11. Quality Management Tools

Many organizations use quality tools to help monitor and manage their quality initiatives.

There are several types of tools that can be used.  However, there are seven management tools for quality control that are the most common.

Different tools are used for different problem-solving opportunities, and many of the tools can be used in different ways.

The trick is to become familiar and comfortable with all of these quality tools so you can pull the appropriate one out of your toolbox when there is a problem that needs to be solved.

7 Management Tools For Quality Control

1. Flowchart

Most of us are familiar with flowcharts. You have seen flowcharts of reporting relationships in organizational structures.

Flowcharts are also used to document work process flows.

This tool is used when trying to determine where the bottlenecks or breakdowns are in work processes.

Flow-charting the steps of a process provides a picture of what the process looks like and can shed light on issues within the process.

Flowcharts are also used to show changes in a process when improvements are made or to show a new workflow process.

This example provides a picture so those checking children in will know the steps each takes depending on whether it is their first time or a child who has been there before.

Example Flowchart

children's ministry drop-off process

2. Check Sheet

A check sheet is a basic quality tool that is used to collect data. A check sheet might be used to track the number of times a certain incident happens.

As an example, a human resource department may track the number of questions by employees, per category, per day.

In this particular check sheet the tool shows the total number of questions received by the human resources department.

This information helps that department identify opportunities to proactively share information with employees in an effort to reduce the numbers of questions asked.

Example Check Sheet

human resource questions check sheet example

3. Cause and Effect (fish bone) Diagram

A cause and effect diagram, also known as a fish-bone diagram shows the many possible causes of a problem.

To use this tool, you need to first identify the problem you are trying to solve and simply write it in the box (head of the fish) to the right.

Next, you will list the major causes of the problem on the spine of the fish.

Causes are typically separated into categories of people, process, materials and equipment.

Causes are then identified through brainstorming with a group familiar with the problem.

Once all of the possible causes are identified, they can be used to develop an improvement plan to help resolve the identified problem.

Example Cause and Effect (Fish Bone) Diagram

fish bone cause and effect diagram

4. Pareto Chart

A Pareto chart is a bar graph of data showing the largest number of frequencies to the smallest.

In this example, we are looking at the number of product defects in each of the listed categories.

When you look at the number of defects from the largest to the smallest occurrences, it is easy to see how to prioritize improvements efforts.

The most significant problems stand out and can be targeted first.

Example Pareto Chart

pareto chart example

5. Control Charts

Control charts or run charts are used to plot data points over time and give a picture of the movement of that data.

These charts demonstrate when data is consistent or when there are high or low outliers in the occurrences of data.

It focuses on monitoring performance over time by looking at the variation in data points. And it distinguishes between common cause and special cause variations. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a good example of a control chart.

Example Control (Run) Charts

control (run) chart example

6. Histograms

Histograms are bar chart pictures of data that shows patterns that fall within typical process conditions.

Changes in a process should trigger new collection of data.

A minimum of 50-75 data points should be gathered to ensure an adequate number of data points have been collected.

The patterns that are detected demonstrate an analysis that helps understand variation.

In this example, it shows that the receptionist received the most phone calls about contribution statements for that period.

Example Histogram

histogram example

7. Scatter Diagrams

Scatter diagrams are graphs that show the relationship between variables. Variables often represent possible causes and effect.

As an example, a scatter diagram might show the relationship between how satisfied volunteers are that attend orientation training.

The diagram shows the relationship between volunteer satisfaction scores and volunteer orientation training.

Example Scatter Diagram

scatter diagram example

Each of these quality tools has unique advantages for certain situations. And, not all tools are used for all problem-solving.

Once a tool is learned, it can be adapted to different problem-solving opportunities.

Additionally, as with anything else, using tools properly takes practice and experience. Simply start using each of the tools, and over time, you will become proficient and a great problem solver!

What problems does your organization have that could benefit from one of these tools?

Total Quality Management – Meaning and Important Concepts

To understand the meaning of “Total quality management”, let us first know what does Quality mean?

Quality refers to a parameter which decides the superiority or inferiority of a product or service. Quality can be defined as an attribute which differentiates a product or service from its competitors. Quality plays an essential role in every business. Business marketers need to emphasize on quality of their brands over quantity to survive the cut throat competition.

