Business Performance Improvement Technologies - an Introduction

TQM - Total Quality Management


TQM, Total Quality Management, has become the "little sister" of the quality management world after the boom in Six Sigma, and there is a great deal of discussion in the field about which is superior.

One common stance in this regard is to identify the two movements as different, overlapping, and complementary. The difference is often summarized as, TQM views quality as conformance to internal requirements while Six Sigma focuses on improving quality by eliminating the cause of defects.

Another view is that TQM is a cultural and strategic approach, emphasizing a culture of collaboration among different departments in an organization; while Six Sigma focuses on defect prevention, cycle time reduction and cost savings.

Total Quality Management

By Dr. Gomathi Viswanathan


Competition is getting harder and becoming global. Companies now have to be more responsive, offer a better product and keep improving. Total quality management (TQM) increases customer satisfaction by boosting quality. It does this by motivating the workforce and improving the way the company operates. In an increasingly competitive market, firms with a continuous improvement culture and external focus are more likely to survive and prosper. TQM is considered an important catalyst in this context.

What is TQM?

TQM is an approach to improving the effectiveness and flexibilities of business as a whole. It is essentially a way of organising and involving the whole organisation, every department, every activity and every single person at every level. TQM ensures that the management adopts a strategic overview of the quality and focuses on prevention rather than inspection.

Objectives of TQM

Meeting the customer's requirements is the primary objective and the key to organisational survival and growth.

The second objective of TQM is continuous improvement of quality. The management should stimulate the employees in becoming increasingly competent and creative.

Third, TQM aims at developing the relationship of openness and trust among the employees at all levels in the organisation.

Significance of TQM

The importance of TQM lies in the fact that it encourages innovation, makes the organisation adaptable to change, motivates people for better quality, and integrates the business arising out of a common purpose and all these provide the organisation with a valuable and distinctive competitive edge.

Elements of TQM

The various elements of TQM are

Be customer focused

It requires the company to check customers' attitudes regularly and includes the idea of internal customers as well as external ones.

Do it right the first time

This means avoiding rework, i.e., cutting the amount of defective work.

Constantly improve

Continuous improvement allows the company gradually to get better.

Quality is an attitude

Every one has to be committed to quality. That means changing the attitude of the entire workforce, and altering the way the company operates.

Telling staff what is going on

This involves improved communication. Typically, it includes team briefing.

Educate and train people

An unskilled workforce makes mistakes. Giving more skills to workers means they can do a wider range of jobs, and do them better. It also means educating staff in the principles of TQM, which is a whole new style of working.

Measure the work.

Measurement allows the company to make decisions based on facts, not opinion. It helps to maintain standards and keep processes within the agreed tolerances.

Top management must be involved

If senior management is not involved, the programme will fail.

Make it a good place to work

Many companies are full of fear. Staffs are afraid of the sack, their boss and making mistakes. There is no point in running a TQM programme unless the company drives out fear.

Introduce team work

Team work boosts employees' morale. It reduces conflict and solves problem by hitting them with a wider range of skills. It pushes authority and responsibility downwards and provides better, more balanced solutions.

Organise by process, not by function

This element of TQM seeks to reduce the barriers that exist between different departments, and concentrates on getting the product to the customer.

Reasons for failure

TQM fails because:

Top management sees no reason for change.

Top management is not concerned for its staff.

Top management is not committed to the TQM programme.

The company loses interest in the programme after six months.

The workforce and the management do not agree on what needs to happen.

Urgent problems intervene.

TQM is imposed on the workforce, which does not inwardly accept it.

No performance measure or targets are set, so progress cannot be measured.

Processes are not analysed, systems are weak and procedures are not written down.


In today's globally competitive market, the situation is to buy whichever is of good quality and low cost. The organisations have started with a rigour to have an edge over the global competition and in the process some have become successful. The quality movement, which drives every organisation towards the global market, seems to increase its competitive advantage for better market acceptance.


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