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Total Quality Management, also known as TQM, is a comprehensive management approach to achieving long-term success by satisfying customers. TQM can be implemented in all types of organizations. Employees, regardless of their positions, can participate in TQM activities by improving processes, products, services, and the culture in which they work.

A typical TQM management adopts an overview of quality and concentrates on preventing product defects and process problems. The management team needs to change their own mindset and encourage the team to do follow suit. Ideally, TQM integrates a quality culture and quality discipline using effective communication tools.



The Four Levels of the Total Quality Management Evolution

How did TQM evolve through the years? Most professionals and organizations have witnessed the evolution of TQM. It started with the inspection stage and evolved through inspection stages, quality control, and quality assurance into what today is modern TQM.



Infographic that shows that four levels of the Total Quality Management Evolution | Scilife



Level 1. Inspection

This is the first and basic level of the TQM evolution. It includes measuring the characteristics of a product and its specifications.

Inspection focuses on the examination, measurement, testing, and assessment of the characteristics of a product, service, or activity and compares them with the appropriate standards to assess its conformity.


Level 2. Quality Control

Quality control focuses on the quality of the products.


Level 3. Quality Assurance

Quality assurance, also known as QA, focuses primarily on products and processes. QA activities contain creating and maintaining procedures to ensure that the product is manufactured as described in the procedures.


Level 4. Total Quality Management

TQM focuses on the entire organization as one and promotes the organization to use four main stages in the evolution of TQM.


Elements of Total Quality Management

The highest quality level is composed of eight elements. Usually, organizations define these elements as a part of their principles or core values. The implementation methods of elements come from the teachings of quality leaders like P. B. Crosby, W. E. Deming, A.V. Feigenbaum, K. Ishikawa, and J. M. Juran.

What are these elements? Let’s have a closer look!


I. Customer-Focused

Regardless of the product, the customer ultimately defines the level of the product quality. Hence, organizations should listen to and define current and future customer needs and strive to exceed these expectations. If customers are satisfied, what you did to improve your product quality was very well worth it!


II. Total Employee Involvement

All employees should be working toward common objectives. Employees at all levels are the essence of the organization, and their full involvement can magnify their abilities for the organization’s benefit to improve processes, products, services, and company culture.


III. Process-Centered

A process consists of a set of activities by taking inputs and turning them into outputs. Usually, TQM focuses on the process in order to improve it. Process steps are carried out according to predefined instructions, which are controlled and monitored periodically so that any unexpected defect can be easily found. With the process-centered approach of TQM, expected results are achieved more efficiently.

IV. Integrated Systems

Every organization has a unique work culture, and achieving excellence in its products and services is virtually impossible without fostering a good quality culture. The focus of TQM is to connect different functions into an integrated system. This system combines business improvement elements to continually improve and exceed the expectations.


V. Strategic and Systematic Approach

With this approach, an organization's vision, mission, and goals become achievable. Strategic planning, or strategic management, incorporates the formulation of a strategic plan that integrates quality as a core component.


VI. Continuous Improvement

As part of the continuous improvement process, an organization must employ both analytical techniques and creative thinking to enhance its competitiveness and performance in meeting expectations.


VII. Fact-Based Decision Making

The performance of an organization can be measured using data on performance measures. As a result of using TQM, an organization must constantly collect and analyze data to improve decision-making accuracy, reach consensus, and make predictions based on historical data.


VIII. Communications

As an organization evolves through change, communication plays a crucial role in maintaining morale and encouraging employees. Communications can focus on strategies, methods, and timeliness.



Infographic of the Total Quality Management (TQM) Principles | Scilife


The Four Ps and Three Cs – a Total Quality Management Model

This model is based on a comprehensive and scientific approach to TQM. It provides a simple framework for excellent performance, covering all angles and aspects of an organization and its operations.


The Four Ps

The four Ps provide the “hard management necessities.” The four Ps of Planning, Processes, and People are the keys to delivering quality products and services to the customers and improving overall Performance:


1. Planning

Planning includes the development and deployment of policies and strategies, setting up appropriate partnerships and resources, and designing with quality in mind.

2. Processes

Processes include understanding, management, design/redesign, quality management systems, and continuous improvement.

3. People

People include managing human resources, culture change, teamwork, communications, innovation, and learning.

4. Performance

Performance includes establishing a performance measure framework – a ‘balanced scorecard’ for the organization, carrying out self-assessment, audits, reviews, and benchmarking.


The Three Cs

The three Cs – culture, communication, and commitment – provide “soft outcomes” for the TQM model.

Do not underestimate the importance of the three Cs!

The TQM model is complete once “soft outcomes” are integrated into the four Ps framework, so that the model can successfully move organizations forward:


1. Culture

Create values and ethics to support the development of a total quality culture and ensure that creative and learning activities are developed and implemented.

2. Communication

Communicate the vision, mission, policies, and strategies. Consistently promote communication and collaboration.

3. Commitment

Participate personally and actively in the quality and improvement activities of your organization.



Infographic of the Four Ps and Three Cs Framework for Total Quality Management (TQM) | Scilife  


Key TQM Practices

The following 16 key TQM practices were repeatedly found to lead to higher organizational performance. The practices are presented here in order of how often they are cited in scientific literature:


  1. Customer focus/involvement
  2. Employee involvement/workforce commitment
  3. Process management
  4. Strategic quality planning
  5. Leadership
  6. Human resource management
  7. Strong support by leadership
  8. Supplier management
  9. Information and analysis
  10. Employee empowerment
  11. Continuous improvement cycles
  12. Product/process design
  13. Process quality
  14. Benchmarking
  15. Training
  16. Shared vision
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