What is total quality management?

Total quality management, or TQM for short, is a business management policy which attempts to instill an awareness and drive toward quality in all parts of a business's operations. Total quality management is a customer centric business strategy in that its focus on quality always relates to customer satisfaction with a product or service. The aim of this system is to create long term success through a base of highly satisfied customers with loyalty to the company due to the great quality and care taken to ensure all of their needs are met up to their expectations.

Total quality managment in action

TQM is a strategy which must be instituted at all levels of a business in order to have the desired effect. Everyone from the management, to call center employees, and even assemblers on a manufacturing floor who never come in contact with the customer, must all be aware of the total quality system and now they fit into it. TQM puts a focus not only on the quality of products and services, but on a commitment to continuous improvement of processes, products and services. Employees at all parts of the supply chain often undergo periodic education and team building exercises to improve their focus on quality and understand how their position relates to the customer's satisfaction and the success of the company. Another aspect of TQM is that company's practicing it back the quality of their products, often offering lifetime warranties on products, or free servicing, troubleshooting, repair, or exchanges.

Pros and cons of total quality management

One advantage of pursuing total quality management as a business strategy is the creation of a loyal customer base with loyalty to the company. Drawing in customers once is usually much easier than getting them to return time and time again--a new restaurant will attract people out of curiosity, but only if the food and service is great, will those customers bother to come back. TQM can also result in products and services with fewer defects which meet customer needs more exactly. The downside to TQM can be said to be a loss of productivity as a result of worker's need to be focused on customer at all times. Training and other exercises use up time that could be spent producing value, and such a system may have negligible impact for certain positions, especially those with no customer contact, such as janitorial staff or assembly line workers for instance.