Author: Jim Riley Last updated: Sunday 23 September, 2012
Total quality management is a popular "quality management" concept.
However, it is about much more than just
assuring product or service quality. TQM is a business philosophy - a way
of doing business. It describes ways to managing people and business processes
to ensure complete customer satisfaction at
every stage. TQM is often associated with the phrase - "doing the right
things right, first time". This revision note summarises the main features
Like most quality management concepts, TQM views "quality" entirely from
the point of view of "the customer".
All businesses have many types of customer. A customer can be someone "internal"
to the business (e.g. a production employee working at the end of the production
line is the "customer" of the employees involved earlier in the production
A customer can also be "external to the business. This is the kind of customer
you will be familiar with. When you fly with an airline you are their customer.
When Tesco's buys products from food manufacturers, it is a customer.
TQM recognises that all businesses require "processes" that enable customer
requirements to be met. TQM focuses on the ways in which these processes
can be managed - with two key objectives:
100% customer satisfaction
The Importance of Customer - Supplier Relationships - "Quality Chains"
TQM focuses strongly on the importance of the relationship between customers
(internal and external) and supplier. These are known as the "quality
chains” and they can be broken at any point by one person or one piece of equipment
not meeting the requirements of the customer. Failure to meet the requirements
in any part of a quality chain has a way of multiplying, and failure in one
part of the system creates problems elsewhere,
leading to yet more failure and problems, and so the situation is exacerbated.
The ability to meet customers’ (external and internal) requirements
is vital. To achieve quality throughout a business, every person in
quality chain must be trained to ask the following questions about every
Who are my customers?
• What are their real needs and expectations?
• How can I measure my ability to meet their needs and expectations?
• Do I have the capability to meet their needs and expectations? (If not,
what must I do to improve this capability?)
• Do I continually meet their needs and expectations? (If not, what prevents
this from happening when the capability exists?)
• How do I monitor changes in their needs and expectations?
• Who are my internal suppliers?
• What are my true needs and expectations?
• How do I communicate my needs and expectations to my suppliers?
• Do my suppliers have the capability to measure and meet these needs and
• How do I inform them of changes in my needs and expectations?
Main Principles of TQM
The main principles that underlie TQM are summarised below:
Prevention is better
than cure. In the long run, it is cheaper to stop products defects
than trying to find them
The ultimate aim is no (zero)
defects - or exceptionally low defect levels if a product or service
Getting things right first time
Better not to produce at all than produce something
Quality involves everyone
Quality is not just the concern of the production or
operations department - it involves everyone, including marketing,
finance and human resources
Businesses should always be looking for ways to improve
processes to help quality
Those involved in production and operations have a vital
role to play in spotting improvement opportunities for quality and
in identifying quality problems
Introducing TQM into a Business
TQM is not an easy concept to introduce into businesses - particularly those
that have not traditionally concerned themselved too much with understanding
customer needs and business processes. In fact - many attempts to introduce
One of the reasons for the challenge of introducing TQM is that it has significant
implications for the whole business.
For example, it requires that management give employees a say in the production
processes that they are involved in. In a culture of continuous improvement,
workforce views are invaluable. The problem is - many businesses have barriers
to involvement. For example, middle managers may feel that their authority
is being challenged.
So "empowerment" is a crucial part of TQM. The key to success is to identify
the management culture before attempting to install TQM and to take steps
the management style required
for it. Since culture is not the first thing that managers think about, this
step has often been missed or ignored with resultant failure of a TQM strategy.
TQM also focuses the business on the activities of the business that are
closest to the customer - e.g. the production department, the employees facing
the customer. This can cause resentment amongst departments that previously
considered themselves "above" the shop floor.