TQM: What is it and why does it fail?


"We have learned to live in a world of mistakes an defective products as if they were necessary to life. It is time to adopt a new philosophy in America.", Ed Demining. This new philosophy he spoke of is TQM. TQM or Total Quality Management, what is it? Who uses TQM? Does it always work, and if not, why not? The following hopefully shell help clear some of these questions we may all have. Lets look at the various points and part of TQM. Also take a look at what flaws and errors may accure in this system.

The first part of TQM we shell approach is the various parts the make it what it is. We shell briefly outline the history of it. Then we will try to define it and parts obtained in it. We shell look at the various approaches to the system of TQM. Finely we will look at it as a structured system.

Ed Deming was not the founder of TQM. That honor goes to Walter Shewhart who came up with the management ideology in the 1920's. At this time none of the United States corporations where willing to test his ideas due to they felt they where doing fine. Ed Deming came along a student under Shewhart. Deming tried to refine the ideas of TQM and got a chance in Japan to try these approaches to management in 1950's. As Japan began moving in and taking over areas that had be predominately controlled by the U.S. , only then did these companies sit up and take notice to this system called TQM and wonder what it was and why it was working for the Japanese. In the 1980's a flood of U.S. organizations started trying to implement TQM.

"Managerial Paradigm" is the way people's think and act in conducting business. It provides a structure -- rules and standards -- as well as accepted norms of managerial practice, laws, theories, applications, and instruments. The managerial paradigm that I want to try to define for you is that of TQM. We must look at the different parts of the words in Total Quality Management.

It is said that quality is defined only in terms of agent. Where the employee may have one definition of quality the employer may have a totally different definition to this word. When pressed to define pornography, a Supreme Court Justice in the United States once commented that he couldn't define it but knew it when he saw it. So is with the word quality. So comes the saying quality is in the eyes of the beholder. Any definition of quality should include the following features: 1) Conformance to customer specifications, 2) conformance to legal or statuary requirements, 3) Meeting or exceeding the anticipated wishes of the customer, and 4) Something better than your competitors. The official ISO 8402 definition of quality is: "The totality of characteristics and an entity that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs." Quality is not only products and services but also includes processes, environment, and people.

Total Quality is an approach to doing business that attempts to maximize the competitiveness of an organization through the continual improvement of the quality of its products, services, people, processes, and environment.

Neither business managers nor academicians can agree completely upon the definition of TQM or how to put the concept into practice. What they do agree upon include the following. TQM is not an overnight, passing fad that can be learned quickly. It cannot be purchased from a vendor, or selected out of a training catalog. TQM success demands total commitment from entire organization, and cannot be half -- hearted venture pursued by only part of the organization. TQM consists of continuous improvement activities involving everyone in the organization -- managers and workers -- in a totally integrated effort toward improving performance at every level.

Dr. Deming included 14 points in his book Out of the Crisis that he believed managers must fallow to be successful with TQM;

1) Create constancy of purpose for improvement of product and service. Management must change from a preoccupation with the short run to building for the long run. This requires dedication to innovation in all areas to best meet the needs of citizens or clients.

2) Adopt the new philosophy. Americans have been too tolerant to poor performance and sullen service. We need a new philosophy in which mistakes and negativism is unacceptable.

3) Cease dependence on mass inspection. Inspection is equivalent to planning for defects; it comes too late, and it is ineffective and costly. Instead, processes must be improved.

4) End the practice of awarding contracts on the basis of price tag. Purchasing departments customarily operate on orders to seek the lowest-priced vendor. Frequently, this leads to supplies or services of low quality. Instead, they should seek the best quality and work to achieve it with a single supplier for any one item in a long-term relationship.

5) Improve constantly and forever the system of operations and service. Improvement is not a one-time effort. Management and employees are obligated to continually look for ways to reduce waste and improve quality.

6) Institute modern methods of training on the job. Too often, employees learn their jobs from other employees who were never trained properly. They are forced to follow unintelligible instructions. They cannot do their jobs because no one tells them how.

7) Institute modern methods of leadership. Lower-level managers must be empowered to inform upper management about conditions that need correction; once informed, management must take action. Barriers (such as reserved parking places for top management) that prevent employees from doing their jobs with pride must be removed.

8) Drive out fear. Many employees are afraid to ask questions or to take a position, even when they do not understand what the job is or what is right or wrong. People will continue to do things the wrong way or to not do them at all. The economic loss from fear is appalling. It is necessary for better quality and productivity that people feel secure.

9) Break down barriers between staff areas. Often staff areas, departments, units, and so on are competing with each other or have goals that conflict. They do not work as a team so they can solve or foresee problems. Worse, one department's goals may cause trouble for another. Each discipline must stop optimizing its own work and instead work together as a team for the company as a whole. Multidisciplinary quality control circles can help improve design, service, quality and costs.

10) Eliminate slogans, exhortations, numerical goals and targets for the work force. These never helped anybody do a good job. Let people put up their own slogans. Although workers should not be given numerical goals, the organization itself must have a goal: never ending improvement.

