While there is no generally accepted definition of TQM, several notable organizations have attempted to define it. These include the following:

TQM in the Department of Defense is a strategy for continuously improving performance at every level, and in all areas of responsibility. It combines fundamental management techniques, existing improvement efforts, and specialized technical tools under a disciplined structure focused on continuously improving all processes. Improved performance is directed at satisfying such broad goals as cost, quality, schedule, and mission need and suitability. Increasing user satisfaction is the overriding objective.

The key words in describing TQM are the following:

  • • Management process
  • • Continuous improvement
  • • Harness both human and material resources
  • • Management approach
  • • Participation of all who are involved
  • • Customer satisfaction
  • • Everyone benefits from TQM
  • • Improving processes, products, services, and the culture

Although there is not a set-in-stone process for developing the TQM process, it is evaluated by how each entity of the organization is functioning in achieving quality management. The facets evaluated are leadership; strategy; customers; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; workforce; operations; and results.

Principles of TQM

There are eight principles that most of those applying TQM seem to agree are imperative to be included when addressing TQM. They are as follows:

  • 1. Be customer focused: The customer ultimately determines the level of quality. No matter what an organization does to foster quality improvement—training employees, integrating quality into the design process, upgrading computers or software, or buying new measuring tools—the customer determines whether the efforts were worthwhile.
  • 2. Insure total employee involvement: All employees participate in working toward common goals. Total employee commitment can only be obtained after fear has been driven from the workplace, when empowerment has occurred, and when management has provided the proper environment. High-performance work systems integrate continuous improvement efforts with normal business operations. Self-managed work teams are one form of empowerment.
  • 3. Process centered: A fundamental part of TQM is a focus on process thinking. A process is a series of steps that takes inputs from suppliers (internal or external) and transforms them into outputs that are delivered to customers (again, either internal or external). The steps required to carry out the process are defined, and performance measures are continuously monitored in order to detect unexpected variation.
  • 4. Integrated system: All employees must know the business mission and vision. An integrated business system may be modeled by Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award (MBNQA) or ISO 9000. Although an organization may consist of many different functional specialties often organized into vertically structured departments, it is the horizontal processes interconnecting these functions that are the focus of TQM.
  • 5. Strategic and systematic approach: A critical part of the management of quality is the strategic and systematic approach to achieving an organization's vision, mission, and goals. This process, called strategic planning or strategic management, includes the formulation of a strategic plan that integrates quality as a core component.
  • 6. Continual improvement: Using analytical, quality tools and creative thinking to become more efficient and effective, a major thrust of TQM is continual process improvement. Continual improvement drives an organization to be both analytical and creative in finding ways to become more competitive and more effective at meeting stakeholder expectations.
  • 7. Fact-based decision making: Decision making must be only on data, not personal or situational thinking. In order to know how well an organization is performing, data on performance measures are necessary. TQM requires that an organization continually collect and analyze data in order to improve decision-making accuracy, achieve consensus, and allow prediction based on past history.
  • 8. Communication: During times of organizational change, as well as part of day-today operation, effective communications plays a large part in maintaining morale and in motivating employees at all levels. Communications involve strategies, method, and timeliness.
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