Why would a customer come to you if your competitor is also offering the same product? The difference has to be there in quality. Your brand needs to be superior for it to stand apart from the rest.

Total Quality Management

Total Quality management is defined as a continuous effort by the management as well as employees of a particular organization to ensure long term customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. Remember, one happy and satisfied customer brings ten new customers along with him whereas one disappointed individual will spread bad word of mouth and spoil several of your existing as well as potential customers.

You need to give something extra to your customers to expect loyalty in return. Quality can be measured in terms of durability, reliability, usage and so on. Total quality management is a structured effort by employees to continuously improve the quality of their products and services through proper feedbacks and research. Ensuring superior quality of a product or service is not the responsibility of a single member.

Every individual who receives his/her paycheck from the organization has to contribute equally to design foolproof processes and systems which would eventually ensure superior quality of products and services. Total Quality management is indeed a joint effort of management, staff members, workforce, suppliers in order to meet and exceed customer satisfaction level. You can’t just blame one person for not adhering to quality measures. The responsibility lies on the shoulder of everyone who is even remotely associated with the organization.

W. Edwards Deming, Joseph M. Juran, and Armand V. Feigenbaum jointly developed the concept of total quality management. Total Quality management originated in the manufacturing sector, but can be applied to almost all organizations.

Total quality management ensures that every single employee is working towards the improvement of work culture, processes, services, systems and so on to ensure long term success.

Total Quality management can be divided into four categories:

  • Plan
  • Do
  • Check
  • Act

Also referred to as PDCA cycle.

Planning Phase

Planning is the most crucial phase of total quality management. In this phase employees have to come up with their problems and queries which need to be addressed. They need to come up with the various challenges they face in their day to day operations and also analyze the problem’s root cause. Employees are required to do necessary research and collect relevant data which would help them find solutions to all the problems.

Doing Phase

In the doing phase, employees develop a solution for the problems defined in planning phase. Strategies are devised and implemented to overcome the challenges faced by employees. The effectiveness of solutions and strategies is also measured in this stage.

Checking Phase

Checking phase is the stage where people actually do a comparison analysis of before and after data to confirm the effectiveness of the processes and measure the results.

Acting Phase

In this phase employees document their results and prepare themselves to address other problems.

Importance of Quality Management

“Quality management” ensures superior quality products and services. Quality of a product can be measured in terms of performance, reliability and durability. Quality is a crucial parameter which differentiates an organization from its competitors. Quality management tools ensure changes in the systems and processes which eventually result in superior quality products and services. Quality management methods such as Total Quality management or Six Sigma have a common goal – to deliver a high quality product. Quality management is essential to create superior quality products which not only meet but also exceed customer satisfaction. Customers need to be satisfied with your brand. Business marketers are successful only when they emphasize on quality rather than quantity. Quality products ensure that you survive the cut throat competition with a smile.

Quality management is essential for customer satisfaction which eventually leads to customer loyalty. How do you think businesses run? Do businesses thrive only on new customers? It is important for every business to have some loyal customers. You need to have some customers who would come back to your organization no matter what.

Would you buy a Nokia mobile again if the previous handset was defective? The answer is NO.

Customers would return to your organization only if they are satisfied with your products and services. Make sure the end-user is happy with your product. Remember, a customer would be happy and satisfied only when your product meets his expectations and fulfills his needs. Understand what the customer expects from you? Find out what actually his need is? Collect relevant data which would give you more insight into customer’s needs and demands. Customer feedbacks should be collected on a regular basis and carefully monitored. Quality management ensures high quality products and services by eliminating defects and incorporating continuous changes and improvements in the system. High quality products in turn lead to loyal and satisfied customers who bring ten new customers along with them. Do not forget that you might save some money by ignoring quality management processes but ultimately lose out on your major customers, thus incurring huge losses. Quality management ensures that you deliver products as per promises made to the customers through various modes of promotions. Quality management tools help an organization to design and create a product which the customer actually wants and desires.

