Development of TQM in the United States

In the spring of 1984, an arm of the United States Navy asked some of its civilian researchers to assess statistical process control and the work of several prominent quality consultants and to make recommendations as to how to apply their approaches to improve the navy's operational effectiveness. The recommendation was to adopt the teachings of W. Edwards Deming. From the navy, TQM spread throughout the US federal government.

The private sector followed suit, flocking to TQM principles not only as a means to recapture market share from the Japanese, but also to remain competitive when bidding for contracts from the federal government since "total quality" requires involving suppliers, not just employees, in process improvement efforts.

Features of TQM

There is no widespread agreement as to what TQM is and what actions it requires of organizations; however, a review of the original United States Navy effort gives a rough understanding of what is involved in TQM.

The key concepts in the TQM effort undertaken by the navy in the 1980s include the following:

  • • Quality is defined by customers' requirements.
  • • Top management has direct responsibility for quality improvement.
  • • Increased quality comes from systematic analysis and improvement of work processes.
  • • Quality improvement is a continuous effort and conducted throughout the organization.

The navy used the following tools and techniques:

  • • The plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle to drive issues to resolution
  • • Ad hoc cross-functional teams (similar to quality circles) responsible for addressing immediate process issues
  • • Standing cross-functional teams responsible for the improvement of processes over the long term
  • • Active management participation through steering committees
  • • Use of the Seven Basic Tools of Quality to analyze quality-related issues:
  • • Cause-and-effect diagram (also called Ishikawa or fishbone chart): identifies many possible causes for an effect or problem and sorts ideas into useful categories
  • • Check sheet: a structured, prepared form for collecting and analyzing data; a generic tool that can be adapted for a wide variety of purposes
  • • Control charts: graphs used to study how a process changes over time
  • • Histogram: the most commonly used graph for showing frequency distributions, or how often each different value in a set of data occurs
  • • Pareto chart: shows on a bar graph which factors are more significant
  • • Scatter diagram: graphs pairs of numerical data, one variable on each axis, to look for a relationship
  • • Stratification: a technique that separates data gathered from a variety of sources so that patterns can be seen (some lists replace stratification with flowchart or run chart)
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