Understanding the Most Important Elements of Total Quality Management (TQM)
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management philosophy that strives to achieve the best possible results by centering all business activities and processes on customer satisfaction. Proper TQM implementation involves continual improvement and all members of the particular organization, and expected to take part in the process. The main idea behind this approach is that the best way to long-term success is through providing a high quality product or service that meets the needs and requirement of the customer. Thus, everything in TQM is defined through the lens of customer satisfaction.
TQM has 8 core elements that are grouped together in four groups. Let’s use a building metaphor to better explain these elements.
First Group: Foundation
As every building requires a foundation, every business philosophy requires some value to inform its approach to the world and its own organization. TQM institutes three foundational elements to its metaphorical building that foster productive attitudes and atmosphere
Ethics is the study of right and wrong, and TQM places importance on understanding what is the ethical thing to do, both as an organization and as individuals in the context of the organization. As the organization recognizes the need to operate in a morally good way, it is expected to institute a clear code of conduct.
While ethics is more concerned with knowing what is right, integrity focuses on acting according to the company values in a honest and open environment. Office drama, rumors or other forms of interpersonal hostility are to be frowned upon.
The successful implementation of TQM requires a relationship of trust among the individuals that are part of the organization. In order for teams to be able to improve and provide a high quality product or service to the customers, they need to work together in an atmosphere of trust. If that requirement is met, problem recognition, problem analysis, problem solution and decision making all become easier.
Second Group: Bricks
As the bricks are the main building block used to create and bear the weight of a house, the bricks in the TQM context rest on the foundation, and support the whole structure.
Training is essential for employees to be able to achieve high levels of quality and efficiency. Since TQM is an all-encompassing approach to business management, it requires all participants to receive the needed training from their superiors. This training should cover how to be as valuable to the organization and its customers as possible.
Achieving common goals and providing the highest level of customer service requires teams to work efficiently together. Individuals should know how to work together, and the team environment should facilitate open discussions about both problems and solutions. There are 3 types of teams in a TQM organization: the temporarily formed Quality Improvement Teams, Problem Solving Teams, and the more organic and long-lasting Natural Work Group Teams.
While training and teamwork are essential for making member prepared to be a valuable part of an organization, leadership has a crucial role to play in harnessing that potential. All supervisors and managers should understand the TQM philosophy and methodology, and should be able to implement them while clearly transmitting values, strategies, direction and goals to the teams they are responsible for.
Third Group: Mortar
Even when you have all the elements needed to construct an outstanding building, it is important for those elements to be bound together, and this is the job of the mortar.
The all-encompassing mortar of the TQM building is communication. It starts from the foundation, surrounds the bricks and reaches the roof. The only way to continually improve and reach optimal performance is for information and ideas to flow freely. Communication should be ever-present in the organization, but it should also involve all external entities like customers, partners, suppliers and stakeholders.
Forth Group: Roof
What tops off a building is the roof, which in the case of TQM is its last key element – recognition.
This element involves the positive feedback and encouragement that both achievements and suggestions should result within the organization. All supervisors should look for and detect contributions, and should provide recognition whenever they are made. This boosts both morale and performance. It gives member of the organization motivation to continue to participate productively in the TQM implementation.
What happened to TQM?
TQM popularity has steadily decreased in direct response to the increase in Six Sigma popularity. This popularity in Six Sigma is a result of a couple key things:
- Stronger alignment and focus on the business results of the organization (targeted improvements in key areas)
- Broadened the training and skill set outside of manufacturing and quality organizations
- Set higher performance levels (3.4 defects per million) beyond acceptance quality levels
- Set training standards (belt system) and requires projects with mentoring and coaching
- Freed up resources to learn and implement improvements, and put them back into the business
- Training and experience expectations for leadership (must be certain level to get promotion)
Although TQM is no longer the key methodology behind improvement programs today, it is important to remember the history and structure of TQM. We don’t want to drift away from the beneficial building blocks it provides, so we don’t forget what made it a successful approach for many years, and make sure we leverage those strengths in our Lean and Six Sigma program.
If you’d like to learn more about Six Sigma, check out the video series >>>