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. While there is no widely agreed-upon approach, TQM efforts typically draw heavily on the previously-developed tools and techniques of quality control. TQM enjoyed widespread attention during the late 1980s and early 1990s before being overshadowed by ISO 9000, Lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma.
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.
In the spring of 1984, an arm of the United States Navy asked some of its civilian researchers to assess statistical process control and the work of several prominent quality consultants and to make recommendations as to how to apply their approaches to improve the Navy's operational effectiveness. The recommendation was to adopt the teachings of W. Edwards Deming. The Navy branded the effort "Total Quality Management" in 1985.[A]
From the Navy, TQM spread throughout the US Federal Government, resulting in the following:
The private sector followed suit, flocking to TQM not only as a means to recapture market share from the Japanese, but also to remain competitive when bidding for contracts from the Federal Government since "total quality" requires involving suppliers, not just employees, in process improvement efforts.
There is no widespread agreement as to what TQM is and what actions it requires of organizations, however a review of the original United States Navy effort gives a rough understanding of what is involved in TQM.
The key concepts in the TQM effort undertaken by the Navy in the 1980s include:
"Quality is defined by customers' requirements."
"Top management has direct responsibility for quality improvement."
"Increased quality comes from systematic analysis and improvement of work processes."
"Quality improvement is a continuous effort and conducted throughout the organization."
"Total Quality Management (TQM) in the Department of Defense is a strategy for continuously improving performance at every level, and in all areas of responsibility. It combines fundamental management techniques, existing improvement efforts, and specialized technical tools under a disciplined structure focused on continuously improving all processes. Improved performance is directed at satisfying such broad goals as cost, quality, schedule, and mission need and suitability. Increasing user satisfaction is the overriding objective. The TQM effort builds on the pioneering work of Dr. W. E. Deming, Dr. J. H. Juran, and others, and benefits from both private and public sector experience with continuous process improvement."
"A management approach of an organisation centred on quality, based on the participation of all its members and aiming at long term success through customer satisfaction and benefits to all members of the organisation and society."
"A term first used to describe a management approach to quality improvement. Since then, TQM has taken on many meanings. Simply put, it is a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction. TQM is based on all members of an organization participating in improving processes, products, services and the culture in which they work. The methods for implementing this approach are found in the teachings of such quality leaders as Philip B. Crosby, W. Edwards Deming, Armand V. Feigenbaum, Kaoru Ishikawa and Joseph M. Juran."
In the United States, the Baldridge Award, created by Public Law 100-107, annually recognizes American businesses, educational institutions, and healthcare organizations that run high-quality operations. Organizations are judged on criteria from seven categories:
How do you obtain information on your customers’ satisfaction relative to their satisfaction with your competitors?
How do you select, collect, align, and integrate data and information for tracking daily operations?
How do you manage your workforce, its needs, and your needs to ensure continuity, prevent workforce reductions, and minimize the impact of workforce reductions, if they do become necessary?
Joseph M. Juran believed the Baldrige Award judging criteria to be the most widely accepted description of what TQM entails.:650
During the 1990s, standards bodies in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, and the United Kingdom attempted to standardize TQM. While many of these standards have since been explicitly withdrawn, they all are effectively superseded by ISO 9000:
TQM as a vaguely-defined quality management approach was largely supplanted by the ISO 9000 collection of standards and their formal certification processes in the 1990s. Business interest in quality improvement under the TQM name also faded as Jack Welch's success attracted attention to Six Sigma and Toyota's success attracted attention to Lean manufacturing, though the three share many of the same tools, techniques, and significant portions of the same philosophy.
^ The Navy rebranded its effort "Total Quality Leadership" in 1990.
^Creech, Bill (1994), The Five Pillars of TQM: How to Make Total Quality Management Work for You, New York: Truman Talley Books/Dutton, p. 153, ISBN9780525937258, OCLC28508067, "...the DOD took steps to extend its reach to the thousands of vendors who sell to the department... Thus was born the DOD's TQM outreach program to all its vendors, large and small. And the TQM banners went up all over America."
^Holmes, Ken (1992), Total Quality Management, Leatherhead, United Kingdom: Pira International, Ltd., p. 10, ISBN9781858020112, OCLC27644834, "Ask ten people what TQM is and you will hear ten different answers. There is no specification or standard for it, or certification programme to proclaim that you have it. What we understand by TQM probably depends on which of the thought leaders, (often referred to as 'gurus') we have come across."
^Creech, Bill (1994), The Five Pillars of TQM: How to Make Total Quality Management Work for You, New York: Truman Talley Books/Dutton, p. 4, ISBN9780525937258, OCLC28508067, "In fact, the term TQM has become so widely used that it has become the number one buzzphrase to describe a new type of quality-oriented management. Thus, the name TQM now covers a very broad tent encompassing all sorts of management practices. In my management advisory activities I run into scores of these different programs all parading under the same name. Few are alike, and those varied programs have a wide variety of features—a mixture of the old and the new—with, in more cases than not, very little of the new. ... However, I have forewarned you there are almost as many different TQM programs as there are companies that have started them because that creates confusion about what to do in your own case."