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With so many other issues to deal with in this slow economy, why should a company bother implementing Total Quality Management (TQM)?  Isn’t TQM an old idea that has outlived its usefulness?

Why bother breaking down each process and creating a lot of documentation?  With virtual offices, webinars and go-to-meetings, why bother learning retro quality management tools like brainstorming, fishbone diagrams and statistical process control (SPC)?

A Brief History

The history of Total Quality Management goes back to the 1920’s and the creation of the first statistical chart and sampling vs. 100% inspection. In the late 1940’s, Dr. Edwards Deming brought his knowledge as a statistician to the Japanese.  He was first invited to help with their census tracts and in 1949 taught them statistical methods.  The Japanese were interested in product improvement to gain a greater share of the export market.  In addition to statistical process control, he introduced a new management style, with emphasis on teamwork and redirecting blame for poor quality from the worker to the process.

Joseph Juran also traveled to Japan in the mid 1950’s.  He expanded on Demings’ work by focusing on the cost of quality with identification and cost of quality measurements.  Philip Crosby followed in the 1960’s with his “zero defects” philosophy, which emphasized employee involvement and awareness in the quality process.  All these early quality initiatives brought workers from the production lines to the table with management to participate in quality planning and improvement.

TQM was embraced by industry and service organizations alike in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s to improve product and service quality, involve employees in the process and improves quality and job satisfaction.  Like the Japanese in the 1940’s, the American automotive industry embraced TQM in the 1980’s and 1990’s to regain their quality reputation and market share.

Still Relevant Today?

TQM may be an old idea, but the processes and results are just as valid today as they were in the 1920’s.  In an uncertain economy, companies can’t afford product defects, downtime, lost opportunities, lost customers and revenue due to poor quality and service.  With high unemployment and job uncertainty, employees are disengaged and morale is low.  The principles of TQM are evergreen.  They apply and are as effective today as they were years ago.

  1. TQM focuses on the customer.  Total quality management’s goal is to meet and exceed customer expectations.  They involve the customer to define expectations and quality standards.  Every person and department in the company is focused on its part in the customer service process.
  2. TQM emphasizes employee involvement at every level, working in quality teams using a defined process to solve problems.  Employees are empowered and motivated to participate in the planning, implementation and review of the quality process.  They have a stake in the outcomes.
  3. While there is an initial cost in training, process development, controls and measurement standards, the return on the investment can far exceed the investment.   Improved customer satisfaction, defect and cost reduction, increased revenues and improved employee morale are the results of an effective TQM culture.

The digital workplace needs TQM principles more than ever. 

With a global market and e-commerce, there is an increased need to establish quality standards and processes to deliver a consistent, high-quality product or service to customers around the world.  The Internet, with cloud computing, online and Skype meeting capabilities has brought the world into the conference room, allowing team members and stakeholders to work in virtual teams to improve processes.