TQM is the way of managing for the future, and is far wider in its application than just assuring product or service quality – it is a way of managing people and business processes to ensure complete customer satisfaction at every stage, internally and externally. TQM, combined with effective leadership, results in an organization doing the right things right, first time.

The core of TQM is the customer-supplier interface, both externally and internally, and at each interface lays a number of processes. This core must be surrounded by commitment to quality, communication of the quality message, and recognition of the need to change the culture of the organization to create total quality. These are the foundations of TQM, and they are supported by the key management functions of people, processes and systems in the organization.

What is Quality?

A frequently used definition of quality is “Delighting the customer by fully meeting their needs and expectations”. These may include performance, appearance, availability, delivery, reliability, maintainability, cost effectiveness and price. It is, therefore, very important that the organization knows what these needs and expectations are. In addition, having identified them, the organization must understand them, and measure its own ability to meet them.
Quality starts with market research – to establish the true requirements for the product or service and the true needs of the customer. However, for an organization to be really effective, quality must span all functions, all people, all departments and all activities and be a common language for improvement. The cooperation of everyone at every interface is necessary to achieve a total quality organization.

Customers and Suppliers:

There exists in each department, each office, each home, a series of customers, suppliers and customer-supplier interface. These are “the quality chains”, and they can be broken at any point by one person or one piece of equipment not meeting the requirements of the customer, internal or external. The failure usually finds its way to the interface between the organization and its external customer, or in the worst case, actually to the external customer.
Failure to meet the requirements in any part of a quality has a way of multiplying, and failure in one part of the system creates problems elsewhere, leading to yet more failure and problems, and so the situation make worse. The ability to meet customers’ (external and internal) requirements is vital. As well as fully aware of customers’ needs and expectations, each person must respect the needs and expectations of their suppliers. The ideal situation is an open partnership style relationship, where both parties share and benefit.

Poor Practices:

To be able to become a total quality organization, some of the bad practices must be recognized and corrected. These may include:

  • Leaders not giving clear direction
  • Not understanding, or ignoring competitive positioning
  • Each department working only for itself
  • Trying to control people through systems
  • Confusing quality with grade
  • Accepting that a level of defects or errors is inevitable
  • Firefighting, reactive behavior
  • The “it’s not my problem” attitude

Commitment & Leadership (the essential component of TQM):

TQM is an approach to improving the competitiveness, effectiveness and flexibility of an organization for the benefit of all stakeholders. It is a way of planning, organizing and understanding each activity, and of removing all the wasted effort and energy that is routinely spent in organizations. It ensures the leaders adopt a strategic overview of quality and focus on prevention not detection of problems.

At the same time it must involve everyone, to be successful; it must start at the top with the leaders of the organization.

All senior managers must demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to quality, and middle managers must, as well as demonstrating their commitment, ensure they communicate the principles, strategies and benefits to the people for whom they responsibility. Only then will the right attitudes spread throughout the organization.

A fundamental requirement is a sound policy, supported by plans and facilities to implement it. Top Management must take responsibility for preparing, reviewing and monitoring the policy, plus take part in regular improvements of it and ensure it is understood at all levels of the organization.

Effective leadership starts with the development of a mission statement, followed by a strategy, which is translated into action plans down through the organization. These, combined with a TQM approach, should result in a quality organization, with satisfied customers and good business results. The 5 requirements for effective leadership are:

  • Developing and publishing corporate beliefs, values and objectives, often as a mission statement
  • Personal involvement and acting as role models for a culture of total quality
  • Developing clear and effective strategies and supporting plans for achieving the mission and objectives
  • Reviewing and improving the management system
  • Communicating, motivating and supporting people and encouraging effective employee participation

The task of implementing TQM can be daunting. The following is a list of points that Top Management should consider; they are a distillation of the various beliefs of some of the quality gurus.

  • The organization needs a long-term commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Adopt the philosophy of zero errors/defects to change the culture to right first time.
  • Train people to understand the customer/supplier relationships.
  • Do not buy products or services on price alone – look at the total cost.
  • Recognize that improvement of the systems must be managed.
  • Adopt modern methods of supervising and training – eliminate fear.
  • Eliminate barriers between departments by managing the process – improve communications and teamwork.
  • Constantly educate and retrain – develop experts in the organization.
  • Develop a systematic approach to manage the implementation of TQM.

Culture Change:

The failure to address the culture of an organization is frequently the reason for many management initiatives either having limited success or failing altogether. Understanding the culture of an organization, and using that knowledge to successfully map the steps needed to accomplish a successful change, is an important part of the quality journey.

The culture in any organization is formed by the beliefs, behaviors, norms, dominant values, rules and the “climate”. A culture change, e.g. from one of acceptance of a certain level of errors or defects to one of right first time, every time, needs two key elements:

  • Commitment from the leaders or Top Management
  • Involvement of all of the organization’s people

There is widespread recognition that major change initiatives will not be successful without a culture of good teamwork and cooperation at all levels in an organization.