Quality Management ensures increased revenues and higher productivity for the organization. Remember, if an organization is earning, employees are also earning. Employees are frustrated only when their salaries or other payments are not released on time. Yes, money is a strong motivating factor. Would you feel like working if your organization does not give you salary on time? Ask yourself. Salaries are released on time only when there is free cash flow. Implementing Quality management tools ensure high customer loyalty, thus better business, increased cash flow, satisfied employees, healthy workplace and so on. Quality management processes make the organization a better place to work.

Remove unnecessary processes which merely waste employee’s time and do not contribute much to the organization’s productivity. Quality management enables employees to deliver more work in less time.

Quality management helps organizations to reduce waste and inventory. It enables employees to work closely with suppliers and incorporate “Just in Time” Philosophy.

Quality management ensures close coordination between employees of an organization. It inculcates a strong feeling of team work in the employees.

Elements of Total Quality Management

Quality is an essential parameter which helps organizations outshine their competitors and survive the fierce competition.

The success of total quality management depends on following eight elements which are further classified into following four groups.

  • Foundation
  • Building Bricks
  • Binding Mortar
  • Roof


Foundation further includes Ethics, Integrity and Trust

The entire process of Total Quality Management is built on a strong foundation of Ethics, Integrity and Trust. Total Quality Management involves every single employee irrespective of his designation and level in the hierarchy.

Ethics: Ethics is an individual’s understanding of what is good and bad at the workplace. A thin line of difference does exist between good and bad, which is for you to decide. Ethics teach an individual to follow code of conduct of organization and adhere to rules and regulations.

Integrity: Integrity refers to honesty, values and an individual’s sincerity at workplace. You need to respect your organization’s policies. Avoid spreading unnecessary rumours about your fellow workers. Total Quality Management does not work in an environment where employees criticize and backstab each other.

Trust: Trust is one of the most important factors necessary for implementation of total quality management. Employees need to trust each other to ensure participation of each and every individual. Trust improves relationship among employees and eventually helps in better decision making which further helps in implementing total quality management successfully.


Bricks are placed on a strong foundation to reach the roof of recognition. The foundation needs to be strong enough to hold the bricks and support the roof.

Training: Employees need to be trained on Total Quality Management. Managers need to make their fellow workers aware of the benefits of total quality management and how would it make a difference in their product quality and eventually yield profits for their organization. Employees need to be trained on interpersonal skills, the ability to work as a team member, technical know-how, decision making skills, problem solving skills and so on. Training enables employees to implement TQM effectively within their departments and also make them indispensable resources.

Teamwork: Team work is a crucial element of total quality management. Rather than working individually, employees need to work in teams. When individuals work in unison, they are in a position to brainstorm ideas and come up with various solutions which would improve existing processes and systems. Team members ought to help each other to find a solution and put into place.

Leadership: Leadership provides a direction to the entire process of Total Quality Management. Total Quality Management needs to have a supervisor who acts as a strong source of inspiration for other members and can assist them in decision making. A leader himself needs to believe in the entire process of TQM for others to believe in the same. Proper downloads, briefs about TQM must be given from to time to employees to help them in its successful implementation.

Binding Mortar

Binding Mortar binds all the elements together.

Communication – Communication binds employees and extracts the best out of them. Information needs to be passed on from the sender to the recipient in its desired form. Small misunderstandings in the beginning lead to major problems later on. Employees need to interact with each other to come up with problems existing in the system and find their solutions as well.

Three types of Communication takes place between employees:

Downward Communication: Flow of information takes place from the management to the employees

Upward Communication: Flow of information takes place from the employees to the top level management

Sideways Communication: Communication also takes place between various departments.


Recognition: Recognition is the final element of Total Quality Management. Recognition is the most important factor which acts as a catalyst and drives employees to work hard as a team and deliver their lever best. Every individual is hungry for appreciation and recognition. Employees who come up with improvement ideas and perform exceptionally well must be appreciated in front of all. They should be suitably rewarded to expect a brilliant performance from them even the next time.

Total Quality Management Models

Total Quality Management is a combined effort of both top level management as well as employees of an organization to formulate effective strategies and policies to deliver high quality products which not only meet but also exceed customer satisfaction.

Total Quality management enables employees to focus on quality than quantity and strive hard to excel in whatever they do. According to total quality management, customer feedbacks and expectations are most essential when it comes to formulating and implementing new strategies to deliver superior products than competitors and eventually yield higher revenues and profits for the organization.

