Total Quality Management definition

Total quality management is a method and set of beliefs aimed at continuous improvement of product and process integrity. TQM is underlined by a belief that quality is the responsibility of all parties involved in the production process, and so ensuring consistency and quality requires input and buy-in from everyone.

According to Cua, McKone and Schroeder (2001), there are nine practices common to total quality management: cross-functional product design, involvement of customers, feedback and information, management of supplier quality, process management, leadership commitment, strategic planning, cross-functional training and employee buy-in/involvement.

TQM is often discussed alongside Six Sigma, although Six Sigma is the newer of the two and companies are not supposed to pick one or the other.  TQM is a strategic approach aimed at developing the systems necessary to ensure long-term improvements in quality and its success is defined by the company.

Six Sigma is a specific, data-driven approach to quality management that focuses on maintaining an extremely low rate of manufacturing errors (3.4 defects per million) – this rate is central to the concept of Six Sigma and cannot be altered by the company. Six Sigma also requires internal stakeholders to be certified as experts in a particular process.