Total Quality Management: Meaning and Concepts

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an enhancement to the traditional way of doing business. It provides the guarantee of survival in the world class competition. The culture of an entire organization transforms with the change of actions of management. TQM is the collection of the principles, practices, tools, and techniques that help to change the culture of an organization.

Exploring the three words

Total: Made up of the whole

Quality: Degree of excellence a product or service provides.

Management: Act, art or manner of handling, controlling, directing, etc.

Hence, TQM is the art of managing the whole to achieve excellence.


“TQM is defined as both a philosophy and a set of guiding principles that represent the foundation of a continuously improving organization.”

“TQM is the application of quantitative techniques and human resources to improve all the processes within an organization and exceed customer needs now and in the future.”

“TQM integrates fundamental management techniques, existing improvement efforts, and technical tools under a disciplined approach.”

Basic Concepts of TQM

Management Involvement and Commitment

Management must participate in the quality program. A quality council must be established to develop a clear vision, set long term goals, and direct the program. Quality goals are included in the business plan. An annual quality improvement program is established and involves input from the entire work force. Managers participate on quality improvement teams and also act as coaches to other teams. TQM is continual activity that must be entrenched in the culture. It is not just a one shot program. TQM must be communicated to all people.

Focus on Customer (Internal and External)

The key to an effective TQM program is its focus on the customer. An excellent place to start is by satisfying internal customers. We must listen to the “Voice of the customer (VOC)” and emphasize design quality and defect prevention. Do it right the first time and every time, for customer satisfaction is the most important consideration.

Effective Involvement and Utilization of the Entire Work Force

TQM is an organization-wide challenge that is everyone’s responsibility. All personnel must be trained in TQM, 7 QC Tools, statistical process control (SPC), and other appropriate quality improvement skills so they can effectively participate on project teams. Including internal customers and, for that matter, internal suppliers on project teams are an excellent approach. Those affected by the plan must be involved in its development and implementation. They understand the process better than anyone else. Changing behaviour is the goal. People must come to work not only to do their jobs but also to think about how to improve their jobs. People must be empowered at the lowest possible level to perform processes in an optimum manner.

Continuous Improvement of the Business and Production Process

There must be a continual striving to improve all business and production processes. Quality improvement projects, such as on-time delivery, order entry efficiency, billing error rate, customer satisfaction, cycle time, scrap reduction, and supplier management, are good places to begin. Technical techniques and tools such as 7 QC Tools, SPC, Process capability, benchmarking, KAIZEN, QCC’s, Six Sigma, FMEA, quality function deployment, are excellent for problem solving.

Treating Suppliers as Partners

A huge amount of money is paid to buy the product or service. This means if the product or service is not satisfying the customer then the money gone for the product or service is waste.  This needs an outstanding supplier quality. A partnering relationship rather than an adversarial one must be developed. Both parties have as much to gain or lose based on the success or failure of the product or service. The focus should be on quality and life-cycle costs rather than price. Suppliers should be few in number so that true partnering can occur.

Establish Performance Measures for the Processes

Performance measures such as uptime, present nonconforming, absenteeism, and customer satisfaction should be determined for each functional area. These measures should be posted for everyone to see. Quantitative data are necessary to measure the continuous quality improvement activity.

The purpose of TQM is to provide a quality product or service to customers, which will, in turn, increase productivity and lower cost. With a higher quality product and lower price, competitive position in the market place will be enhanced. This series of events will allow the organization to achieve the objectives of profit and growth with greater ease. In addition, the work force will have job security, which will create a satisfying place to work.

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