Credits for the process of total quality management go to many philosophers and their teachings. Drucker, Juran, Deming, Ishikawa, Crosby, Feigenbaum and many other individuals who have in due course of time studied organizational management have contributed effectively to the process of total quality management.

There are many models of total quality management and it is really not necessary that every organization should select and implement the same model.

Following are the various models of total quality management:

  • Deming Application Prize
  • Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence
  • European Foundation for Quality Management, and
  • ISO quality management standards

Customers and their feedbacks are the foundation of every Total Quality Management model. In simpler words, Total Quality Management begins with understanding customers, their needs and what they expect from the organization. Design foolproof processes and systems to collect customer data, information to further study, analyze and act accordingly. Such activities not only help you understand your target customers but also predict customer behaviour.

As a business marketer, you need to know the age group of your target customers, their preferences and needs. Employees need to know how their products or services can fulfil customer needs and demands.

Total Quality Management model requires meticulous planning and research. Every total quality management model integrates customer feedbacks with relevant information and plans accordingly to design effective strategies to achieve high quality products.

Strategies formulated to yield better quality products need to be evaluated and reviewed from time to time. Remember, customers are satisfied only when products meet their expectations, fulfil their needs and are value for money. Their overall experience with the organization needs to be pleasant for them to be happy and return to the organization even the next time.

Continuous improvements, changes and modifications in the existing processes according to customer expectations are necessary to yield higher profits. Processes can’t be same always. If a customer complaints about a particular product of yours, find out the root cause of problem. Understand and implement necessary total quality management models to rectify the problem, remove the defect for a high quality product.

The successful implementation of Total quality Management model needs extensive planning and most importantly participation of every single member who is benefitted out of the organization(Management, suppliers, clients and even customers). Without the participation of each and every employee, total quality management model would be a complete failure.

Total Quality Management model begins with research and collecting information about end-users followed by planning and full participation of employees for successful implementation. Top level Management needs to make other team members aware of the benefits of total quality management process, importance of quality to survive in the long run and how they can implement various TQM models by prioritizing their customers and their feedbacks.

Quality Management Tools

Quality Management tools help organization collect and analyze data for employees to easily understand and interpret information. Quality Management models require extensive planning and collecting relevant information about end-users. Customer feedbacks and expectations need to be carefully monitored and evaluated to deliver superior quality products.

Quality Management tools help employees identify the common problems which are occurring repeatedly and also their root causes. Quality Management tools play a crucial role in improving the quality of products and services. With the help of Quality Management tools employees can easily collect the data as well as organize the collected data which would further help in analyzing the same and eventually come to concrete solutions for better quality products.

Quality Management tools make the data easy to understand and enable employees to identify processes to rectify defects and find solutions to specific problems.

Following are the quality management tools:

  • Check List – Check lists are useful in collecting data and information easily .Check list also helps employees to identify problems which prevent an organization to deliver quality products which would meet and exceed customer expectations. Check lists are nothing but a long list of identified problems which need to be addressed. Once you find a solution to a particular problem, tick it immediately. Employees refer to check list to understand whether the changes incorporated in the system have brought permanent improvement in the organization or not?
  • Pareto Chart – The credit for Pareto Chart goes to Italian Economist – Wilfredo Pareto. Pareto Chart helps employees to identify the problems, prioritize them and also determine their frequency in the system. Pareto Chart often represented by both bars and a line graph identifies the most common causes of problems and the most frequently occurring defects. Pareto Chart records the reasons which lead to maximum customer complaints and eventually enables employees to formulate relevant strategies to rectify the most common defects.
  • The Cause and Effect Diagram – Also referred to as “Fishbone Chart” (because of its shape which resembles the side view of a fish skeleton)and Ishikawa diagrams after its creator Kaoru Ishikawa, Cause and Effect Diagram records causes of a particular and specific problem .The cause and effect diagram plays a crucial role in identifying the root cause of a particular problem and also potential factors which give rise to a common problem at the workplace.
  • Histogram – Histogram, introduced by Karl Pearson is nothing but a graphical representation showing intensity of a particular problem. Histogram helps identify the cause of problems in the system by the shape as well as width of the distribution.
  • Scatter Diagram – Scatter Diagram is a quality management tool which helps to analyze relationship between two variables. In a scatter chart, data is represented as points, where each point denotes a value on the horizontal axis and vertical axis.Scatter Diagram shows many points which show a relation between two variables.
  • Graphs – Graphs are the simplest and most commonly used quality management tools. Graphs help to identify whether processes and systems are as per the expected level or not and if not also record the level of deviation from the standard specifications.

