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Total Quality Management (TQM): What It Is, How It Works

What is Total Quality Management (TQM)?

Total Quality Management (TQM) involves an ongoing procedure of identifying and minimising mistakes in manufacturing, aiming to streamline supply chain operations, enhance customer satisfaction, and maintain employee proficiency through consistent training. The primary goal of TQM is to establish accountability among all contributors in the production cycle for the ultimate quality of the end product or service.

Understanding Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management constitutes a methodical framework for comprehensive organisational administration. Its primary objective involves enhancing the quality of an organisation’s deliverables, encompassing products and services, by consistently refining internal methodologies. The criteria established within the TQM framework can encompass internal priorities and align with prevalent industry benchmarks.

Industry standards encompass diverse tiers of definition and may involve compliance with legal statutes and regulations governing a specific business’s operations. Furthermore, industry standards encompass conforming to established benchmarks in production, even if these benchmarks lack official regulatory backing. Evaluation through acceptance sampling could be employed to monitor advancements toward achieving TQM objectives.

History of TQM

The history of TQM can be traced back to the early 1900s when Walter A. Shewhart introduced contemporary quality control methods. Shewhart’s groundbreaking industrial contribution, the Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product, published in 1931, is regarded as a foundational text in manufacturing quality control principles.

Shewhart’s pioneering work laid the groundwork for subsequent advancements in quality management. In 1954, Joseph M. Juran authored What Is Total Quality Control? The Japanese Way, drawing from his experiences in Japan where he had been invited by local scientists and engineers. Juran’s influential work extended further with the co-authorship of the widely acclaimed Quality Planning and Analysis, a prominent addition to the TQM literature.

Another notable figure in the history of TQM is W. Edwards Deming. Following the Second World War, Deming was stationed in Japan and collaborated closely with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers (JUSE). His significant contributions encompassed the formulation of various TQM frameworks such as Deming’s 14 Points, Deming’s Seven Deadly Diseases of Management, and The Deming Wheel.

The precise inception of the term “total quality management” remains uncertain, yet the outlined parties are acknowledged for their contributions to shaping the overarching idea.

Primary Principles of TQM

TQM, a customer-centric approach, concentrates on continuously enhancing the management of business operations. It aims to align all staff members towards shared objectives of enhancing both product/service quality and refining existing production procedures. TQM is delineated by numerous guiding principles.

Customer-centric Focus

TQM revolves around understanding and fulfilling customer needs and expectations. It involves conducting market research, gathering feedback, and aligning products or services to match or exceed customer desires. Companies adopting TQM prioritise customer satisfaction as a core metric for success, aiming not just to meet but to exceed expectations to build lasting relationships.

Dedication from Employees

Employee involvement is crucial in TQM. This principle focuses on empowering employees at all levels to contribute ideas, identify problems, and participate in decision-making processes. By fostering a culture where employees feel valued and encouraged to take ownership, organisations benefit from diverse perspectives, increased motivation, and a shared commitment to quality goals.

Continued Improvement

TQM helps develop a culture of continuous improvement or Kaizen in Japanese workplace culture. It involves regularly reviewing processes, identifying inefficiencies or areas for enhancement, and implementing changes to achieve incremental improvements. Continuous improvement ensures that organisations remain adaptive and responsive to changing market dynamics while striving for operational excellence.

Adherence to Processes

Standardised processes are the foundation of TQM. Organisations establish and document clear procedures and guidelines to ensure consistency in delivering quality products or services. By adhering to a standardised process, companies can reduce the threat of errors and variability, and enhance overall quality, fostering trust and reliability in their offerings.

Strategic and Methodical Approach

TQM aligns quality initiatives with broader organisational strategies by merging quality considerations into all facets of business planning, decision-making, and goal setting. Making quality a strategic priority can help organisations ensure that every action and decision contributes to achieving overall quality objectives.

