Traditional and total quality management differ in philosophy, implementation and measurement. In traditional quality management, supervisors tell employees what to do based on the organization’s short-term goals and objectives. With total quality management, all members of an organization – from the lowest employee to the highest executive – pursue long-term success in terms of customer satisfaction.
Quality Defined by Company vs. Customer
With traditional quality management, the company defines its quality standards and determines whether a particular product is acceptable. In total quality management, customers determine a product’s quality. A company can change its standards, train employees or revise its processes, but if customers aren’t satisfied, then the organization isn’t producing a quality product.
Emphasizing Short-Term vs. Long-Term Success
Traditional quality management emphasizes the achievement of short-term objectives, such as the number of products produced or profits earned in a quarter. Total quality management looks at long-term improvements in how a product is produced and the sustained satisfaction of customers.
Improving People vs. Improving Processes
If defects are found through traditional quality management, managers identify who is responsible and hold them accountable. With total quality management, managers and employees look at how they can improve quality by changing the processes used to produce a product.
Managing With Fear vs. Motivating With Rewards
In traditional quality management, managers rely their on authority as supervisors to tell employees what to do. They may even use fear to motivate and threaten to discipline or even to fire employees. In total quality management, employees are given opportunities to improve themselves. They are rewarded for the achievement of individual, departmental or organizational goals.
Accountability of the Few vs. Responsibility of the Many
With traditional management, only the employees who are directly involved in producing a product are responsible for its quality. With total quality management, everyone in an organization – including the top executives – are responsible for the quality of each product that the company produces.
Acting on Instincts vs. Deciding by Facts
In traditional quality management, supervisors and employees solve problems and act based on their individual knowledge, skills and instincts. In total quality management, multiple employees, teams or departments solve problems and make decisions based on substantive data.
Isolation vs. Cooperation
Each employee has a specific role that is narrowly defined by a supervisor in traditional quality management. Total quality management involves managers and employees working together in an integrated capacity that involves more than one role or responsibility at a time.
Fighting Fires vs. Continuously Improving
Traditional quality management requires the reproduction of any product with defects. It addresses problems as they arise, resolving them on a case-by-case basis. Total quality management, on the other hand, emphasizes eliminating waste and increasing efficiencies so that a product is produced correctly the first time. It emphasizes continuous process improvement, resolving issues systematically.
Jim Molis has more than 20 years of experience writing for and about businesses. He has been a business reporter for the Columbus (Ga.) Ledger-Enquirer, a managing editor of the Atlanta Business Chronicle and an editor of the Jacksonville Business Journal. He also has written for management consultants, professional services firms and numerous publications as a freelancer.