Basic Principles of Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management ensures maximum effectiveness and efficiency within a business and secures commercial leadership by putting in place process and systems which will promote excellence and prevent errors. It ensures that every aspect of the business is aligned to the customer needs and the advancement of business goals without duplication or waste of efforts.

Different companies have different approaches to implement Total Quality Management (TQM). The following principles (which are common to all companies) must be adhered for the successful Total Quality Management (TQM) implementation:

  1. Continuous improvement. TQM is a long-term process that entails achieving improvements in the company’s operations. This means that management should establish targets for improvement and measure progress by using reliable criteria. The quest for quality and better service to the customer should be a continual, never-ending one. Competitors will seek to provide better service and customers will come to expect it. Hence, to cease improvement efforts will likely lead to loss of competitive advantage and a decreased level of customer satisfaction.
  2. Customer focus. In TQM, the customer is believed to be the ultimate judge of quality. Therefore, the company must remain close to the customer and understand how he or she views and judges quality.
  3. Strategic planning and leadership. Achieving quality and market leadership requires a viable competitive strategy that outlines goals and desired outcomes. Moreover, senior executives should be responsible for introducing and supporting TQM programs.
  4. Competitive benchmarking. This means identifying companies or other organizations that are the best at something and then modeling your own organization after them. The company need not be in the same line of business as yours.
  5. Employee empowerment. TQM is based on humanistic management principles that suggest employee involvement and participation is essential for success. Giving workers the responsibility for improvements and the authority to make changes to accomplish them provides strong motivation for employees. This puts decision making into the hands of those who are closest to the job and have considerable insight into problems and solutions. Empowered to bring about changes in their workplace, employees can creatively contribute to their company’s well being.
  6. Teamwork approach. The use of teams for problem solving and to achieve consensus takes advantage of group thinking, gets people involved, and promotes a spirit of cooperation and shared values among employees. Further, teamwork creates opportunities for learning and exchanging ideas.
  7. Knowledge of tools. Everyone in the organization is trained in the use of quality control and improvement tools.

The entire organization must be subject to the search for improved ways of performing; nothing should be regarded as sacred or untouchable. A sometimes helpful view is to consider the internal customers and strive to satisfy them; that is, every activity in an organization has one or more customers who receive its output. By thinking in terms of what is needed to satisfy these customers, it is often possible to improve the system and, in doing so, increase the satisfaction of the final customer.

Extended Principles of Total Quality Management (TQM)

Total Quality Management principles can be better explained by examining those companies which have been successful like companies which have won the Malcolm Baldrige Award winners in the USA like Motorola; the Deming Prize winners like Toyota; and The European Quality Award winners like Corning. On examining these companies, we find that the following fundamentals of TQM are common in each of these award wining international companies.

  1. Putting the Customer First: Achieving customer satisfaction is at the heart of total quality management. This principle supports the traditional view that the “customer is king”. If a company cannot satisfy its customers, another company will. Processes and products must be designed with one thing in mind – satisfying the customer. Companies in India must move from a “product-out” mentality (i.e. pushing a product or service-out) to a “customer-in” attitude (i.e., providing the product or service that customers expect, or better yet, beyond what they expect). These days the emphasis has shifted form the customer satisfaction to delighting the customer. The Indian companies in order to succeed in global competition are to adapt to this latest version of customer focus.
  2. Management by Fact: The second principle which TQM companies world over the adopting these days is management by fact. This principle is difficult to institutionalize, because every employee in an organisation has opinions, views and notions about how things should be done. They may tell you what the root cause of a problem is but may not give you the facts for solving the problem. This ways people may become the part of the problem itself rather than solvers. Facts are far better than opinions, although opinions, views and views and ideas cannot be ignored. In Indian organizations striving for TQM, senior and middle management, supervisors and employees should all be taught basic statistical techniques and the importance of facts in solving problems. In most Indian organizations, a por decision making process exists and thus it produces poor decisions. If every employee is trained in basic statistical techniques, it will dramatically improve decision making. Decision making must be based on facts that are data. Japanese industry vehemently used simple tools of statistics to solve not only their day-to-day but also major problems. Thus, they could achieve excellence.
  3. Principle of Continuous Improvement: The plan-do-check-Act (PDCA) principle is another essential tool for implementing a TQM programme successfully in Indian organizations. The PDCA also referred to as the “Deming Wheel” is the principle of continuous improvement. Most Indian companies do not have practices  in place that force continuous improvement. Following the PDCA principle would force the organizations in India to examine their business processes. Check is the most important step in processes against a standard and stated business objective. Practice of the PDCA cycle generates numerous opportunities for further improvement. A systematic process for examining how to improve things is necessary successful application of TQM. Because condition are never as good as they might be in any business. Managers should never be satisfied with the status quo. Becoming complacent will allow competitors to win; but by following the PDCA principle they can guard against this complacency. Thus all Indian business organizations implementing TQM must follow the principle of PDCA for their future success. Japanese companies have the PDCA principle as their main forte for improvement
  4. Focus on Prevention: Indian Companies like Telco, Philips, etc, which have mastered TQM realized that solving problems is the firs step in making improvement. These Indian companies realized that until methods are instituted to prevent the recurrence of problems, long-lasting results can not be achieved. Most companies in India do not understand this fundamental principle and generally end up solving the same problem over and over again. That is they keep on inventing the wheel again and again. The companies must ensure that problems are solved once for all and recurrence of these problems is prevented.
  5. Principle of Employee Involvement: Surrounding the above four fundamental principles are two others that relate to how people should work together. Sometimes, this principle is referred to as respect for people. In some Indian business organizations, still the workers and employees are treated as persons with brawn only and not with brain. This was the traditional way o exploiting the workers.  For becoming TQM Company, we have to respect and optimally use employees’ brainpower along with their technical skills and physical power. Most employees have very good minds and can contribute creatively if recognized. The companies must start aping employees’ innovative and exciting ideas. Employees know about problems within the business much better and can help solve them. Successful TQM companies world over recognize that workers’ energy, enthusiasm, and value to the company can be limitless given the proper forum where their ideas can be expressed, and given the proper respect for their abilities. Thus Indian business organisation must start applying this TQM principle for increasing their effectiveness.
  6. Principle of Cross-functional Management: Cross-functional management recognizes that no organizational unit can by itself control every aspect of the business operation to ensure that the customer’s requirements are met. Cross-functional management is a method of cooperating across functional organizational boundaries – interacting with each other to make sure that the product or service meets the quality standards that are set. Indian organisatoins may take sometime to fully appreciate the power of this  foundational principles of TQM, Because there may be a feeling that each managers in his/her department is functioning well. Generally, there may be every person for him/herself focus. They are interested in getting their jobs done and don’t bother about others. With the application of this principle and more decentralized approach, managers will be able to control the resources necessary to satisfy customers. Thus there would be improvement in customer satisfaction and cost savings.  Slowly on implementation of TQM, Indian manages will understand and realize the meaning and application of cross-functional management. Communication among departments will improve. Cross-functional management techniques would reduce design time, improve product and service quality and build a sense of mission among company employees. this principle is very powerful as it aligns the vectors so that everyone and everything is going in the same direction. In the absence of this principle, no other approach for TQM can be successful.

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