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Total Quality Management

A comprehensive competitive advantage

By M. Shafiq Associate Professor
June 25 - July 01, 2001

Starting with F. W. Taylor's time studies, most of the approaches and techniques developed for management improvement seem to have gelled and transformed into Total Quality Management (TQM). This has now emerged as a powerful basis for making comprehensive improvements in all functional areas of an organization. Fundamental to TQM is the concept of quality, which has assumed undeniable status of a very effective competitive advantage.

A number of progressive business organizations are therefore making full use of this advanced weapon in wars against competitors. Japanese corporations like Sony, Toyota, Honda and Nikon have amply proved that customers are hooked to quality like bears to honey. Through continuous quality improvement of their televisions, cars and cameras they have established their leadership in world markets. Coming to think of it none of the products mentioned here were invented by the Japanese! They only improved the quality of these products.

What is quality?

Quality, though very important, is an illusive and relative concept. However, various management gurus and experts have shown us the way. Philip B. Crosby has defined quality as conformance to requirement, not goodness. Peter Drucker has cautioned that, function of business is not to produce the perfect product but to satisfy customer needs in a specific area. And Lee Iacocca has emphasized the truth that, we can only sell what people are willing to buy. So quality is simply the requirement of the customer and his/her satisfaction with a product or service. All organizations should fully understand that, in this respect the customer is the dictator to whom they have to listen carefully and respectfully. It is therefore imperative for them to learn, adopt and follow TQM practices.

Following simple model is developed to bring out the basic structural elements of TQM. The total effort has to be bounded by genuine management commitment, which requires a formal policy statement, a proper organizational arrangement for planning and monitoring TQM effort, as well as, allocation of required resources for performing these functions. The success of TQM programme in an organization is totally dependent on the intensity of the management commitment for quality. It is therefore shown as the boundary encompassing the total endeavour.

The three intersecting circles represent the main elements of TQM. Central to these is the customer and his/her requirements receiving intense focus by all members of organization. Complete sensitivity and appreciation to the requirements and satisfaction of the customer by all members of the organization at all levels all the time is of paramount importance for improving business performance and quality. Lets now focus on the intersecting circles one by one.

Process improvement

TQM requires that all work be perceived as a process, which has input and output and where value is added in each progressive step. Such a progression of value addition of various chains of inter-linked processes culminates in final product or service. TQM takes a cross-functional perspective of various processes. It therefore demands commitment, cooperation and teamwork from all functionaries. There is no room for building departmental fortresses and empires within the organization. Everybody is required to give quality performance in his/her contribution towards production of a quality product or service. It emphasizes continuous improvement of all business processes, as well as, their interlinking and integration.

TQM demands replacing intuition with scientific problem solving. Simple but rational concept of PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) suggested by Edward Deming is used to develop and implement improvements on a continuous basis. A set of simple but powerful statistical tools, particularly control charts is used for monitoring and improving processes. TQM is not a one time exercise but a continuous endeavour. The study for identifying problems and developing and instituting process improvements to improve quality is a journey and not a destination. It is based on the ideal of achieving zero defects and focuses on prevention of defects rather than their detection and/or correction.


Specificity is important in TQM. There is no room for ambiguity. It is therefore essential that all organizational arrangements, systems, policies, rules, procedures and instructions be written down and updated continuously. Writing formalizes, specifies and clarifies these. Documentation in shape of organizational charts and various manuals is therefore an important and integral part of TQM systems. These documents should be easily understandable and available to all concerned. All process improvements when developed and finalized are incorporated into the system through documentation and extensive communication.

Cultural change

TQM aspires to change organizational culture . It aims to bring about radical changes in the thinking and working practices of an organization. It gives the members of an organization a new understanding and importance of quality and their role in improving the same. It encourages management to tap full potential of all employees by adopting a participative approach, open communication, adequate training and fully motivating and empowering them. In short it promotes teamwork through enlightened leadership.

An organization practicing TQM acquires and adopts a learning orientation. It encourages and provides avenues for stimulating, communicating and distributing knowledge through need based training and developing programmes. As a result, its members at all levels acquire new knowledge and upgrade their skills. Their attitude to quality and their role in its creation has to be transformed. Every member of the organization should believe that he/she is personally responsible for quality of the contribution towards the making of the final products.

Genuine adoption of TQM programme with full management commitment and support can enormously benefit any organization through improving the quality of its products and services. The competitive advantage of quality provided by TQM can go a long way in boosting the demand for its products, leading to higher profitability. On a macro level, it can make a significant contribution in improving the economic performance of our country, particularly in breaking the $10 billion export barrier.

The writer is Asian Management Institute- Iqra University.