TQM is the way of managing for the future, and is far wider in its application than just assuring product or Service quality – it is a way of managing people and business processes to ensure complete customer satisfaction at every stage, internally and externally. TQM, combined with effective leadership, results in an organization doing the right things right, first time. The core of TQM is the customer-supplier interfaces, both externally and internally, and at each interface lie a number of processes. This core must be surrounded by commitment to quality, communication of the quality message, and recognition of the need to change the culture of the organization to create total quality. These are the foundations of TQM, and they are supported by the key management functions of people, processes and systems in the organization. This section discusses each of these elements that, together, can make a total quality organization. Other sections explain people, processes and systems in greater detail, all having the essential themes of commitment, culture and communication running through them.
What is quality?
A frequently used definition of quality is “Delighting the customer by fully meeting their needs and expectations”. These may include performance, appearance, availability, delivery, reliability, maintainability, cost effectiveness and price. It is, therefore, imperative that the organization knows what these needs and expectations are. In addition, having identified them, the organization must understand them, and measure its own ability to meet them. Quality starts with market research – to establish the true requirements for the product or service and the true needs of the customers. However, for an organization to be really effective, quality must span all functions, all people, all departments and all activities and be a common language for improvement. The cooperation of everyone at every interface is necessary to achieve a total quality organization, in the same way that the Japanese achieve this with companywide quality control.
The definition of quality depends on the role of the people defining it. Most consumers have a difficult time defining quality, but they know it when they see it. For example, although you probably have an opinion as to which manufacturer of athletic shoes provides the highest quality, it would probably be difficult for you to define your quality standard in precise terms. Also, your friends may have different opinions regarding which athletic shoes are of highest quality. The difficulty in defining quality exists regardless of product, and this is true for both manufacturing and service organizations. Think about how difficult it may be to define quality for products such as airline services, child day-care facilities, college classes, or even OM textbooks. Further complicating the issue is that the meaning of quality has changed over time.
Today, there is no single universal definition of quality. Some people view quality as “performance to standards. “Others view it as “meeting the customer’s needs” or “satisfying the customer.” Let’s look at some of the more common definitions of quality.
* Conformance to specifications measures how well the product or service meets the targets and tolerances determined by its designers. For example, the dimensions of a machine part may be specified by its design engineers as 3 .05 inches. This would mean that the target dimension is 3 inches but the dimensions can vary between 2.95 and 3.05 inches. Similarly, the wait for hotel room service may be specified as 20 minutes, but there may be an acceptable delay of an additional 10 minutes. Also, consider the amount of light delivered by a 60 watt light bulb. If the bulb delivers 50 watts it does not conform to specifications. As these examples illustrate, conformance to specification is directly measurable, though it...