Utilisation of Data

TQM relies on data-driven decision-making by collecting, analysing, and interpreting relevant data to gain insights into performance, customer preferences, and process efficiencies. This approach enables organisations to make sound decisions, identify improvement areas, and measure the impact of changes on quality metrics.

System Integration 

TQM emphasises the interconnectedness and synergy between different systems within an organisation. It involves integrating various departments, processes, and functions to work together towards common quality goals.  


Effective communication is fundamental in TQM in the sense it involves fostering open, transparent, and two-way channels across all levels of the organisation. Clear communication ensures that goals, expectations, and feedback are conveyed effectively.

How to Implement TQM

TQM embodies a distinctive process without a one-size-fits-all approach applicable to every business or industry. However, one can devise a checklist addressing pertinent issues tailored to their enterprise and proceed methodically. While some checklist items may align with your business, others might not; hence, choose those that promise an advantage.

  • Recognise your company’s prevailing culture, core values, and operational systems.
  • Utilise this insight to create a comprehensive system serving as your blueprint.
  • Determine the expectations and needs of your customers and clients, striving to fulfil them effectively.
  • Form a management team dedicated to steering and executing your objectives, integrating these endeavours into your daily business management process.
  • Constantly gather feedback from both employees and customers to assess your progress.

Advantages and Disadvantages of TQM

Implementing TQM leads to cost-effective production for companies when executed effectively. Businesses embracing TQM tend to deliver more reliable products, fostering stronger customer allegiance by prioritising quality while reducing wastage.

Given TQM’s comprehensive reach within an organisation, substantial cost savings can be realised across various facets like procurement, manufacturing, logistics, and administrative operations. Companies adept in TQM usually display increased adaptability to change and exhibit proactive strategies to avoid becoming outdated.

To fully harness the advantages of TQM, a company needs to wholeheartedly adopt its principles, requiring robust participation from all departments. Achieving this level of commitment is immensely challenging, demanding significant financial investment and the involvement of management at all levels.

The transition to TQM might be prolonged, encountering resistance from employees resistant to change. Companies might need to overhaul processes, personnel, machinery, or resources to embrace an untested or partially developed TQM framework. Skilled employees might opt to depart if they feel their expertise isn’t adequately utilised within TQM procedures.

Industries Using TQM

TQM emerged initially within manufacturing but boasts adaptable principles suitable for various industries. It offers a unified approach towards holistic transformation, prioritising sustained progress over immediate objectives. The widespread utilisation of TQM spans multiple sectors like manufacturing, banking, finance, and medicine, with a focus on enduring change.

These methodologies are applicable across every facet within an organisation, guaranteeing alignment of all staff with the company’s objectives while enhancing efficiency across departments. This inclusive approach extends to administrative functions, marketing strategies, production processes, and employee development programs.

Example of Total Quality Management

Arguably the most renowned instance of Total Quality Management can be observed in Toyota’s adoption of the kanban system. A kanban serves as a tangible signal triggering a sequence of actions. Toyota used this concept to establish its just-in-time (JIT) inventory approach.

The decision was made to maintain inventory at a level sufficient to fulfil customer orders as they emerged, thereby streamlining its assembly line. Therefore, every segment of Toyota’s assembly line is allocated a physical card linked to an inventory number.

As a part is about to be installed in a car, the card is removed and forwarded up the supply chain, effectively signalling the need for another identical part. This method enables the company to maintain a trim inventory without unnecessarily stocking surplus assets. Efficient quality management led to the production of superior automobiles that could be manufactured at a reasonable cost.


Total Quality Management is a strategic structure that motivates all members within an organisation to prioritise enhancing quality. Its premise revolves around the belief that operational excellence leads to increased customer satisfaction. TQM encompasses various guiding principles, all aimed at the ultimate goal of eliminating mistakes, optimising workflows, and achieving peak efficiency.

DISCLAIMER: This article is for informational purposes only.


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