Six Sigma and Quality Management

Six Sigma is a business management strategy which aims at improving the quality of processes by minimizing and eventually removing the errors and variations. The concept of Six Sigma was introduced by Motorola in 1986, but was popularized by Jack Welch who incorporated the strategy in his business processes at General Electric. The concept of Six Sigma came into existence when one of Motorola’s senior executives complained of Motorola’s bad quality. Bill Smith eventually formulated the methodology in 1986.

Quality plays an important role in the success and failure of an organization. Neglecting an important aspect like quality, will not let you survive in the long run. Six Sigma ensures superior quality of products by removing the defects in the processes and systems. Six sigma is a process which helps in improving the overall processes and systems by identifying and eventually removing the hurdles which might stop the organization to reach the levels of perfection. According to sigma, any sort of challenge which comes across in an organization’s processes is considered to be a defect and needs to be eliminated.

Organizations practicing Six Sigma create special levels for employees within the organization. Such levels are called as: “Green belts”, “Black belts” and so on. Individuals certified with any of these belts are often experts in six sigma process. According to Six Sigma any process which does not lead to customer satisfaction is referred to as a defect and has to be eliminated from the system to ensure superior quality of products and services. Every organization strives hard to maintain excellent quality of its brand and the process of six sigma ensures the same by removing various defects and errors which come in the way of customer satisfaction.

The process of Six Sigma originated in manufacturing processes but now it finds its use in other businesses as well. Proper budgets and resources need to be allocated for the implementation of Six Sigma in organizations.

Following are the two Six Sigma methods:


DMAIC focuses on improving existing business practices. DMADV, on the other hand focuses on creating new strategies and policies.

DMAIC has Five Phases

D – Define the Problem. In the first phase, various problems which need to be addressed to are clearly defined. Feedbacks are taken from customers as to what they feel about a particular product or service. Feedbacks are carefully monitored to understand problem areas and their root causes.

M – Measure and find out the key points of the current process. Once the problem is identified, employees collect relevant data which would give an insight into current processes.

A – Analyze the data. The information collected in the second stage is thoroughly verified. The root cause of the defects are carefully studied and investigated as to find out how they are affecting the entire process.

I – Improve the current processes based on the research and analysis done in the previous stage. Efforts are made to create new projects which would ensure superior quality.

C – Control the processes so that they do not lead to defects.

DMADV Method

D – Design strategies and processes which ensure hundred percent customer satisfaction.

M – Measure and identify parameters that are important for quality.

A – Analyze and develop high level alternatives to ensure superior quality.

D – Design details and processes.

V – Verify various processes and finally implement the same.

What is Kaizen ? – Five S of Kaizen

“Kaizen” refers to a Japanese word which means “improvement” or “change for the better”. Kaizen is defined as a continuous effort by each and every employee (from the CEO to field staff) to ensure improvement of all processes and systems of a particular organization. Work for a Japanese company and you would soon realize how much importance they give to the process of Kaizen. The process of Kaizen helps Japanese companies to outshine all other competitors by adhering to certain set policies and rules to eliminate defects and ensure long term superior quality and eventually customer satisfaction.

Kaizen works on the following basic principle.

Change is for good”.

Kaizen means “continuous improvement of processes and functions of an organization through change”. In a layman’s language, Kaizen brings continuous small improvements in the overall processes and eventually aims towards organization’s success. Japanese feel that many small continuous changes in the systems and policies bring effective results than few major changes.

