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

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

What is TQM? A company-wide strategy for 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. TQM’s ultimate goal is to foster customer loyalty by delivering a level of service that will keep customers coming back again. A TQM strategy requires consistent feedback from employees and customers to determine how services and products can be improved across the entire organization.

Whereas other strategies might focus on specific departments, such as IT, TQM includes every department in continually improving its 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 phases: The PDCA Cycle

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.

TQM principles

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

  • Customer-focus: With TQM, everything comes down to customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction determines the success of your company’s TQM project or strategy. If customers are happy, your improvements worked. If they’re dissatisfied, it’s time to reevaluate your strategy.
  • Total employee involvement: Every employee is involved in working towards 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 off 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 that is continuously focused on 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 certification and training

There are a few certifications you can earn that are directly targeted at certifying your TQM skills. These programs are designed to help you verify your TQM knowledge and get you up to speed as a TQM professional. You can also earn certifications and take courses that are designed for specific tools that are used to support your organization’s TQM strategy, but those will be specific to your company and job role.

If you want to focus strictly on TQM certifications and courses here are a few places to start:

  • MSI Total Quality Management Professional (TQMP): The Management and Strategy Institute offers the TQMP certification, which covers the basic principles of TQM and helps prepare you to work as a TQM professional in your organization. The course and certification 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 regular customers and $1,499 for members of the ASQ.
  • 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 $280; the exam takes 60 minutes to complete online and you’ll need at least a 65 percent to pass.

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 $86,000 per year.

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

  • Quality control manager: $65,438
  • Quality manager: $73,836
  • Quality assurance manager: $83,197
  • Quality management director: $104,266
  • Quality assurance director: $120,112
  • Vice president of quality: $151,652

This story, "What is TQM? A company-wide strategy for customer satisfaction" was originally published by CIO.

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