Total Quality Management is a management framework based on the belief that an organization can build long-term success by having all its members, from low-level workers to its highest ranking executives, focus on quality improvement and, thus, delivering customer satisfaction.
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Total Quality Management, which is frequently known by its acronym TQM, requires organizations to focus on continuous improvement, or kaizen. It focuses on process improvements over the long term, rather than simply emphasizing short-term financial gains.
TQM prescribes a series of ways for organizations to accomplish this, with the pathway to successful continuous improvement centered on the use of strategy, data and effective communication to instill a discipline of quality into the organization's culture and processes.
More specifically, TQM puts a spotlight on the processes that organizations use to produce their products, and it calls for organizations to define those processes, continuously monitor and measure their performance, and use that performance data to drive improvements. Furthermore, it calls for all employees, as well as all organizational departments, to be part of this process.
TQM's objectives are to eliminate waste and increase efficiencies by ensuring that the production of the organization's product (or service) is done right the first time.
This management framework was initially applied to companies in the manufacturing sector, but, over the decades, organizations in other sectors have adopted it, as well.
TQM dates back to the 1920s, when the science of statistics was applied to quality control in an industrial setting. Walter A. Shewhart, an engineer at Western Electric and Bell Telephone Laboratories, created a statistical control chart in the mid-1920s, and then published Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product in 1931. Many still refer to his statistical quality control method as the Shewhart cycle. It is also called the Deming cycle, or the PDCA (plan, do, check, act) model.
Quality control methods evolved in subsequent decades, with industrial engineer Joseph Juran first employing Shewhart's methods and, later, in 1951, publishing his influential book Juran's Quality Control Handbook.
W. Edwards Deming further developed Shewhart's ideas in post-World War II Japan, where the U.S. government had positioned him to advise Japanese leaders on the rebuilding efforts taking place there in the late 1940s and 1950s. Working with the Union of Japanese Scientists and Engineers, Deming taught and lectured on statistical quality control, while adding his own ideas about quality control in the process. Among these teachings was Deming's belief that ordinary workers had a role to play in quality control.
Juran also lectured in Japan during the 1950s.
The method that evolved during the 1950s and 1960s eventually became known as Total Quality Management. Many credit the Japanese application of TQM as a significant contributor to the country's economic recovery following World War II, as well as its midcentury industrial successes.
Organizations worldwide took note of Japan's successes using TQM. United States producers throughout the 1970s and 1980s adopted quality and productivity methods, including TQM, to better compete in the increasingly global marketplace.
Although Deming, Juran, Shewhart and others published numerous papers and books on TQM, many organizations adopted only parts of the TQM principles, and evolved some of TQM's ideas to meet their own needs.
Moreover, as business needs for efficiency, productivity and quality have further evolved, many organizations have adopted other, more modern management techniques. So, although TQM is still influential, other management techniques, such as Six Sigma and lean manufacturing, which better address organizational goals for the 21st century, have replaced it in many businesses.