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Total Quality Management (TQM) is about taking care of customers.
Successful organizations have figured out that customer satisfaction directly impacts the bottom line.
You need a structured, systematic process to create an environment that supports a quality culture.
How To Implement Total Quality Management (TQM)
Let’s begin by defining the word quality.
“A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings: (1) the characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs and (2) a product or service free of deficiencies.”
American Society for Quality (ASQ)
We now understand what quality means, but what is a quality management system?
A Quality Management System is “The organizational structure, processes, procedures, and resources needed to implement, maintain, and continually improve the management of quality.” –
American Society for Quality (ASQ)
Total Quality Management (TQM) is a management approach to long-term success through customer satisfaction.
TQM focuses on developing products and services that meet the needs and exceed the expectations of key customer groups.
This is accomplished by creating an integrated “system” that is process-centered, has total employee involvement, and is completely customer-focused.
Creating a customer-focused culture and collecting and studying data that supports efforts for the customer are critical components of the system.
Following are steps to implementing a quality management system that will help to bring the process full circle.
Steps to Implementing a Total Quality Management System
1. Clarify Vision, Mission, and Values
Employees need to know how what they do is tied to organizational strategy and objectives.
Employees should understand where the organization is headed (its vision), what it hopes to accomplish (mission), and the operational principles (values) that will steer its priorities and decision-making.
2. Identify Critical Success Factors (CSF)
Critical success factors help an organization focus on those things that help it meet objectives and move a little closer to achieving its mission.
Oversight councils can help to determine appropriate CSFs.
These performance-based measures provide a gauge for determining how well the organization is meeting objectives.
Some examples of CSF:
- Financial Performance
- Customer Satisfaction
- Process Improvement
- Market Share
- Employee Satisfaction
- Product Quality
Every organization is different. Develop CSFs that influence the success of your business.
3. Develop Measures and Metrics to Track CSF Data
Once critical success factors are identified, measurements must be put in place to monitor and track progress.
This can be done through a reporting process that is used to collect specified data and share information with senior leaders.
For example, if a goal is to increase customer satisfaction survey scores, there should be a goal and a measure to demonstrate the achievement of that goal.
4. Identify Key Customer Groups
Every organization has customers. Those who understand the key customer groups can create products and services based on customer requirements.
The mistake many organizations make is not acknowledging employees as a key customer group.
Example Key Customer Groups:
Get to know each customer group by identifying their needs and expectations.
5. Solicit Customer Feedback
The only way for an organization to know how well they are meeting customer requirements is by simply asking the question.
Create a structured process to solicit feedback from each customer group in an effort to identify what is important to them.
Organizations often make the mistake of thinking they know what is important to customers and ask the wrong survey questions.
The trick is to ask and not assume. Customer expectations are a moving target.
Try to remember that what a customer expects today is very different from what was expected five years ago. And what a customer expects today is very different from what they will expect five years from now.
Learn expectations by asking for feedback.
This type of feedback is obtained through customer focus groups.
6. Develop A Survey Tool
Next, develop a customer satisfaction survey tool that is based on what is important to customers.
For example, customers might care more about quality than cost. However, if you are developing a product and trying to keep the cost down and skimping on the quality, you are creating a product that might not meet the needs of the customer.
Learn to strike a balance between the cost of creating products and a quality product that customers will value.
7. Survey Each Customer Group
Create a customized survey for each customer group. This survey will help to establish baseline data on the customers’ perception of current practice.
For instance, an employee satisfaction survey may provide insight into what benefits employees value that may lead to retention.
Now, you will have a starting point for improvements and will be able to demonstrate progress as improvement plans are implemented.
8. Develop An Improvement Plan
Once the baseline is established, you should develop an improvement plan based on customer feedback from each group.
Improvement plans should be written in SMART goals format with assignments to specific staff for follow-through.
Goals May Include Some of the Following:
- Process improvement initiatives: such as customer call hold times
- Leadership Development: Walk-the-Talk
- Management Training/Development: How to manage employees in a quality environment
- Staff Training/Development: Customer Service
- Performance Management: Setting expectations, creating job descriptions that support the vision, and holding staff accountable.
9. Resurvey To See If It’s Working
Implement your improvement plan and give customers time to notice those changes.
After a period of time (12-18 months), resurvey key customers to see if scores have improved.
Customer needs and expectations change over time, so being in tune with changing needs and expectations is critical to long-term success.
10. Monitor CSF
Monitor CSF monthly to ensure there is consistent progress toward goals.
For instance, if customer feedback alerts you that employees may need some service standard training, collect monthly data to see if scores improve after initiating refresher classes.
This also allows for course correction should priorities and objectives change during the review period.
11. Incorporate Satisfaction Data into Marketing Plans
Once you’ve achieved some positive results with your satisfaction data, use it as a marketing tool!
For instance, if you are trying to recruit top-tier employees, advertise your high employee satisfaction scores to demonstrate your commitment to employee satisfaction.
A lot of successful organizations miss the boat by not letting others know what they do well.
Customers want to know how an organization’s internal processes work, especially if those processes help to deliver an outstanding product or service!
12. Maintain Current Technology
Technology is how work gets done. Use technology to your advantage and commit to keeping up with changes.
Make sure technology is user-friendly and supports targeted improvements.
For example, a website should be easy to navigate, easy to find (SEO), and the content should be easy to understand.
Make sure employees understand the vision as well as their role in supporting it.
Look for ways to ensure that all internal processes are standardized and that employees receive the training to understand the standardization.
Successful quality initiatives require ongoing Senior Leadership sponsorship and support through structure, process, and staff transitions. Designated resources are also critical in supporting these endeavors.
If you are interested in learning more about quality management, I highly recommend a book called The Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence Handbook, Fourth Edition.