The Building Blocks of TQM:
Processes, People, Management Systems and Performance Measurement

Everything we do is a Process, which is the transformation of a set of inputs, which can include action, methods and operations, into the desired outputs, which satisfy the customers’ needs and expectations. In each area or function within an organization there will be many processes taking place, and each can be analyzed by an examination of the inputs and outputs to determine the action necessary to improve quality.

In every organization there are some very large processes, which are groups of smaller processes, called key or core business processes. These must be carried out well if an organization is to achieve its mission and objectives.

The only point at which true responsibility for performance and quality can lie is with People who actually do the job or carry out the process, each of which has one or several suppliers and customers.

An efficient and effective way to tackle process or quality improvement is through teamwork. However, people will not engage in improvement activities without commitment and recognition from the organization’s top management, a climate for improvement and a strategy that is implemented thoughtfully and effectively. The section on People expands on these issues, covering within teams, team-selection and development and models for successful teamwork.

An appropriate documented Quality Management System will help an organization not only achieve the objectives set out in its policy and strategy, but also, and equally importantly, sustain and build upon them. It is imperative that the top management take responsibility for the adoption and documentation of an appropriate management system in their organization if they are serious about the quality journey. The Systems section discusses the benefits of having such a system, how to set one up and successfully implement it.

Once the strategic direction for the organization’s quality journey has been set; it needs Performance Measures to monitor and control the journey, and to ensure the desired level of performance is being achieved and sustained. They can, and should be, established at all levels in the organization, ideally being cascaded down and most effectively undertaken as team activities and this is discussed in the section on Performance.

Total Quality Management by: Capecio and Moorehouse

Capecio and Moorehouse refer to Total Quality Management as:

“A management process and set of disciplines that are coordinated to ensure that the organization consistently meets and exceeds customer requirements. TQM engages all divisions, departments and levels of the organization – Top management organizes all of its strategy and operations around customer needs and develops a culture with high employee participation. TQM companies are focused on the systematic management of data in all processes and practices to eliminate waste and pursue continuous improvement”.

The goal of TQM is to deliver the highest value for the customer at the lowest cost, while achieving sustained profit and economic stability for the company. Top management must commit to a vision and align and train its employees toward a common mission.

To do this, top management make cross-functional teams who work on improvements that respond to customer requirements. TQM alters the way a company thinks about work and all its relationships as it impacts every function, system and person connected with the company.

Continuous Process Improvement Teams are at the heart of TQM and are based on the belief that better solutions emerge when everyone is given a chance to work on process problems. TQM teams use a ten-step problem-solving model to complete their work.

  1. The team identifies and interviews customers of the process to determine which services are not meeting their needs.
  2. The team charts customer problems, selects one major problem to work on, prepares an issue statement to direct the study and uses customer data to set a measure of improved performance.
  3. The team constructs detailed flow charts/process maps of the process and sub-processes as they currently exist.
  4. The team brain storms possible causes of process problem, then uses TQM tools to select critical causes for further study.
  5. The team collects data, graphs it concisely and uses it to determine root causes of the customer problem. This data becomes a benchmark for measuring future progress.
  6. The team develops possible solutions for the root causes that are verified by data, and then measures them against criteria that reflect customer needs.
  7. The team identifies benchmarks for the process being studied, i.e. process used by other organizations or work areas that produce a high-quality product or service. Possible solutions are measured against the benchmarks.
  8. The best solutions are implemented and their performance is monitored. If the solutions work, they are adopted.
  9. The team measures the results of the improvement and refines performance measures. If the problems are solved, the fixes are standardized and become Standard Operating Procedure.
  10. The team selects another process to review and improve.

The idea behind TQM is that much can be achieved by innovation, but competitive advantage is largely affected by continuous process improvement. To implement this practice a commitment is necessary that includes a plan of action. Commitment means being the best you can be in your job as well as looking for opportunities to improve the work. A five-step process designed to help turn opportunities into on-the-job improvements is listed below:

  • Awareness:
    recognizing an opportunity to improve a process.
  • Assessments:
    identifying the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
  • Preparation:
    developing strategy, assembling resources and going through readiness steps.
  • Action Plan:
    establishing specific goals, time-bound steps and measures to implement an improvement.
  • Evaluation:
    reviewing how well you met the goals established in the Action Plan and re-planning is needed.


TQM is a management philosophy which seeks to integrate all organizational functions (marketing, finance, design, engineering, and production, customer service…) to focus on meeting customer needs and organizational objectives.
It views organizations as a collection of processes. It maintains that organizations must strive [struggle] to continuously improve these processes by incorporating the knowledge and experiences of workers.

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