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Total quality management (TQM) and Six Sigma are among the most popular quality management strategies. TQM developed from approaches applied to ensure quality in the early years of 20th century. The approach became well defined in 1950s where Japanese companies applied it to improve quality.
By 1970s, TQM was the popular approach in many organizations in the world. Six Sigma is mostly considered an improvement on TQM. The approach originated from Motorola in early 1980s and has gained popularity with many organizations.
Total Quality Management
TQM refers to a management approach that aims at offering customers with products that meet or go beyond their quality expectations. The approach is focused on customers and ensures all sectors on an organization are keen on quality.
The term ‘total’ indicates that all individuals in an organization must be dedicated towards quality. The approach is based on continuous improvement in all sectors of an organization in order to achieve high quality (Daft & Marcic, 2008).
A number of important principles, with hope that by adhering to the principles an organization can be able to achieve and maintain high quality, drive TQM. An organization that chooses to implement TQM is expected to show commitment to the approach by appropriate initiatives and resource allocation. Top executive management play important to success of TQM and are expected to show leadership towards high quality.
The approach emphasizes on use of appropriate methodology and tools to determine nonconformity and use of measurement when making decisions on quality (Daft & Marcic, 2008).
To achieve quality standards, TQM emphasizes on need for training and ensuring that quality improvement enhances customer satisfaction. Company culture and continuous improvement are the most important principles of TQM (Daft & Marcic, 2008). An organization implementing TQM is expected to develop a culture for high quality and make continuous steps to improve quality continuously.
Nissan Motor Company is one of successful companies that implements TQM. The company was in operational and financial crisis when it chose to implement the principles of TQM. TQM principles enabled the company to improve on quality of its products and increase customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma is a quality management approach that aims at ensuring that 99.99966 percent of products meet quality specifications. The approach has become very popular with many organizations for setting high expectations on quality. An organization that implements Six Sigma is expected to keep defects below 3.4 defects in a millions manufactured products (Truscott, 2003).
Six Sigma approach seeks to achieve the high quality expectations by identifying and elimination sources of errors. In addition to implementing various quality management methods, Six Sigma leads to quality experts recognized by ‘Green belts’, ‘Black Belts’ and others (Truscott, 2003).
The designations indicate an individual’s expertise in implementing Six Sigma principles. Two methodologies: DMAIC and DMADV are associated with Six Sigma. DMAIC is implemented to improve existing processes while DMADV is applied on new products or processes.
Motorola, Inc. is the best example of organizations that implement Six Sigma. Motorola has implemented Six Sigma since 1981 as its key quality management strategy. The approach has helped the company to provide high quality products consistently. Although the company lost dominance in mobile phones to Nokia in 1990’s, through high quality the company is regaining market share.
Low quality products and services can be very expensive to an organization. There are several quality management strategies to enhance quality, but Six Sigma and TQM are the most popular. The two approaches have similarity in that they emphasize on companywide culture for quality but Six Sigma set higher standards for quality. Many organizations are abandoning TQM for Six Sigma or integrating the two.
Daft, R. & Marcic, D. (2008). Understanding Management. New York: Cengage Learning.
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Truscott, W. (2003). Six sigma: continual improvement for business: a practical guide. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.