvement of all employees. We can move on to establish the elements of this radical concept.

Below, we mention eight practices of TQM.


1.   Total Quality Management is Customer-Focused

Yes, the customer is king, and this is not changing anytime soon. This is because the consumer dictates the ultimate level of quality and they have a say in how the organization defines the standard. Irrespective of the effort the company is devoting towards continuous improvement; whether by training the staffs or improving the equipment, the customer ultimately decides if it is worth it.


2.   TQM Involves Employees Totally

Employees should be willing to participate actively in working assiduously to achieve the defined company objectives. While this sounds like an easy feat to accomplish, the major obstacle to total employee involvement is fear. Hence, total quality management also involves the empowerment of employees. One way in which this is done is by providing a self-managed work team. Also, the management is expected to ensure that the work environment is halcyon and conducive for productive work.


3.   TQM is Centered Around the Process

Process thinking is another core area of total quality management. In essence, a process is a series of steps where the input is acquired from the supplier and then a transformation occurs, changing these supplies into an output. This output is then delivered to the customer. Although the steps involved in the process are always predefined, close monitoring is carried out to ensure that there’s no drastic variation.


4.   It Involves an Integrated System

A conventional organization consists of different units and each unit has distinct specialties. Usually, these are organized into departments using the vertical structure. The main concern of total quality management is the horizontal process that connects these different functions.

Basically, smaller processes are aggregated to become larger processes and they all culminate in the business operation. It is a must for the employees to demonstrate an accurate understanding of the policies, objectives, and mission of the company. The integrated system also connects the different branches of the business with elements of continuous improvement.


5.   TQM is a Systematic Approach

As we have seen earlier, total quality management is a very strategic way of achieving the goals and objectives of any organization. The essence of TQM is that a plan is formulated initially, and this plan revolves around integrating quality into the organization.


6.   Improvement is Continuous

In total quality management, the end goal (which is to improve) is a means to an end goal (which is to improve) and the cycle continues. Continual improvement is what drives the organization to draw on both analytical and creative ways by which growth can be engendered.


7.   Decisions are Made Based on Facts

To access the performance of a certain organization, specific metrics are identified and these measures are necessary to make any major decision. In essence, total quality management is also concerned with how an organization can collect and analyze data to ensure that the process of making decisions is seamless. This is also in a bid to get accurate projections based on historical events.


8.   Communication is at the Core of TQM

We couldn’t have ended this list without mentioning this, could we? Effective communication is not just recommended in businesses, it is proffered by relationship experts, academic scholars, and a host of professionals in other fields. Similarly, communication plays a major role in any effective total quality management approach.


Related: What is Lean Manufacturing


What are Total Quality Management System Strategies?



Now that a decision has been made to implement a TQM System, there are a variety of strategies used to ensure its smooth integration into the company. A company may use one or a combination of strategies.

The first is the TQM Element Approach, where improvements are made based on the primary elements and principles we have already discussed.

The Organization Model Approach is when another more successful company is visited and analyzed, and improvements are adapted for the original company. 

The Japanese Total Quality Approach is when the implementation techniques and strategies of Deming Prize-winning companies are adapted and adopted (over the short and long term) by companies hoping for similar success. 

The Award Criteria Approach is when a company uses the criteria of prestigious awards, such as the Deming Prize, the European Quality Award, or the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award as a basis for their improvements. 

Finally, the Guru Approach is when the work of leading quality thinkers is used to evaluate company deficiencies and as a strategy to raise the quality standard overall. 


Related: Identifying and Avoiding QC Issues


Implement Your Own Total Quality Management System 

This is one of those cases where the results speak for itself. Total quality management is an approach that has achieved a tremendous amount of acceptance based on stellar recommendations and feedback. It is undoubtedly an approach that is required by any company looking to improve continually.

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