11) Eliminate work standards and quotas. Quotas focus on quantity not quality. They are usually a guarantee of inefficiency and high cost. To hold a job, a person meets quotas at any cost, without regard to damage to the organization.

12) Remove barriers to pride of workmanship. People are eager to do a good job and distressed when they cannot. Too often, misguided managers, faulty equipment, and defective material stand in the way. These barriers must be removed.

13) Institute a vigorous program of education and training. Because quality and productivity improvements change the number of people needed in some areas and the jobs required, people must be continually trained and retrained. All training must include basic statistical techniques.

14) Create a structure in top management that will push every day on the above 13 points.


There are a few guiding principles to TQM. 1) Successful TQM requires both behavioral and cultural changes. 2) Successful TQM system brings two other management systems together with a behavioral and cultural commitment to customer quality. 3) TQM becomes a system within itself by default or choice. 4) Organizational management system, Human resource management systems and total quality management must be aligned in a successful TQM initiative.

There are two basic implementation approaches. The first one is the Traditional Management Approach: This is the most common. In this approach TQM never becomes accepted reality by either organizational or human resource management. It is usually seen as competition, or something to be tolerated. The TQM system consumes valuable resources needed by the other systems and rejection begins to occur.

The second approach is the Integrated Management Approach. Whether both organizational management and human resource management systems take on a quality management commitment or join a quality management team is not important. The principles of quality management are attended to as an important third system that blends, integrates, aligns, and maximizes the other two systems to beat competition in world class quality performance.

TQM is a structured system. When all of its elements are implemented properly, TQM is like a well-built house. It's solid, strong, and cohesive. If TQM is not planned for and implemented correctly, it will be structurally weak and will probably fail.

Deming was a realist. He maintained that the U.S. organizations were afflicted with what he called the seven deadly diseases, and any one of them could be a hindrance to quality improvement. Some are obvious negatives to his fourteen points. The first five could be thought as basic management truths because they are so much a part of most organizational systems. But, he concluded for TQM to be successful the seven diseases of an organization must be eradicated. These seven diseases included:

1) Failure to provide adequate human and financial resources to support the purpose of quality improvement.

2) Emphasis on short-term profits and shareholder value.

3) Annual performance evaluations based on observations or judgments.

4) The lack of management continuity owing to job hopping.

5) Management's use of easily available data, without regards to what is needed to improve the process.

6) Excessive health-care costs.

7) Excessive legal costs.


Here are some reasons why TQM programs do not always work.:

TQM focuses people's attention on internal processes rather than on external results. An asset of TQM is that it gets managers to attend to internal processes, But taken to an extreme manager can get too preoccupied with internal issues such as the controversial issue of the performance evaluation and measurement, and thereby, ignoring the shifting perceptions and preferences of customers.

TQM focuses on minimum standards. Zero defects and no rework efficiency distract people from adding value and excitement to customers' lives.

TQM develops its own cumbersome bureaucracy. Organizational charts and reporting systems with interlocking committees, councils, and improvement teams imply a linear and predictable improvement process, rather than the chaotic and disruptive rebuilding that is often necessary.

TQM delegates quality to quality czars and 'experts' rather than to 'real' people. Quality should not be delegated, but lived in the strategy of the company and roles of the managers.

TQM does not demand radical organizational reforms. Real quality improvement requires structural change and liberation of people from stifling control systems and the tyranny of functionalism which precludes teamwork.

TQM does not demand changes in management compensation. If rewarded on short-term financial gains, managers will not be likely to attend to quality measures.

TQM does not demand entirely new relationships with outside partners. This deficiency results from above conditions. Managers will fail to enact nonlegelistic relationships based on trust and mutual support.

TQM appeals to faddish, egotism, and quick fixism. Although they will not admit it , many managers have applied for awards, like the Baldrige, for reasons of personal aggrandizement and corporate public relations, or for quick and painless profitability. In reality, quality requires a never ending pursuit of improvement.

TQM draws entrepreneur ship and innovation from corporate culture. Too much emphasis on standardization and routine precludes the constant changes and shifting needed to keep up with external changes.

TQM has no place for love. Though this comment seems to be a bit precious, it means that the analytical, detached, and sterile programs put in place to ensure qualities are often devoid of the human emotion and soul that inspire attachment to the company by employees and to the products by customers.

It could be said TQM in true form is not for all. Each company my have different needs and uses of TQM. Hopefully some of the information I have provided gives some information that would help interest some organizations to look deeper to see if it may work for them. With a little history, structure and possible failures it should be a good start. There is so much more to the subject and a couple of books to read would be Out of the Crisis and The New Economics both written by Ed Deming. Also the internet holds many more resources on the subject.

















¨ http://www-caes.mit.edu/products/deming

¨ http://sunflower.singnet.com.sg/~makhdoom

¨ http://tql-navy.org

¨ http://www.skyenet.net/~leg/tqmmodels

¨ http://www.finnevo.fi/TQM.HTM

¨ http://www.iqd.com/tqmdefn.htm