Total Quality Management or TQM creates a strategic focus across an entire organization on continuous improvement based on customer needs. Beginning in the 1980s and reaching its greatest popularity in the 1990s, TQM served as a predecessor to Quality Management and Six Sigma initiatives. To succeed in changing corporate culture by applying TQM requires management involvement and support.
Initiating a TQM program with its associated costs and cultural change requires commitment from senior managers. Before beginning a TQM program, executives from corporate and division management need training in core TQM techniques and access to data that demonstrate the productivity and cost benefit of the approach. Following training, senior management should appoint a TQM manager or instigator to develop an implementation strategy and work with human resources to create employee training programs. Select a manager with the ability to command resources and with direct and frequent access to senior management.
The TQM manager needs to create a team of line managers knowledgeable about TQM to support and communicate the core principles and behaviors expected in a TQM-based organization. The facilitators assist in acquiring resources, making time available for training, and recognizing and rewarding individual employees for their quality efforts and continuous improvement ideas. It is the job of the line managers to facilitate adoption of TQM in their areas and remove barriers to implementation.
Using managers to train employees in TQM, rather than using outside consultants or human resource trainers, communicates the perceived importance of TQM to the company. Being required to teach TQM leads to greater competence in the management staff, because they must understand the approach and techniques to teach them to employees. If managers cannot teach the entire TQM course, they should reinforce the importance of each training class by introducing the training and restating executive commitment to the process. Managers should present TQM-based planning and results during routine staff meetings and individual performance reviews.
Managers must practice TQM, in addition to preaching it, by using data collection and planning tools such as flow charts, cause-and-effect diagrams, Pareto and control charts. Use customer preference data to drive decision-making. Provide frequent reports to staff and senior management highlighting continuous improvement in key performance indicators.
Barbara Brown has been a freelance writer since 2006. She worked 10 years performing psychological testing before moving into information research. She worked as a knowledge management specialist and project manager in defense and health research. She is studying to be a master gardener and has a master's degree in psychology from Southern Methodist University.