Total Quality Management (TQM)

What is TQM?

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management approach and framework used to develop and maintain sustainable levels of excellence in companies to establish elevated customer satisfaction. TQM aims to eliminate waste and increase efficiency. This is achieved by ensuring all employees are involved in providing continuous delivery of quality services to meet or exceed requirements. 

What Are the Principles of TQM?

TQM success is gained by following these fundamental principles.

  • Continuous improvement: Companies should continuously work toward improving optimal efficiency, quality, and complete customer satisfaction.
  • Company culture: A TQM mindset should be embedded throughout a company’s culture.
  • Customer focus: Use customer feedback and behavior to set expectations about the quality of products or services and to improve the deliverables.  
  • Informed decision-making: Decisions about quality should be made based on facts, using data gathering and analysis as guidance.
  • Involve all employees: Every employee should have a hand in actively identifying and resolving quality-related issues.
  • Executive leadership: Executive leaders should drive TQM throughout the business to ensure its success using a plan, do, check, act approach.
  • Methodology and technology: The appropriate methodology and technologies should be deployed to identify problems, address issues, and measure success.
  • Training: All employees should receive the needed training to ensure they are up to date on the standard of quality.

Why is TQM Important?

Quality is a crucial element in developing and maintaining positive visibility for any brand. In addition to aligning an entire business culture with a mindset focused on excellence, TQM also leads to achieving: 

  • Employee empowerment
  • Fewer product defects
  • Decreased costs
  • Heightened customer satisfaction
  • Stronger customer loyalty 
  • Repeat business/return customers
  • Increased revenue
  • Additional customers
  • Increased opportunities 
  • Increased market share

Six Sigma in TQM

Six Sigma is a quality management methodology developed by Motorola to improve processes, products, or services. It helps to discover and reduce or eliminate defects, intending to streamline quality controls to minimize variances throughout.

TQM Examples

Three notable examples of companies that successfully implemented TQM are Ford Motor Company, Motorola, and Toyota.

Ford Motor Company

Ford began to practice TQM back in the 1980s. Ford Motor Company had a vision of developing better products, a more stable environment, effective management, and profitability by the 1990s. Art Hyde, Ford’s Chief Engineer, expanded on the Six Sigma methodology a step further by using the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) process to catch and fix problems that previously may not have surfaced until launch. 

Ford’s Quality Operating System (QOS) was also critical in identifying and correcting problems within the manufacturing facilities. Six Sigma and QOS were put in place all across Ford to solve issues with defects and quality.


In the late 1970s, Motorola was focused on achieving 10X higher quality to try to catch up with its competitors in Japan. Motorola lacked a standard metric for sharing and comparing improvement initiatives. Six Sigma was introduced into Motorola in 1985 and was used to describe an expected design margin and product quality level. 

Following that, a four-stage problem-solving approach: measure, analyze, improve, control (MAIC). These steps became a cornerstone for the Six Sigma process, later called DMAIC. This resulted in Motorola becoming the first company to win the Malcolm Baldrige Award—the United States’ highest presidential honor for performance excellence. Today, Motorola is synonymous with innovation and quality in the world of technology.


Kaizen (“change for the better” or “continuous improvement”) is a Japanese business philosophy employed by Toyota to involve all employees and improve operations. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.

Toyota used the Kaizen methodology in the work environment for more efficient and effective production by creating an atmosphere that improves everyday procedures and employee engagement. It also assisted in making jobs more fulfilling, less tiring, and safer.

What Are the Tools of TQM?

There are seven recognized TQM tools to help companies identify procedures, ideas, and concerns with cause and effect that might impact operations. Each tool plays a role in analyzing and assessing qualitative and quantitative data.

  • Cause-and-effect diagram: This tool is also recognized as an “Ishikawa” or fishbone diagram. It identifies the possible causes and effects of problems.
  • Check sheet: This structured form is used to gather and analyze data. It can be adapted to a wide range of uses.
  • Control chart: Control charts are used for examining how a process changes over a period of time. It compares current and historical data to determine whether the process variation is within control limits.
  • Histogram: This tool measures the frequency and number of occurrences of different values within a dataset.
  • Pareto chart: Pareto charts measure the significance of specific factors.
  • Scatter diagram: This diagram graphs sets of numerical data, one variable on each axis, and identifies relationships that might exist.
  • Stratification: Stratification is a technique used to separate data gathered from different sources and identify patterns.

TQM Models

There are multiple TQM models in use today. Each is well recognized and focuses on different criteria.

  • The Deming Model, created by Edward Demming, recognizes 14 points of quality management to increase quality and productivity.
  • Toyota’s Principles focus on 14 lean management principles and its two pillars, continuous improvement and respect for people to achieve quality excellence and lean production.
  • Malcolm Baldrige’s criteria for performance excellence is a framework that uses criteria in seven categories to improve overall business performance.
  • The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) is used as a management system to encourage discipline in organizational self-assessment. There are non-fixed fundamental concepts that underpin the EFQM model.
  • ISO quality management standards specify requirements for a quality management system under specific scenarios. Standards are generic and are intended to apply to any organization.

Implementing TQM

While implementing TQM can take on different meanings and steps in various organizations and industries, some basic processes can be followed. 

  • Executive management teams are educated about TQM, its strategies and commit to its adoption. 
  • The current organizational culture is analyzed and documented. This includes customer satisfaction and quality management systems.
  • Core values and principles are identified and communicated.
  • A TQM plan is developed.
  • Priorities are determined and aligned with customer demands.
  • Critical processes are mapped out to meet customer needs.
  • Process improvement teams are formed.
  • A rewards and recognition process is established.
  • A committee is formed and oversees and manages all TQM initiatives.
  • Function-level leaders assist in the overall planning, training, coaching, or other methods.
  • Process management and standardization are executed.
  • Progress is evaluated, and the plan is revised as needed.
  • Constant feedback is provided and used to make adjustments.

TQM Resources

Looking for more examples of how TQM works? Here’s what leaders in the business world have to say about it.

Updated: March 01, 2022

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