Common Questions in TQM: Learning about the Basics and Issues of TQM

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What is TQM?

TQM stands for Total Quality Management. Started in 1920’s using statistical methods in the manufacturing sector, TQM find its fruition in Japan when American management experts such as Deming, Juran, and Feigenbaum further developed said methods and applied them not only to products but also to all aspects of the organization dealing with production and service. In fact, the astounding rebound in Japan’s economy was in some ways attributed to the influence of the said quality gurus. Today many companies worldwide would like to emulate the experiences of successful enterprises in Japan.

Why Total?

Quality control is often a section of the production department, having the main function of testing materials and products in compliance with specifications. Considering customers' ever increasing and varied requirements before, during and after product and service deliveries, quality has become a business issue and not merely a production matter. Nevertheless, every unit of an organization, including marketing, finance, purchasing, etc., is now involved in meeting customer expectations as requisites for quality.

What Are the Components of TQM?

The components of TQM are the principles, concepts and methodologies that guide its implementation in the organizations. Among these are motivation, technology, the PDCA cycle, the quality circle, and statistical quality control tools. A brief discussion on these has been already articulated in various articles in this site. One can take a peek on the following articles: Learn the Theories of Total Quality Management, Total Quality Management Practices Overview, and Different Approaches of TQM: 3 Methods that Work.

How Can TQM Be Implemented?

The main objectives of TQM are business sustainability and customer satisfaction. There is no business entity which will not embrace these objectives if only to stay ahead of competition. The road to TQM is the road to quality improvement. The following 14 steps taken from Philip Crosby’s Quality [McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1989], shed light on how to implement TQM.

  • Get management committed.
  • Bring together representatives from each department to the quality improvement team.
  • Determine the status of quality throughout the company.
  • Evaluate the cost of quality.
  • Communicate quality continually.
  • Identify, cure and prevent defects.
  • Plan for zero defects.
  • Conduct formal orientation with all levels of management.
  • Set a “zero defects day” to kick off the quality program.
  • Set goals for each employee.
  • Pin point and eliminate the obstacles to zero defects.
  • Give rewards to those who meet goals.
  • Bring quality professionals and team leaders together regularly to discuss how to improve the program.
  • Do it all over again.

For further discussion on this topic, The 14 Steps of Crosby provides an overview of implementing the steps in your next quality improvement project.

How to Measure TQM Success?

A way to measure TQM is through the criteria set in Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Assessment. The Malcom Baldridge lists 7 of criteria against which the performance of organizations are assessed namely:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic planning
  • Customer and market focus
  • Measurement analysis and knowledge management
  • Human resource focus
  • Process management
  • Business/organizational performance results

Is TQM Dead?

There are notions that TQM is unrealistic and unattainable, because total or company wide approach is likely to fail due to of lack of focus and just can’t be sustained. In fact there are reports that over half of all TQM and re-engineering efforts in USA failed and the price of failure is not cheap. The Six Sigma quality improvement theory is gaining more popularity among TQM vendors, for the former’s ability to reduce product defects, using statistical variations. However comparing the two models of quality improvement, it appears that Six Sigma is comparable to the Statistical Quality Control Tools which is just one of the methods employed in TQM. Whatever reason why TQM failed to prosper in organizations, this deserves scrutiny before passing judgments. But like in any project implementation, the secret of success starts most of the time not in immediate wide scale success, but in small gains which when accumulated become the cornerstone of best practices.