Total quality management (TQM), or quality assurance, includes all the steps that a company takes to ensure that its goods or services are of sufficiently high quality to meet customers’ needs. Generally speaking, a company adheres to TQM principles by focusing on three tasks:
- Customer satisfaction
- Employee involvement
- Continuous improvement
Let’s take a closer look at these three principles.
Companies that are committed to TQM understand that the purpose of a business is to generate a profit through customer satisfaction. Thus, they let their customers define quality by identifying desirable product features and then offering them. They encourage customers to tell them how to offer services that work the right way.
Armed with this knowledge, they take steps to make sure that providing quality is a factor in every facet of their operations—from design, to product planning and control, to sales and service. To get feedback on how well they’re doing, many companies routinely use surveys and other methods to monitor customer satisfaction. By tracking the results of feedback over time, they can see where they need to improve.
Successful TQM requires that everyone in the organization, not simply upper-level management, commits to satisfying the customer. When customers wait too long at a drive-through window, it’s the responsibility of a number of employees, not the manager alone. A mobile phone isn’t solely the responsibility of the manufacturer’s quality control department; it’s the responsibility of every employee involved in its design, production, and even shipping. To get everyone involved in the drive for quality assurance, managers must communicate the importance of quality to subordinates and motivate them to focus on customer satisfaction. Employees have to be properly trained not only to do their jobs but also to detect and correct quality problems.
In many companies, employees who perform similar jobs work as teams, sometimes called quality circles, to identify quality, efficiency, and other work-related problems, to propose solutions, and to work with management in implementing their recommendations.
An integral part of TQM is continuous improvement: the commitment to making constant improvements in the design, production, and delivery of goods and services.
Improvements can almost always be made to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve customer service and satisfaction. Everyone in the organization is constantly on the lookout for ways to do things better.