What do you mean by Total Quality Management (TQM)?
Total Quality Management (TQM) is an organization-wide mechanism with the required mandate and top management support to systematically and sustainably solve problems. This definition points to four critical aspects of any good TQM program— role of top management because mandate is very important; employee involvement and training, they need to participate and make this quality happen; use of tools and techniques, we need a structured way of doing things, better way of looking at things; and, of course, the bedrock of all these is development of a good quality system on which you can mount all these aspects. So, we shall look at this idea schematically. So, at the core of these entire program is a robust quality system. There is a critical role for the top management. You need employee involvement— that is another component. Training need, team work— all these are very, very important. And, of course, tools and techniques which can be used to–put to use for improving quality. Total quality management, TQM, there is a word total. Total refers to three dimensions: everyone, everywhere, and every time.
If you need to make these possible, then top management must get actively involved in this process. Otherwise this is not going to happen. There are several roles for top management, lead from the front, by example. Second role, signal the importance of quality for the organization, don’t miss an opportunity. At every possible opportunity, it could be formal communication, it could be informal communication, it could be a certain kind of signaling that is possible, make use of all these to show quality is important for the organization. And thirdly, top management must help the middle management resolve difficult trade-offs by providing guidance and directions because when they implement some of these things, there will be problems, you know, production can temporarily suffer which is a short-term crisis and in lieu of this long-term improvement. So, top management must provide guidance and direction on such trade-offs so that middle management can resolve these conflicts that they face on the ground. Now what is the role of employee involvement? The first thing is we need to build a culture of process ownership because that alone facilitates this process in a big way.
Employees must feel that they own that operational place. Role of middle management and experts must go through some change of not control but of facilitation that can help employee involvement in a big way. Provide training on tools and techniques that people can use in their workplace to address the quality issues. They need some simple, nice tools with which they can identify either a quality problem or some interesting solution. So, such things are very important. Build a climate and culture for team working. Only then employee involvement will happen more actively. And, finally, put in a system of project by project continuous improvement because that is a structured way. Six Sigma methodology also talks about it. That’s a way by which we can make employee involvement not an ad hoc or a casual kind of a activity but a structured activity. Now quality system, what do you mean by that? It is a certain investment in a systematic way of capturing and reporting quality-related issues and such a system will help document quality issues and initiatives for continuous learning and Improvement, and typically if you look at well-known quality systems such as ISO, that is what I mean by quality system. A set of things by which we have a robust documentation, mechanism, a consistent way of capturing the moments of truth about quality, and they are all with us and we improve over a period of time. This is what is meant by a quality system.