The total quality tool kit

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 1 June 2004



(2004), "The total quality tool kit", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 8 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The total quality tool kit

The total quality tool kit

Adapted from Motwani, Jaideep (2001), "Critical factors and performance measures of TQM", The TQM Magazine, Vol. 13 No. 4, pp. 292-300

What every manager needs for optimum performance

Total quality management (TQM) is an integral part of business life. Quality marks are not only sources of pride for companies, but also what business customers and consumers expect to see. The demand for TQM has produced a vast quantity of literature on the fundamental changes required to an organization's culture in order to implement and sustain quality. TQM newcomers and seasoned practitioners looking for regular health checks can be equally bewildered. A recent survey by a US business school does all the hard work for you and summarizes TQM essentials you need to get started or keep running.

Finding first principles

Many of the original quality gurus took a broadly philosophical approach. For example, W. Edwards Deming argued that we had come to accept a world filled with defects, and that the way to change this was to reduce variability through developing what he termed "a system of profound knowledge" or SPK. This system derives from bringing together four specific types of understanding: how systems work, how variability is caused, how knowledge is acquired and how human psychology is involved in the first three.

Deming's system of knowledge is an invaluable way of looking at organizations and their place in the world, but busy professionals have neither the time nor the philosophical training to translate it into long term strategies or short term action plans. Consequently, large areas of TQM literature are devoted to doing precisely this. However, the US survey under review found that while many of the attempts to turn Deming's and similar ideas into working practices by gathering excellent data from real organizations, they tended to suffer from failures of emphasis.

For example, a seven point checklist used by the US Department of Commerce and Technology focused on using to quality management to attain customer satisfaction while largely ignoring company-wide implementation. Conversely, a study that produced a 78-point checklist was invaluable in its relevance to both manufacturing and service sectors, but ignored customer satisfaction. Another study based on a survey of 371 manufacturing firms began with a comprehensive literature review and used this to produce detailed validation scales. However, it concentrated on TQM results at the expense of designing and implementing a quality strategy.

Nonetheless, the US survey under review concluded that the best parts of around a dozen studies and six detailed TQM tool kits could be combined to produce seven TQM essentials that must be present and inextricably linked:

  1. 1.

    Board level support and leadership.

  2. 2.

    Measurement and benchmarking.

  3. 3.

    Operations or process management.

  4. 4.

    Product design management.

  5. 5.

    Training and empowerment.

  6. 6.

    Vendor management.

  7. 7.

    Customer satisfaction.

The key factor in all seven essentials is that they require active and ongoing management to be effective.

Sticking to your seven principles

The active and ongoing management of these seven principles is synonymous with measuring how well an organization carries them out. The US survey reviewed relevant literature to identify relevant performance measures for each one.

  1. 1.

    Board level support and leadership. Top managers need to allocate funds and resources to TQM and be visibly in charge of its implementation. They also need to be intimately involved in checking progress and in planning for the fundamental organizational changes involved. Crucially, they need to identify and supervise the acquisition of new skills that may have to be bought-in from outside; and they need to make their organization as flat as possible in order to ensure integration of functions.

  2. 2.

    Measurement and benchmarking. This must be based on "zero defect" or "right first time right every time" philosophies. The cost of non-conformance of components, finished products or processes must be factored in. Vendor quality must also be closely controlled.

  3. 3.

    Operations or process management. Internal departmental measurements must be replaced by universal ones relevant to the whole organization and/or its industry sector. Operators should be given ownership of quality costs and process flows made more compact. All activities should be viewed in terms of whether or not they add value. Finally, customer satisfaction needs to be redefined beyond on-time deliveries and non-defective goods.

  4. 4.

    Product design management. This is a key starting point for measuring quality performance. Lessons learned from the past about everything from process efficiency to customer wants and needs can be applied to new product development. Some writers even suggest counting the number of new products developed and measuring the time from first sketch to first sale.

  5. 5.

    Training and empowerment. Training is essential for giving employees ownership of TQM. It helps them to understand an organization's quality goals and to develop and sustain a commitment to them. Empowerment follows on from training in enabling employees to take decisions directly affecting their involvement in TQM. Empowerment can even be measured in terms of degrees of involvement in decision-making and whether suggestion schemes are in operation.

  6. 6.

    Vendor management. This is also essential and can take many forms. Order quantities, inventory turnover and material availability rates can be agreed and measured. Partnerships can be developed in which vendors share the risks of new product development.

  7. 7.

    Customer satisfaction. This needs to be addressed in terms of internal service and external assurance plans. Internal service plans should include on time deliveries, good technical support and employee suggestions for service improvements and cost reductions. External assurance plans should include fast and effective responses to complaints and targets for reducing the number of complaints. Late deliveries can be monitored and reduction targets set. Some writers recommend the adoption of the idea of internal customers as the key to satisfying external customers.

TQM = first principles in the best order

The US survey is invaluable in identifying key principles of TQM and showing how these can be turned into measurable practices and processes. It also emphasizes the importance of active and ongoing management in successful and sustainable TQM.

The survey concludes by putting the seven TQM principles into the most effective sequence. Board level support and leadership come first and give TQM a solid foundation without which it will subside or totally collapse. Measurement and benchmarking, operations or process management, training and empowerment and customer satisfaction that represent the most wide-ranging organizational changes can then be put in place. Finally, vendor management and product design management can be brought on line.

The US survey does not pretend that implementing or sustaining TQM is easy, or that all organizations are the same. However, it does reduce over 30 years of theories and studies into an essential TQM tool kit that can be used both for getting started and for ongoing diagnostics.


This review is of "Critical factors and performance measures of TQM" by Jaideep Motwani. The article is a review of a wide range of TQM literature. The review divides TQM literature into writing about quality and writing about performance measures. The two different types of writing are then analyzed to identify key concepts that are then summarized in two tables. The article is clearly written and suitable for non-academic readers. It is highly recommended as a quick reference guide for both middle and senior managers.

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