Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management, hereafter referred to as TQM, is a subject that is near and dear to me and for that reason, I’ve selected to further explore the origins and principles of TQM. Early in my career while working as a test engineer for a government sub-contractor, I was involved with the implementation of the ISO 9000 standards mandated by the Department of Defense on government contractors and was privileged to witness the positive effects the TQM principles had on the manufacturing process and the final products of this company.

TQM refers to the management methods used to enhance quality and productivity in a business. The TQM philosophy is customer oriented and all members of the total quality management control organization work together to systematically manage the improvement of the organization through the ongoing participation of all the employees across an organization.

TQM incorporates the concepts of product quality, process control, quality assurance, and quality improvement. The goal of total quality management is the control of all transformation processes of an organization to better satisfy customer needs in the most economical way. It is based on self-management or control in each of the departments involved in a particular process allowing those who do the work to both measure and take corrective action in order to deliver a product or a service that meets the needs of their customer.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming, an American statistician, is generally credited with the total quality management philosophy. Dr. Deming guided the Japanese Industry’s recovery after World War II and formed many of his ideas during World War II when he taught American industries how to use statistical methods to improve the quality of military products. During the 1930s, Deming teamed up with Walter Shewhart, a Bell Telephone Company statistician whose work convinced Deming that statistical control techniques could be used to augment traditional management methods. Using these theories, Deming devised a statistically controlled management process that provided managers with a means of determining when to intervene in an industrial process and when to leave it alone. During WW II, government managers found that his techniques could be easily taught to engineers and workers and could be implemented in the plants manufacturing items for the military.

In 1947 the U.S. State Department sent Deming to Japan as part of the national effort to revitalize the war devastated Japanese economy. While in Japan, Deming urged the industrial leaders to find out what their customers wanted, then study and improve the design and production processes until the quality of the product was unsurpassed. He taught a new style of management that shifts the focus from profits to quality. He believed that employees could learn how to monitor, control and continually improve their work processes and systems with the application of a scientific approach. With the collective attention of the employees on their work processes, they are able to produce products that meet or exceed customer expectations. With total quality control, decisions are based on data gathered using scientific tools and approaches. Therefore, products and services are improved by improving how the work gets done (the methods) instead of what is done or the results. The techniques that he taught the Japanese are credited with instilling a dedication to quality and productivity in the Japanese industrial and service sectors that allowed the country to become a dominant force in the global economy by the 1980s. By the 1970s, American products were considered to be inferior to those of the European and Asian manufacturers and by the 1980s, American companies lost significant market share in the global market. U.S. companies scrambled to adopt quality and productivity techniques in order to restore their competitiveness. Deming’s philosophies and techniques were finally recognized and implemented throughout the United States. By the early 1990s the American manufacturing sector made significant improvements in quality and productivity and by the late 1990s had surpassed the Japanese.

The TQM approach can be described as a continuous process that involves the use of processes and systems, understanding customers and suppliers, implementing quality, benchmarking, and developing teams and teamwork within the organization.

The use of processes and systems refers to the development of a methodology that enables the employees to perform the job properly the first time around. If mistakes are made then the process should assist in determining where or how the mistake was made in order to prevent a recurrence. Work can be broken down into tasks, which are a series of related steps. The process groups all related tasks done to accomplish an outcome such as producing a new product. The employees completing a series of related tasks have interdependent roles in the organization and the group of related processes can be seen as a system. The practice of defining steps and outcomes in their processes and systems by employee’s results in a common language and understanding of what their jobs should be and how they fit into the overall scheme within the organization. Through the use of flowcharts, workflow diagrams, deployment charts, Pareto charts and Cause and Effect Diagrams employees can see their interdependence and that the quality of what comes out is in measure determined by the quality that goes into a process.

Customers and suppliers are both inside (internal) and outside (external) to the organization. People that provide input to the steps in a process are “supplier” and those who use products or services are “customers”. Employees in one phase of a work process are customers of the employees who produced the goods or services used by them in their work processes. Employees within the organization receive work passed through their systems from other employees, the “internal suppliers”. Therefore, each employee is a customer of preceding employees and each has customers, the people who receive the results of his or her work. Likewise, the people outside the organization who sell materials, information or services to be used by employees are “external” suppliers. A company’s external customers purchase a product or service and contribute to the company’s profits and they must be satisfied if the company is to survive.

