Total quality management (TQM) refers to the ongoing reduction of process errors and the streamlining of operations. The result is a system that contains few non value-added elements, and which produces results with minimal error rates. These results are gauged from the viewpoint of the customer.
There are four steps in the TQM process, which are continually repeated to achieve ongoing improvements. The steps are:
- Plan. Determine the problem that shall be addressed, collect information about it, and figure out the root cause of the problem.
- Do. Decide how to fix the root cause, implement the fix, and initiate a measurement system to track the resulting improvement.
- Check. Examine the measurement using before-and-after testing, to see if the root cause of the problem has actually been eliminated or at least reduced.
- Act. Document and publicize the results of this cycle, and also issue a recommendation regarding the problem to be addressed in the next cycle.
The acronym for these steps is the PDCA cycle.
There may be either ad hoc or permanent committees that engage in PDCA cycles, depending on the situation and management's commitment to overall company improvement.
A TQM system draws upon the skills of many employees, making improvement a group effort. This also means that everyone in an organization is held accountable for the results of the system.