Total Quality Management: What is TQM?

free essayDr. W. E. Deming developed the concept of total quality management (TQM) in the 1960s. It is a strategic approach that emphasizes the production of the best possible goods or services through timely action and constant innovation. This management approach focuses on the continuous enhancement of the quality with an emphasis on error prevention instead of rectification to serve the interests of an organization and its customers.

Salient Features of TQM

TQM is a management initiative whose main purpose is to include every individual in an organization at all levels in the improvement of the quality of products or services that it provides. According to Bon and Mustafa (2013), the introduction of TQM and its subsequent contemporary interpretations like Six Sigma have resulted in the development of theories, processes, tools, and ideas that are central to change management, organizational development, and performance enhancements that are generally desired by individuals, departments, and companies. The term “total quality” does not only refer to the quality of specific products or services but also encompasses everything that a business does and engages in to explore the opinion of consumers and improve its overall reputation.

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The implementation of TQM should follow the Kaizen approach, which is a Japanese strategy that pursues continuous improvement. Gao and Low (2014) state that it should be at the center of every activity in an organization to continuously ensure the best quality of goods and services. The management initiative is an incessant mindset that seeks improvement processes for individuals, work teams, and entire organizations through understanding and discovering superior processes. The majority of management excellence models has a strong connection to TQM, which is the basis of setting a business to manage its output at all levels to attain certain standards. Various features differentiate TQM from other management initiatives.

Systems and Techniques

The development of TQM systems incorporates excellence models and quality awards to achieve essential discipline and control. According to Kim, Kumar, and Kumar (2012), there is a need to identify pertinent tools and techniques at every stage, which includes projects and conditions in which the tools should be applied to achieve success. Employees should be familiar with these tools and organizations should categorize them as core or optional based on the nature and impact on the work environment.

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Every organization that adopts TQM should consider the adoption of a formal system as it highlights the main requirements. According to Kim et al. (2012), some of the available options include ISO 9000 series, Charter Mark, Investors in People, and the European Foundation for Quality Management Model. However, the adoption and integration of these systems should not conflict with organizational policies and priorities. An important practice in the assessment of business excellence is the adoption of a suitable framework that provides insights into an organization’s strengths and weaknesses. The formulation of a balanced scorecard is often critical in furthering quality assurance strategies. It provides a platform for communicating, informing, and learning, which is essential in the alignment of individual, departmental, cross-functional, and organizational objectives. An effective balanced scorecard  analysis provides a connection to an organization’s important value addition and support processes.


An organization’s management team forms the cornerstone of a successful TQM program due to the influence it has on employees in a company. According to Kim et al. (2012), although itsmembers do not participate in the actual production, the adopted management style allows the team to achieve the desired result through other workers. Since TQM becomes an organization’s way of life, the top management has to introduce and lead it in a company. Most failures in the implementation of TQM in an organizational setup are attributed to the lack of commitment of top executives. Top managers should be involved and committed to ensure that they set clear goals and values that are aligned with the overall organizational objectives. Besides, they should be consistent with the creation and deployment of methods, systems, and performance measures to achieve these goals. Methods and systems encourage participation of all employees and guide quality activities. An organization’s chief executive and other senior managers should take the leadership roles in TQM to ensure the sustainability of the implemented changes.

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People in an organization do not influence the management style. According to Gimenez-Espin, Jimenez-Jimenez, and Martinez-Costa (2013), they will not unanimously accept changes to management styles just because top managers perceive them as necessary. Managers should keep all employees informed about decisions regarding TQM, which supports participation for an easy transition. Besides, the identification of appropriate system tools for implementation should be followed by training of appropriate people. Training sessions should emphasize the benefits of these tools and ways they should be utilized. Furthermore, well-designed training programs lower the possibility of misusing them. However, organizations should implement continuous training and education of all their employees to support the sustenance of high-quality standards. These efforts should be taken to make sure that workers communicate effectively, take responsibility, innovate, and act in a creative way. When employees’ actions are consistent with their measurement and remuneration, it means that TQM has successfully connected customer satisfaction measures to their pay.


A fundamental aspect of TQM is to focus on process thinking. According to Bon and Mustafa (2013), this process constitutes various steps in which inputs from suppliers are transformed into outputs for delivery to internal and external consumers. In this case, the necessary steps in the process are designed, and the organization continuously monitors performance measures to determine unanticipated variations. Therefore, companies that implement TQM focus more on processes instead of functions in their efforts to pursue continuous improvement.


Teamwork is critical to any organizational setup. TQM is an all-encompassing approach that requires both individual and team efforts in organizational departments or the collaboration among different departments. Gimenez-Espin et al. (2013) state that employees in organizations that pursue continuous improvement can create the total quality culture by building collective responsibility, developing a sense of ownership, providing further communication ways between people, managers, customers, and business partners, mastering problem-solving skills, and facilitating the potential of quality awareness, which results in attitude and behavioral change. The formation of effective relationships between members of these teams will promote problem-solving within quality circles. There is a higher possibility of consensus as members collaborate to enhance the quality of an organization’s products, services, and quality control techniques.

How It Works


According to Hackman and Wageman (1995), there is extensive evidence that TQM leads to a considerable change in organizational culture and the way employees work. Gimenez-Espin et al. (2013) state that a fundamental factor of TQM is leadership, which incorporates leadership styles, behaviors, and philosophies. TQM can only be implemented throughout an organization if it is entrenched in its corporate culture. Besides, it should be aligned with human resource systems such as selection processes, job design, reward and compensation, performance evaluation, and training and development. The culture is associated with high-quality standards in all organizational operations to ensure that all processes are performed in the best way the first time and eliminate waste and defects. Companies with a comprehensive culture have a high implementation of TQM elements such as leadership, people management, customer, process management, and supplier management. Conversely, companies with a weak comprehensive and hierarchy-driven culture have a low to moderate implementation of the elements while those with a clan-driven culture highly implement the element of process management.

Consumer Service

Employees at different levels of an organization often deal with clients directly. According to Bon and Mustafa (2013), TQM requires workers to have the right tools to deal with relevant customer situations. Consequently, organizations should adopt efforts that pursue excellence by listening to customers and subsequently introduce new products, discover new client groups, forge customer partnerships, and seek knowledge about the clients’ real needs. Customer feedback is critical in determining their perceptions. Companies can utilize consumer surveys, market reports, and external benchmarking to enhance their products or services.

Time Compression

The rapid developments in information technology have led to considerable improvements in the access to information by customers and enhanced their capacity to make requests. Gao and Low (2014) state that the adoption of TQM in an organization’s core activities is critical to enable all employees to maintain high-quality work and increase productivity, which is essential in sustaining total quality. In this case, the adoption of time-based strategies and tactics is closely related to different TQM tools, initiatives, and philosophies.


The globalization of some markets has led to some organizations falling behind the high-quality standards demonstrated by foreign companies. According to Kim et al. (2012), early adopters of TQM were able to improve their quality systems and processes. Therefore, organizations in global markets have to improve their quality standards, management practices, and competitiveness to minimize the risk of failure to survive. TQM principles form a good foundation for the management of all types of firms facing global competition.

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The adoption of TQM necessitates that it should be implemented at all levels of an organization to enhance the chances of success. The mindset of continuous improvement should be entrenched deeply in all activities to ensure that a company addresses every challenge in the most efficient way possible. TQM tools and techniques should be well-defined for all people in a firm. Besides, the management should develop its standards and goals in an attainable way and should be able to evaluate progress through collecting customer feedback to determine whether there are any improvement areas. A company’s top executives should lead to TQM initiatives as it inspires others to adopt it in their daily activities.