Kaizen process aims at continuous improvement of processes not only in manufacturing sector but all other departments as well. Implementing Kaizen tools is not the responsibility of a single individual but involves every member who is directly associated with the organization. Every individual, irrespective of his/her designation or level in the hierarchy needs to contribute by incorporating small improvements and changes in the system.Kaizen

Following are the main elements of Six Sigma:

  • Teamwork
  • Personal Discipline
  • Improved Morale
  • Quality Circles
  • Suggestions for Improvement

Five S of Kaizen

“Five S” of Kaizen is a systematic approach which leads to foolproof systems, standard policies, rules and regulations to give rise to a healthy work culture at the organization. You would hardly find an individual representing a Japanese company unhappy or dissatisfied. Japanese employees never speak ill about their organization. Yes, the process of Kaizen plays an important role in employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction through small continuous changes and eliminating defects. Kaizen tools give rise to a well organized workplace which results in better productivity and yield better results. It also leads to employees who strongly feel attached towards the organization.

Let us understand the five S in Detail:

  1. SEIRI – SEIRI stands for Sort Out. According to Seiri, employees should sort out and organize things well. Label the items as “Necessary”, ”Critical”, ”Most Important”, “Not needed now”, “Useless and so on. Throw what all is useless. Keep aside what all is not needed at the moment. Items which are critical and most important should be kept at a safe place.
  2. SEITION – Seition means to Organize. Research says that employees waste half of their precious time searching for items and important documents. Every item should have its own space and must be kept at its place only.
  3. SEISO – The word “SEISO” means shine the workplace. The workplace ought to be kept clean. De-clutter your workstation. Necessary documents should be kept in proper folders and files. Use cabinets and drawers to store your items.
  4. SEIKETSU-SEIKETSU refers to Standardization. Every organization needs to have certain standard rules and set policies to ensure superior quality.
  5. SHITSUKE or Self Discipline – Employees need to respect organization’s policies and adhere to rules and regulations. Self discipline is essential. Do not attend office in casuals. Follow work procedures and do not forget to carry your identity cards to work. It gives you a sense of pride and respect for the organization.

Kaizen focuses on continuous small improvements and thus gives immediate results.

Role of Managers in Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management is defined as a continuous effort by management to upgrade and improve the processes and systems to ensure superior quality products. Every organization has to take care of its customers. Their feedbacks are essential. Total Quality management creates processes and systems based on customer feedbacks and various researches which eventually help in the development of organization.

Managers play an important role in Total Quality Management:

Initiating and implementing total quality management programs require great amount of planning and research. Managers need to get trained in various TQM practices before implementing the same. There are costs involved with the entire process of total quality management. It is the manager’s responsibility to allocate budgets for TQM at the beginning of every financial year. Remember, you can’t crib later on. Read a lot about total Quality management.

You need to be convinced first why quality is such an important parameter in every business. If you yourself are not convinced, it would be very difficult for you to convince other departments for implementing TQM. Know who your customers are? Understand your target market carefully. Go out, meet customers and find out as to what all they expect from your brand. Customer feedbacks play an important role in formulating strategies for total quality management. As a manager; you need to work closely with the senior management, human resource professionals to develop foolproof implementation strategies. Remember, a manager has to act as a bridge between the senior management and the entire workforce.

The role of a manager is to act as a facilitator at the workplace. It is your duty to assist employees in implementing TQM. As a manager, it is your responsibility to select and appoint right individuals who can work as line managers and take charge of the entire project. The employees, you select ought to be reliable and diligent and should be capable enough to handle a crucial project like total quality management. It is the manager’s responsibility to assign resources for total quality management, allocate time for various training programs and appreciate employees who come up with various improvement ideas and strategies which would help the organization deliver superior quality products. Further train your subordinates to ensure smooth implementation of TQM without any obstacles.

A manager must communicate the benefits of total quality management to all other members of the organization. Call employees on a common platform and address the benefits and importance of total quality management. Make them understand how successful implementation of total quality management programs would yield high quality products which would not only benefit the organization but also the employees associated with the same. Why do we always think of outsourcing trainers? Why can’t we train employees on our own? Believe me, as a manager if you train your employees, the results would be better rather than an unknown face coming and loading them with information. Do not forget, a trainer needs to be prepared for every question. Do your homework carefully.

Remember, a manager is always a strong source of inspiration for other employees. You need to practice total quality management yourself before expecting others to believe in the same. Customer feedbacks should be carefully monitored and taken into consideration while formulating company’s major strategies. Provide frequent reports to staff members highlighting scope of improvement.

