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Total Quality Management: Principles For Continuous Improvement

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What is Total Quality Management?

Total Quality Management (also known as TQM) is a blanket term that encompasses a lot of actions and frameworks. The core philosophy behind TQM is that an organization should make efforts to “install and make permanent climate where employees continuously improve their ability to provide on demand products and services that customers will find of particular value”. If you think that’s a bit of a mouthful and is slightly confusing you’re not alone, it’s a tricky thing to put into words. TQM is concerned with internal processes of an organization, shaping and streamlining them so that your business’ output is improved.

The general idea is that managers should build a framework by which sustainable levels of excellence are achieved, then continue to refine that process as new information becomes available. It’s an evolving view of things, where you look to reduce errors and to keep your employees up to speed. There’s a similar approach called Six Sigma which looks at reducing defects caused by the processes your business might employ, but TQM is concerned with the human factor rather than the faults in the processes themselves. The key point of TQM is that it’s ongoing, it never stops. There are always things you can be doing to improve, and new errors will crop up as your operations expand – think of it as an outlook on the way your business is run rather than a job that can be ticked off.

Why is Total Quality Management Important?

TQM is customer-focused, with the emphasis being placed on improving your output and increasing the quality of service you provide. It’s a crucial element to include in any kind of branding or marketing, with the idea that you put your customers first being one of the main driving factors behind customer retention and expansion.

The core tenets of TQM are aimed at increasing your excellence, and to that end a positive experience with both your customers and your employees is necessary. Employee empowerment is a great example of TQM in practise, as employees with a greater range of autonomy will both feel more valued and thus increase their efforts, and allow them to provide suggestions of their own for improvement that you might not think of yourself. This has a knock-on effect of increasing your organization’s quality overall while decreasing your overall costs due to fewer errors. In short, TQM’s effects are cumulative, with the overall end goal being a more productive, better-viewed and more profitable business.

How You Can Implement Total Quality Management

This all sounds very well and good, but TQM is a vague term that you might not completely understand how to implement yourself. After all, if you don’t have the slightest clue where to begin the process can’t go anywhere no matter how hard you work at it. Here are a few tools you can use to utilize TQM in your business, and the basic process that you should follow.

  • The Process

TQM is a top-down strategy, with your first step being to educate your highest levels about the aims and potential tools. Your organization should be analyzed with TQM in mind in order to see how your quality management systems function, and also to log overall customer satisfaction. By connecting the two you can see where improvements need to be made, and prioritize consumer demands in your plans. As TQM is an on-going process, you need to re-analyze and re-strategize at future times in order to see what changes worked and what didn’t – a truly explorative approach.

  • The Tools

Of course, no plan would be complete without its diagrams and schematics. There are a variety of things you can use, from cause and effect diagrams (also known as fishbone diagrams) that map out where problems arise and allow you to trace their origins, to control charts and check sheets that let you oversee whether processes are being implemented properly. The overall aim of these tools is to manage things in a quantitative way, so numerical based charts and spreadsheets are your friends here. Scatter diagrams can show you correlations that you might never have noticed before too – great for spotting indirect sources of errors.

Some Examples of Total Quality Management

Probably the most well-known example of TQM is that of the Kaizen philosophy created by Toyota. It’s an example which is both individualized and collectivized, as whilst individual employees are allowed to suggest improvements to the production line and held responsible for elimination of waste from their station, it’s also based in the group mentality that everyone is better off co-operating and assisting where needed. In short, while each employee is responsible for implementing (and altering where needed) improvements to their individual responsibilities, they are all ultimately working towards the same end goal of improving production quality.

Another great example that you might be familiar with is that of the Ford Motor Company, who implemented TQM back in the 1980’s. They created their Quality Operating System (QOS) which was critical in identifying and correcting problems within their manufacturing facilities and beyond. Their approach began with customer expectations using them as a launching point for ideas as to how to improve their performances, but also began to predict performances further downstream by tracking trends and expectations. This made them a giant in the industry known for their quality, as what better way is there to produce quality products and services than by predicting your consumers’ next requirements or desires?

While these are both examples on an industrial scale, the same lines of thought can be applied to any business, big or small. It doesn’t take much to begin the process other than a knowledge of who your customers are and what they’re after, so total quality management is definitely something you should implement within your business.