Total Quality Management (TQM)

This article explores the nature of total quality management (TQM) and the necessity of use in the operations environment. TQM is one of the bedrock approaches to quality management. You will see many of the components of TQM in other quality management approaches. This approach is important because of the focus on a continuous cycle of improving the quality of a product, service, or process.

Total quality management (TQM) is an integrative philosophy of management for continuously improving the quality of products and processes.


Explain the principles of Total Quality Management (TQM)


Key Points

  • TQM functions on the premise that the quality of products and processes is the responsibility of everyone who is involved with the creation or consumption of the goods or services offered by an organization.
  • Satisfying the customer involves making sure both internal and external customers are happy.
  • The internal suppliers are the subordinates who answer to a particular supervisor. Satisfying them involves giving them the tools and motivation they need to do their jobs.
  • It is important to go beyond satisfaction, making the customer – and supplier – feel important and valued, and part of the process.
  • “Lean” focuses on eliminating the wasteful use of time, energy or resources, and instead focusing activities completely on the creation of value.
  • The focus of the Six Sigma management strategy is to reduce defect by minimizing variation in processes.

Key Terms

  • Total Quality Management (TQM): A strategic approach to management aimed at embedding awareness of quality in all organizational processes.
  • poka-yoke: A methodology of using low-cost techniques to error-proof production processes.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an integrative philosophy of management for continuously improving the quality of products and processes.

TQM Practices Are Used in Many Industries: Here, two aviation structural mechanics are collaborating on the wing of a F/A-18C Hornet, performing routine maintenance in the hangar bay. TQM practices ensure each person involved with a product is responsible for its quality.


TQM functions on the premise that the quality of products and processes is the responsibility of everyone involved in the creation or consumption of the goods or services the organization offers. TQM capitalizes on the involvement of management, the workforce, suppliers, and even customers in order to meet or exceed customer expectations.

Considering the practices of TQM as discussed in six empirical studies, Cua, McKone, and Schroeder (2001) identified nine common TQM practices:

  1. Cross-functional product design;
  2. Process management;
  3. Supplier quality management;
  4. Customer involvement;
  5. Information and feedback;
  6. Committed leadership;
  7. Strategic planning;
  8. Cross-functional training; and
  9. Employee involvement.

Basic Principles of Total Quality Management

The basic principles for the Total Quality Management philosophy of doing business are to satisfy the customer, satisfy the supplier, and continuously improve the business processes.

Satisfy the Customer

The first, and major, TQM principle is to satisfy the customer–the person who pays for the product or service. Customers want to get their money’s worth from a product or service they purchase.

Satisfy the Users: If the user of the product is different than the purchaser, then both the user and customer must be satisfied, although the person who pays gets priority.

Company Philosophy: A company that seeks to satisfy the customer by providing them value for what they buy and the quality they expect will get more repeat business, referral business, and reduced complaints and service expenses. Some top companies not only provide quality products but also give extra service to make their customers feel important and valued.

Internal Customers: Within a company, a worker provides a product or service to his or her supervisors. If the person has any influence on the wages the worker receives, that person can be thought of as an internal customer. A worker should have the mindset of satisfying internal customers in order to keep his or her job and to get a raise or promotion.

Chain of Customers: Often in a company, there is a chain of customers–each improving a product and passing it along until it is finally sold to the external customer. Each worker must not only seek to satisfy the immediate internal customer, but must also look up the chain to try to satisfy the ultimate customer.

Satisfy the Supplier

A second TQM principle is to satisfy the supplier, which is the person or organization from whom you are purchasing goods or services.

External Suppliers: A company must look to satisfy their external suppliers by providing them with clear instructions and requirements and then paying them fairly and on time. It is in the company’s best interest that its suppliers provide quality goods or services if the company hopes to provide quality goods or services to its external customers.

Internal Suppliers: A supervisor must try to keep workers happy and productive by providing good task instructions, the tools they need to do their job, and good working conditions. The supervisor must also reward the workers with praise and good pay.

Get Better Work: The reason to do this is to get more productivity out of the workers, as well as to keep the good workers. An effective supervisor with a good team of workers will certainly satisfy his or her internal customers.

Empower Workers: One area of satisfying the internal suppler is by empowering the workers. This means allowing them to make decisions on things that they can control. This not only takes the burden off the supervisor, but it also motivates these internal suppliers to do better work.

Continuous Improvement

The third principle of TQM is continuous improvement. You can never be satisfied with the method used, because there always can be improvements. The competition is always improving, so it is necessary to strive to keep ahead of the game.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Some companies have tried to improve by making employees work harder. This may be counterproductive, especially if the process itself is flawed. For example, trying to increase worker output on a defective machine may result in more defective parts. Examining the source of problems and delays and then solving those problems is what works best. Often, the process has bottlenecks that are the real cause of the problem. Those are what should be removed.

Worker Suggestions: Workers are often a source of continuous improvements. They can provide suggestions on how to improve a process and eliminate waste or unnecessary work.

Quality Methods: There are also many quality methods, such as just-in-time production, variability reduction, and poka-yoke, that can improve processes and reduce waste.

Source: Lumen Learning,
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Last modified: Friday, 5 April 2019, 5:05 PM