Total Quality Management


“Quality means doing it right when no one is looking”- Henry Ford

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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the developed countries of North America and Western Europe suffered economically in the face of stiff competition from Japan's ability to produce high-quality goods at competitive cost. For the first time since the start of the Industrial Revolution, the United Kingdom became a net importer of finished goods. The United States undertook its own soul-searching, expressed most pointedly in the television broadcast of 'If Japan Can... Why Can't We?'. Firms began reexamining the techniques of quality control invented over the past 50 years and how those techniques had been so successfully employed by the Japanese. It was in the midst of this economic turmoil that TQM took root.

The exact origin of the term 'Total Quality Management' is uncertain. It may have been first coined in the United Kingdom by the Department of Trade and Industry during its 1983 'National Quality Campaign'. Or it may have been first coined in the United States by the Naval Air Systems Command to describe its quality improvement efforts in 1985.


Total Quality Management (TQM) consists of organization-wide efforts to install and make permanent a climate in which an organization continuously improves its ability to deliver high-quality products and services to customers. TQM is the continuous process of reducing or eliminating errors in manufacturing, streamlining supply chain management, improving the customer experience and ensuring that employees are up-to-speed with their training. Total quality management aims to hold all parties involved in the production process as accountable for the overall quality of the final product or service.

In layman’s terms, the expression “high quality” can be equated simply to “good”. However, an organization that is committed to high quality has “consistency to a standard” as its primary objective, complemented by “continuous improvement”.

Quality management, therefore, starts with a definition of the standards that have to be followed, along with a mechanism for compliance to these standards. The standards may be officially published by an industry organization, statutory requirements for a certain kind of product, specifications by a purchaser, or self-imposed standards of the producer. Most likely, producers and service organizations will seek to comply with a combination of all these standards.

Total Quality Management adds the mechanisms and processes to ensure continuous improvement, using all possible sources to aid this improvement and ensuring a well-informed and methodical approach to select and enact improvement. Typically, the elements to achieve this are considered to be customer focus, employee involvement, process thinking, system integration, strategic and systematic approach, continuous process improvement, fact based decision-making and organizational communications.

Process of Total Quality Management

1. Plan- In the planning phase, people define the problem to be addressed, collect relevant data, and ascertain the problem's root cause.

2. Do- In this phase, people develop and implement a solution, and decide upon a measurement to gauge its effectiveness.

3. Check- In the checking phase, people confirm the results through before-and-after data comparison.

4. Act- In the acting phase, people document their results, inform others about process changes, and make recommendations for the problem to be addressed in the next PDCA cycle.

Tools for TQM

1. Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle suggests that most effects come from relatively few causes. Pareto charts can be used to compare 'before and after' situations. The general use is to decide where to apply initial effort for maximum effect.

2. Scatter Plots

A scatter plot is effectively a line graph with no line i.e. the intersections between the two data sets are plotted, but no attempt is made to physically draw a line.

3. Control Charts

Also known as Shewhart charts or process-behavior charts, is a statistical process control tool used to determine if a manufacturing or business process is in a state of statistical control.

4. Flow Charts

Pictures, symbols or text coupled with lines, arrows on lines show direction of flow. Enables modeling of processes, problems/opportunities and decision points etc. Develops a common understanding of a process by those involved. No particular standardization of symbols, so communication to a different audience may require considerable time and explanation.

5. Cause and Effect (Fishbone, Ishikawa Diagram)

The cause-and-effect diagram is a method for analyzing process dispersion. The diagram's purpose is to relate causes and effects. It is excellent for capturing team brainstorming output. It helps organize and relate factors and for providing a sequential view. It deals with time direction but not quantity. It can become very complex and can be difficult to identify or demonstrate interrelationships.

6. Histogram

A Histogram is a graphic summary of variation in a set of data. It enables us to see patterns that are difficult to see in a simple table of numbers. It can be analyzed to draw conclusions about the data set.

7. Check Sheets

A check sheet is a data recording form that has been designed to readily interpret results from the form itself. It needs to be designed for the specific data it is to gather. It is mostly used for the collection of quantitative or qualitative repetitive data. It is adaptable to different data gathering situations. Minimal interpretation of results required. Easy and quick to use. No control for various forms of bias - exclusion, interaction, perception, operational, non-response, estimation.

8. Checklists

A Checklist contains items that are important or relevant to a specific issue or situation. Checklists are used under operational conditions to ensure that all important steps or actions have been taken. Their primary purpose is for guiding operations, not for collecting data. Generally used to check that all aspects of a situation have been taken into account before action or decision making. It is simple and effective.