While Six Sigma, Lean, ISO 9000, and other methodologies may be getting more buzz, the major characteristics of Total Quality Management are still an important part of project management.
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Overview of an Effective System
Armand Feigebaum devised the TQM (Total Quality Management) system and he defined it as "an effective system of integrating the quality development, quality maintenance and quality improvement efforts of various groups in an organization so as to enable marketing, engineering, production and service at the most economical levels which allow for full customer satisfaction." It is certainly difficult to be more concise than his statement, since it covers the essential requirements for such a system.
Although in more recent times, Six Sigma, Lean, Kaizen, ISO 9000 and other quality management systems are in use, the major characteristics and benefits of TQM are still an essential part of all the later followers.
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The essential characteristics of an effective TQM system are:
Every company member, from the CEO to the lowest level employee, is focused on product or service quality. If management is not behind TQM, then it will fail.
Everyone must have the required training and be familiar with the necessary TQM techniques.
Anyone can suggest areas for improvement - as general operatives will be more familiar with their work station than anyone else is, valuable ideas for improvement at a production line level can, in many cases, come from line workers.
All departments are expected to focus on quality and productivity improvement and implement changes for their area.
In addition, all departments interact with each other to fix common problems in the product or process.
Collaboration on external issues (end-user defects for example) is expected from all departments.
Decisions made are based on the best solutions, not on hidden agendas or favoritism.
Quality becomes a governing part of operations, with decisions that impact on quality, rejected immediately, despite perceived cost-savings involved.
An effective TQM implementation will result in:
Highly trained management (as training is mandatory for effective company-wide transformation).
An effective change management process.
Continuous improvement programs.
An ability to handle changing market requirements at short notice.
A system that can pinpoint negligence with corresponding penalties (including termination of employment) for deliberate offenses that impact on process or product quality.
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Benefits and Conclusion
The benefits of TQM can be classified into two separate areas: those that relate to customer satisfaction and those that reduce company expenditure (although of course these can overlap in some cases).
Improvements that provide customer satisfaction include:
Product quality improvement
Reduction in lead times due to improved processes
Increased marketplace appeal
Economic improvements are ones that reduce operating costs and losses. The reduction of customer returns and rejections from the field can also have substantial savings for a company since they eliminate many expenses, such as travel costs to a customer site or even a product recall in extreme cases.
From the overview above, it is obvious that despite continually evolving quality systems, the core methods of TQM will apply for quite some time to come.