| December 3, 2015

What is ‘Total Quality Management?


The concept of quality management first appeared in 1951 (Zink and Vob, 2000).  Generally the term ‘Quality’ is associated with consumer satisfaction.  Customers want the best return for the money they pay to buy something.  According to Sims and Sims (1995), “Customers would examine products to see if they met their standards prior to purchasing them”.  Therefore industries and organisations try to ensure that the products launched or marketed by them should be well prepared to satisfy the consumers’ need.  TQM aims to manage the quality of product and services provided by the organisations to make customers satisfied. Sims and Sims (1995, p 1), define TQM as-


TQM is the process of continuous improvement using selected tools,                                  techniques, and training to guide decision making and to plan actions. The results are quality processes, products, and services, and thus high level of customer satisfaction.

Thus, TQM is a holistic approach that furnishes cognisance of the relationship between customer and supplier by the continuous efforts of improvement in all the departments and functions of an organisation (Smith et al., 1999, p.55).


TQM is not just confined to production or services.  It also influences the other components like work culture, employees, employees’ attitude and other departments of an organisation. Voehl (1994, p. 28), claims that total quality covers three senses, first ‘every process’ second ‘every job’ and third ‘every person’.  It points out that to ensure total quality each and every department of an organisation must be responsible for the quality of their work.  Similarly Oakland (2003, p. 15) argues that each of the components of an organisation must work properly in order to maintain quality as each part, each activity, each person related to organisation affects others and get affected by them.


To illustrate the contents of TQM, Voehl (1994, p.7) provide a diagram of ‘House of Quality’ as shown in the figure below. He describes ‘The House of Quality’ as a well-built house which might collapse if any of its components is weak.











Figure 1: House of Quality. Source: Voehl (1994, p. 7)


The first row (triangular in shape) is the roof of the structure that entails three subsystems: the management system, social system and technical system of the organisation, within which any organisation does its actual work.  The roof is supported by four pillars (second row of the diagram) of quality identifying four theories that an organisation must follow to ensure quality of its products or services.  For example customer satisfaction is one of the most important strategies for any organisation to retain its business.  Continuous improvement adds to the market value of an organisation and speaking with fact increases customer’s trust on the organisation.  Further, respect for people works within as well as out of the organisation.  Respecting the employees increase the productivity of employees of the organisation as well as attract the customers for the organisation.

The third row states the foundation of four managerial levels for better implication of planning made at the top management or leadership level demonstrated in the last row of the diagram.   The connectivity of the planning levels to the implementation levels through managerial process demonstrates the holistic approach to TQM.  Take for example the aim of customer satisfaction. The strategies made at strategic level will be implemented by strategic management level and result into customer satisfaction.  Similarly operations planning, project planning, and quality planning deal with their respective areas and management cells. Thus TQM aims to improve the quality of product and service of an organisation by improving the quality at every level like system, management, planning and leadership.  It will be interesting to visualise how TQM with its theory of holistic approach to continuous improvement supports in managing total quality in HE sector.


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