TQM Principles: The 8 Elements of Total Quality Management

This article covers the 8 principles of Total Quality Management (TQM) and how this systematic approach to quality improvement can benefit organizations.

construction team applying tqm principles at work

What are TQM Principles?

TQM or Total Quality Management is an approach to management that aims to enhance the process of an organization continuously so that products created and services provided are of high quality, satisfying or exceeding customer expectations. Developed over several decades, this philosophy consists of 8 principles that emphasize the full collaboration among stakeholders—including business leaders, individual suppliers, and even clients—in the pursuit of quality.

History and Major Contributors

As aforementioned, this approach underwent years of fine-tuning, with numerous experts introducing new concepts to build on the basics. Here is a brief review of its history: 

  • 1920s – The notion of TQM has not emerged yet, but the foundation for this has started. Frederick Taylor’s scientific or classical management theory focused on motivating employees to boost industrial efficiency. Henri Fayol, now regarded as the father of modern management, also came up with the five critical functions (planning, organizing, command, coordination, and control) to handle staff productively. 
  • 1930sWalter Stewhart, a physicist and engineer in Western Electric Company, improved the concept even further with his statistical quality control (SQM), introducing control charts, statistical process control, and the PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) cycle.
  • 1950s – During this decade, various management thinkers have contributed to the TQM philosophy, refining it even further.
    • W. Edwards Deming came up with 14 points for management, a system of profound knowledge, and the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act), which was incredibly helpful in the success of numerous Japanese companies like Toyota.
    • Romanian-American Joseph M. Juran introduced the Juran Trilogy (quality planning, control, and improvement) and the Pareto principle.
    • Armand V. Feigenbaum established TQC (Total Quality Control), which emphasized that quality is the responsibility of everyone in the organization.
    • Philip Crosby shared his concepts of zero defects, four absolutes of quality management, and the four-step improvement process, among others. His book “Quality is Free” popularized the cost-effectiveness of investing in quality management.
  • 1960s – Quality management expert Kaoru Ishikawa was a strong proponent of TQM and has made significant contributions, including the Ishikawa diagram, quality circles, and the seven basic quality tools, all of which promoted company-wide quality control.
    • TQM was widely implemented in Japan during this time, with companies like Toyota, Honda, and Sony gaining international recognition for their processes and products. This has influenced companies in other countries to adopt TQM principles.

TQM Principles

The concept of Total Quality Management has greatly evolved over the years, incorporating the ideas of the different management thinkers discussed above. These eight principles will help organizations better understand and implement TQM:

Customer Focus

The end goal of TQM is to meet or, better yet, surpass the expectations of clients. Understanding their needs and expectations is the key to making changes or improvements in the processes and their goods or solutions.

Best Practices:

  • Track customer needs and wants through a customer journey
  • Conduct regular customer surveys and product or service feedback and establish teams dedicated to analyzing these surveys and feedback forms.
  • Address and resolve concerns through a complaint management system, such as automated ticketing with instant notifications to relevant workers. 

Continuous Improvement

TQM is all about striving for continual growth. Organizations should be committed to improving every single aspect of their operations, identifying areas that require this, implementing the necessary changes, and evaluating their impacts. 

Best Practices:

  • Implement a problem-solving process, like the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, Kaizen quality control circles, or Six Sigma.
  • Conduct regular process audits to streamline operations or identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Automate workflows, especially in tracking issues and delegating specific actions for immediate resolution.  

Employee Involvement

As noted above, every member of the organization is vital to the success of TQM implementation. Employee engagement means being encouraged to contribute ideas, participate in decision-making, and take ownership of the result of their hard work.

Best Practices:

  • Establish quality circles per department where employees can brainstorm plans for improvement and solve pressing issues.
  • Recognize the contributions of these workers and reward them appropriately.
  • Provide training and continuous education, enhancing the skills and knowledge of workers.
  • Set up suggestion boxes where employees can submit recommendations and complaints anonymously or otherwise. 

Process-Centered Approach 

Focusing on the process and ensuring its efficiency and effectiveness are crucial in achieving better overall quality outcomes. 

Best Practices:

  • Regularly review the process to loosen bottlenecks, remove unnecessary steps, or replace ineffective ones.
  • Establish workflows for data gathering, process analysis, and planning for process improvement.  
  • Automate various process controls streamlines monitoring, ensuring the company operates within acceptable limits and produces high-quality outputs.

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Leadership Commitment 

Business leaders are vital not only because they set the vision. Top management is also responsible for providing the necessary resources and constant support for quality improvement initiatives. Promoting a culture of quality throughout the organization requires a strong commitment from them. 

Best Practices:

  • Clearly communicate the importance of quality and setting specific, achievable goals for every department in the organization.
  • Support initiatives for improvement by providing budget, workforce, and technology.
  • Lead by example, like strictly following rules and regulations that managers have set. 

Supplier Relationship

Organizations should recognize the importance of building good rapport and maintaining strong relationships with suppliers. Close collaboration with partners ensures the quality of incoming materials and services and, consequently, the achievement of their end goals.

Best Practices:

  • Establish defined requirements and expectations for third-party vendors or service providers.
  • Conduct regular supplier evaluations with digital forms for efficient performance analysis and reporting. 
  • Provide training sessions to suppliers so practices are aligned with the company’s quality standards. 
  • Automate communication so quality issues can be addressed promptly and efficiently. 

Data-Driven Decision Making

Accurate data is a must-have in measuring quality performance, tracking trends, and making informed decisions. Statistical process control techniques and quality tools should be employed when monitoring and analyzing these.

Best Practices:

  • Automate issues reporting and data collection so business leaders are immediately informed. 
  • Use statistical QMS tools like control and Pareto charts to identify significant issues in the process and the fishbone diagram or 5 Whys to figure out its root cause.
  • Monitor the improvements or changes made and evaluate the effectiveness of the action taken.

Integration with Strategic Goals

Total quality management and the organization’s current strategies, processes, and practices should be unified. Aligning these, admittedly, is quite challenging especially when systems are already put in place. But creating a cohesive and coordinated approach is achievable when quality is integrated into all aspects of the operations. 

Best Practices:

  • Clarify the company’s vision, mission, and values to effectively incorporate TQM strategies into the current process. 
  • Reinforce TQM principles by ensuring regulatory compliance and meeting industry standards like ISO 9001.  
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by

Eunice Arcilla Caburao

SafetyCulture Content Contributor
Eunice Caburao is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, she has written a wide range of topics for over a decade. Eunice draws upon her rich, multidisciplinary background to create informative articles about emerging topics on health, safety, and workplace efficiency.