Attainment of Quality in products and services requires an emphasis on doing the right things (products and services based on the needs of the target market) and doing the right things using efficient processes. The premise of Quality being that if customers are the people who receive our work then only they can tell us what they want and how they want it. The quality that comes out of a process is affected by the quality of what goes in and what happens at every step along the way. We should then build quality into every step, process, and system to produce quality in the outcome. To accomplish this, a company must collaborate with internal and external suppliers and communicate with internal and external customers to determine their needs.

Benchmarking is the comparison of the processes and systems of a given business function across companies. Benchmarking can be applied to any area of an organization and is a way for managers and employees to compare their functional performance to that of other companies. Benchmarking can be defined as measuring your performance against that of best-in-class companies analyzing how these companies achieve their performance level and using the information as the basis for evaluating your own targets, strategy, and applications. Companies such as Ford, for example, involve not only their customers but also their suppliers in order to solve problems identified through benchmarking.

Total Quality Management can only be successful if employees at every level participate in decisions affecting their work. The most common vehicle for employee participation is a team and the fostering of teamwork. Teams can range in scope and responsibility from problem-solving groups to self-managed work teams that schedule work, assign jobs, hire members, and set the standards and volume of output. A participative work culture is encouraged when quality becomes everybody’s responsibility.

Joseph Jablosnski, the author of Implementing TQM, offers a five-step guideline for implementing total quality management: preparation, planning, assessment, implementation, and diversification. Each of these five phases is designed to be executed as a part of a long-term goal of continually increasing quality and productivity.

During preparation, management decides whether or not to pursue a TQM program. It is during this phase that they undergo initial training, identify the needs for outside consultants, develop specific visions and goals, draft a corporate policy, commit the necessary resources, and communicate the goals throughout the organization.

In the planning stage, a detailed plan of the implementation is drafted, the infrastructure that will support the program is established, and the resources necessary to begin the plan are earmarked and secured.

The assessment stage emphasizes a thorough self-assessment with input from customers of the qualities and characteristics of individuals in the company, as well as the company as a whole.

During the implementation phase the support personnel are chosen and trained, and managers and the workforce are trained. Training entails raising workers’ awareness of exactly what TQM involves and how it can help the company. Training will also serve to explain each worker’s role in the program and explain what is expected of all workers.

The diversification phase will hopefully allow managers to utilize their TQM experiences and successes to bring groups outside the organization into the quality process. These groups can include suppliers, distributors and other companies that impact the company’s well-being. Diversification activities include training, rewarding, supporting, and partnering with groups that are willing to participate in the company’s TQM initiatives.

Richard M. Hodgetts, author of Implementing TQM in Small & Medium-Sized Organizations lists the following seven (7) steps that companies should use to implement a TQM program within an organization:

1. Develop a quality focus by creating a vision and or mission statement. This step may not be fully completed at first, but a least start with an initial focus or statement that serves as a point of reference.
2. Identify your customer needs. Customers can be internal and external customers. Surveys and questionnaires may be required to gather the necessary information.
3. Design an organization structure that helps Implement your quality-driven strategy.
4. Train employees in the necessary tools and techniques; check sheets, Pareto charts, cause and effect diagrams, and brainstorming.
5. Give and get feedback from both internal and external customers.
6. Develop an effective recognition and reward system. The focus should be on rewards that maintain continuous improvement efforts and should not be overly reliant on financial rewards.
7. Create the necessary climate for maintaining continuous improvement efforts. This means reviewing the other six guidelines and using this information to keep quality momentum.


1. Hodgetts, Richard, M., Implementing TQM in small & Medium-Sized Organizations A Step-by-Step Guide, Library of Congress Cataloging in-Publication Data, 1995

2. Stevenson, William, J., Operations Management, pp. 470-500, McGraw Irwin, New York, 2002

3. Six Sigma Integrated with Value Analysis for better results, faster, Internet:

4. Schlenker, Judith, A., Total Quality Management, Internet:

5. Bosman, R., Barnard, A., Manu, J., Martins, Frans J.C., Rosin, N., Strotoudakis, J., Thanke, D., A model for TQM, Internet:

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