by Sarah K. White

What is TQM? A company-wide strategy for customer satisfaction

Jan 20, 20226 mins
IT Governance FrameworksIT LeadershipProject Management

Total quality management (TQM) helps bring your entire organization together with one main goal: continually improving processes and products to ensure customer satisfaction.

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TQM definition

Total quality management (TQM) is a management strategy that emphasizes a continuous, organization-wide effort to maintain quality customer service and satisfaction. The goal of TQM is to foster customer loyalty by delivering service levels that keep customers coming back again. The strategy requires consistent feedback from employees and customers to determine how services and products can be improved across the organization and is designed to help companies find a path to strengthen their position in the market, increase productivity, improve customer loyalty and satisfaction, boost employee morale, and improve processes.

Whereas many quality management strategies focus on specific departments, TQM includes every department in continually improving a company’s products and services. According to the TQM philosophy, the more you improve processes in every department, the easier it will be to deliver higher-quality products and services to customers. With TQM, everyone in the company should be focused on quality improvement with the shared goal of boosting customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

TQM principles

Eight defining principles of TQM help guide your organization toward better customer service. According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), the eight principles of TQM are:

  • Customer-focus: Everything comes down to customer satisfaction. If customers are happy, your improvements worked. If they’re dissatisfied, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy.
  • Total employee involvement: Every employee should be invested in the common goal of continuous improvement. TQM isn’t focused on a specific department or business unit, it’s something that requires buy-in across the entire organization.
  • Process-centric: TQM requires process thinking, and strategies should be developed based on feedback from internal or external customers.
  • Integrated system: A strong TQM strategy looks at how micro-processes across the organization build up to larger processes and ensures those processes align with the company’s overall goals.
  • Strategic and systematic approach: To foster an environment focused on continuous process improvement, your TQM strategy must be fine-tuned and focused on the organization’s vision, mission, and goals.
  • Continual improvement: The biggest attribute of TQM is the idea of “continual improvement.” Your organization should never consider a process finished or completed, because new business problems and technologies are constantly being introduced.
  • Fact-based decision-making: Use data and analytics to guide your TQM strategy and to ensure it’s working for your organization.
  • Communication: Because TQM requires a large amount of change management, strong communication across the organization is key if you want your TQM strategy to succeed.

TQM model

TQM includes four main phases, known as The PDCA Cycle, for plan, do, check and act. The “planning” stage is when employees determine the root cause of various problems and quality management issues that need to be addressed throughout the organization. Strategies to address the determined problems discovered in the planning stage are developed during the “doing” stage. Ideas are analyzed and measured to determine how effective they are at helping solve the employees’ problems.

During the “checking” phase, organizations establish effectiveness by comparing data taken before and after to see how well projects performed and if quality improved. These results are then documented during the “acting” phase, during which time employees gear up to tackle another organizational issue they are facing.

Tips for TQM success

Dr. Deming, a physicist and statistician, was key to the development of TQM and is often referred to as the “Father of Quality Management.” He developed 14 points for implementing TQM successfully in the workplace, each of which is meant to serve as advice to leadership on what values to embrace and how to build a company culture that will enable TQM to thrive in the organization.

These 14 points include:

  1. Create constancy to improve products and services.
  2. Adopt the new philosophy.
  3. Stop depending on inspection to achieve quality.
  4. Work with single suppliers rather than taking business based off price alone.
  5. Embrace continuous improvement: Never stop evaluating your planning, production, and service processes.
  6. Implement regular on-the-job training.
  7. Adopt strong leadership.
  8. Drive out fear.
  9. Break down any barriers between staff.
  10. Avoid or get rid of slogans, exhortations, and targets for the workforce.
  11. Don’t implement quotas for the workforce or any numerical goals for management.
  12. Eliminate annual reviews or rating systems and open avenues for people to feel pride in their work.
  13. Encourage continuous education and self-improvement throughout the company.
  14. Get everyone in the company on board with the transformation.

TQM certification and training

The following certifications and courses can help you verify your TQM knowledge and get you up to speed as a TQM professional:

  • MSI Total Quality Management Professional (TQMP): The Management and Strategy Institute’s TQMP certification covers the basic principles of TQM, preparing you to work as a TQM professional in your organization. The exam covers topics such as the TQM pyramid, control charts, management methods, interrelationship diagrams, trend charts, root cause analysis, prevention costs, AQL, and appraisal costs, among other topics. The course and exam are available for $299.99 and take place online.
  • ASQ Quality 101: The American Society for Quality offers a basic TQM course that promises to “teach you how to use a combination of strategy, data, and effective communication to integrate quality into all aspects of your organization.” The course takes place in a classroom format and costs $1,729 for non-members or $1,499 for members of the ASQ. You can also opt for the live-virtual format, which costs $899 for non-members or $799 for members.
  • International Business and Quality Management Institute (IBQMI) TQM Practitioner: The TQM practitioner certification from IBQMI is designed to teach you how to “lead your business partners in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of TQM programs and guide this improvement as a continuous effort conducted throughout the organization,” according to the IBQMI. The course and certification exam are available for $140; the exam takes 60 minutes to complete online and you’ll need at least a 65% to pass.
  • Udemy Total Quality Management (TQM) Certification: The TQM certification offered through Udemy covers the fundamental principles of quality management, the foundations of TQM, elements and models of TQM, cost of quality, quality assurance and control, TQM tools and techniques, related methodologies, and statistical process control. The on-demand course is also one of the most affordable, priced at just $14.
  • Koenig Solutions Total Quality Management Certification Training Course: The TQM certification training course offered by Koenig Solutions covers a range of TQM-related topics, including definitions of quality, quality management systems and standardization, measuring quality, implementing processes, and more. The course can be completed online or in-person with a $1,150 fee for group training and a $1,350 fee for one-on-one training.

Salary for TQM skills

TQM skills are a valuable resource for customer-focused businesses that want to improve customer satisfaction by fostering an environment that supports continual improvement across the organization. According to data from PayScale, the average salary for those reporting TQM skills is $90,000 per year.

PayScale also offers data on how TQM skills can impact the annual salary for specific job titles:

  • Quality control manager: $75,076
  • Quality manager: $82,976
  • Quality assurance manager: $80,282
  • Quality management director: $114,095
  • Quality assurance director: $124,087
  • Vice president of quality: $152,114