Total quality management

From Total Quality Management to Quality Management System

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Total quality management vs. quality management systems – is there a difference?

In this post, we’ll explore the differences between these two terms, then we’ll learn why “quality management system” is the preferred term.


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What Is Total Quality Management?

Total quality management (TQM) is a business framework designed to improve quality across an organization. 

The focus of this approach is on areas such as:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Creating cultures and disciplines that emphasize quality
  • Employee involvement 
  • Continuous improvement
  • Decision-making based on facts 

TQM was the culmination of many decades of research and development by statisticians, engineers, and other business professionals in a range of fields. 

W. Edward Deming is widely credited with the creation of TQM in its current form, however, and he was instrumental in its popularization around the world. Deming implemented his ideas in post-WWII Japan, which significantly influenced their manufacturing practices.

TQM since became so influential that many organizations encoded its very principles into their operating models and their business models. 

Why Use Total Quality Management?

Since TQM is aimed at improving quality across the organization, the business benefits are virtually limitless. 

First and foremost, TQM focuses on maximizing customer success and satisfaction – the main benefit, therefore, would revolve around the customer experience, customer value, and other customer-centered metrics.

Yet TQM can deliver benefits across a wide range of other business areas.

A few examples include:

  • Improved business efficiency
  • Cost savings
  • Greater organizational effectiveness
  • An improved work environment
  • A better organizational culture

In short, the proper application of TQM can positively affect the organization from top to bottom. 

From Total Quality Management to Quality Management System

Over time, the business world has changed and so too have the needs of quality management systems. While TQM has undoubtedly been one of the most influential approaches to quality management in the world, other terms and concepts have taken the forefront.

Today, quality management systems (QMSs) have become standard and have often replaced TQM.

A QMS refers to the system itself that is used to define and achieve quality objectives. Like TQM, a QMS is typically built around concepts such as:

  • Delivering on customer expectations
  • Improving the customer experiences
  • Increasing efficiency in business processes
  • Reducing waste and mistakes
  • Providing a systematic method of governing processes
  • Aligning organizational operations with its objectives

A QMS, in other words, aims to achieve the same objectives as a TQM.

Yet unlike TQM, the details of a QMS differ.

For instance:

  • A QMS will not necessarily be built upon the same principles that TQM was built upon
  • Modern organizations have different needs than those of the past, so modern QMSs will emphasize newer principles, such as organizational agility and transparency
  • A QMS can differ in terms of content and be designed around the needs of the business

The exact structure of a QMS may differ from organization to organization. However, to qualify as a QMS, certain standards must be met.

ISO 9001:2015 defines those standards and specifies what should be documented when creating a QMS.

To adhere to these guidelines, a QMS should include items such as:

  • A quality manual
  • The organization’s quality policy and objectives
  • Procedures
  • Instructions
  • Business processes

Ultimately, a QMS should be built upon principles of quality management that include relationship management, leadership management, customer-centrism, and improvement.

Quality Management in the Digital Workplace

As mentioned, changing business needs have driven the transition from TQM to more modern QMSs. Another trend that has contributed to the evolution of quality management is software.

Today, software and digital tools are affecting every aspect of the business, so it should come as no surprise that quality management professionals also use QMS software. 

When discussing QMS-related software, the terms “eQMS” or simply “QMS” are frequently used – according to some, the distinction is that an eQMS stores documents digitally, while a QMS stores them physically. 

In either case, these programs are designed to store internal quality policies, procedures, objectives, and other documentation.

How to Create a QMS

Creating a QMS requires, among other things, an understanding of several things:

  • What a QMS is
  • The ISO 9001:2015 guidelines
  • Commitment and change management sponsorship from business leadership
  • A reason for designing or redesigning a QMS

Developing a QMS is a significant undertaking, so it is necessary to enlist the help of those with expertise. That being said, with the right preparation and knowledge, it is possible to create a QMS that aligns with your organizational objectives and your customers’ needs.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when designing a QMS:

  • Modeling the QMS on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle is a good way to embed continuous improvement into the process
  • Start with the organization’s vision, its mission, and its priorities
  • Design and map the business’s processes
  • Link those processes to roles within the organization
  • Document the most critical aspects of the QMS
  • Adopt software, such as an eQMS system, to streamline the development and maintenance of the QMS
  • Adjust the QMS as needed

Finally, as we have seen, TQM was the precursor to the modern QMS. While TQM may no longer be used in that specific form, many of its principles are still valid. Understanding those principles, therefore, can be a good starting place for anyone who wants to design their own QMS.

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