Role of Customers in Total Quality Management

Total Quality management refers to a continuous effort of management along with the employees of a particular organization to improve the quality of products and services. Businesses need to emphasize on quality of their products rather than quantity to survive the fierce competition. Remember in today’s scenario, there is no dearth of competitors in the market. Why would a customer return to your organization if you do not deliver what you had promised him initially? You can fool someone once but not twice. Quality is an important parameter for every business and should not be ignored at any cost.

Total Quality management works on a very simple principle:

The responsibility of delivering quality products and services to customers lies on the shoulders of every single individual who is even remotely associated with the organization. It is not only the management but also employees irrespective of their designation, suppliers, clients, customers who need to come up with improvement ideas to make foolproof systems and processes to deliver quality products which meet and exceed the expectations of end- users.

Customers play an important role in total quality management.

Before we proceed further, let me ask you a very simple question.

What is the basic difference between a successful and an unsuccessful business?

A business is successful only when its products and services have enough buyers in the market. Yes there are several other parameters also but customers play a crucial role in deciding the success and failure of an organization. Business marketers need to focus on their end-users and what exactly they expect from their organization. Customer feedbacks should be regularly and carefully monitored before formulating any major business strategy. How can you ignore your customers who pay for your products which eventually bring revenues to your organization and yield higher profits?

Understand the needs and demands of the customers

Total quality management ensures that employees understand their target customers well before making any changes in the processes and systems to deliver superior quality products for better customer satisfaction. Infact, organizations introduce total quality management or any other quality management process to increase their customer base and levels of customer satisfaction. Total Quality management increases an organization’s database of loyal customers who would not go anywhere, no matter what. Believe me, without customers a business can’t even exist.

Quality of a product is not defined only in terms of its durability, packaging, reliability, timely delivery and so on but also a customer’s overall experience with the organization. Remember customer dissatisfaction leads to loss of business. In service industry, employees need to interact with the customers sensibly and with utmost care and professionalism to expect happy and loyal customers. Design various feedback forms for the customers for them to share what they feel about your products and services. The feedbacks may be in favour of your organization, may not be in favour of your business. Negative comments or feedbacks of the customers should not be ignored. As a part of total quality management, employees should sit on a common platform, brainstorm ideas and come to concrete solutions which would improve the systems and processes to eventually delivery what the customer expects. No amount of total quality management would help if you ignore your customers.

In case of physical products, customers are satisfied when the products are:

  • Durable
  • Reliable
  • Easy to Use
  • Adaptable
  • Appropriate

In case of service industry customers are satisfied only when:

  • Employees are friendly and polite
  • Employees are honest and do not make fake promises
  • Employees are easy approachable
  • Employees are willing to listen and address customer grievances
  • Organizations respond to customer requests on time.

Comparison of Six Sigma and Total Quality Management

Both Six Sigma and Total Quality Management are effective tools for quality management but a thin line of difference does exist between them. Although the methodologies and procedures involved in both the two appear quite similar but there are certain major differences.

Six-Sigma is a relatively newer concept than Total Quality Management but not exactly its replacement. The basic difference between Total Quality Management and Six Sigma is that TQM delivers superior quality manufactured goods whereas six sigma on the other hand results in better results. Total Quality management refers to continuous effort by employees to ensure high quality products. The process of Six Sigma incorporates many small changes in the systems to ensure effective results and better customer satisfaction.

Total Quality Management involves designing and developing new systems and processes and ensures effective coordination among various departments. New Processes are developed based on various customer feedbacks and researches.

The main focus of Total quality management is to maintain existing quality standards whereas Six Sigma primarily focuses on making small necessary changes in the processes and systems to ensure high quality.

The process of Total quality management does reach to a saturation level after a certain period of time. After reaching the saturation stage, no further improvements in quality can be made. Six Sigma on the other hand seldom reaches the saturation stage by initiating a next level quality process.

The process of Total quality management involves improvement in existing policies and procedures to ensure high quality. Six-Sigma focuses on improving quality by minimizing and eventually eliminating defects from the system. The process of total Quality management ensures that every single member associated with the organization is working towards the improvement of existing processes, systems, services and work culture for long term quality products/services. Six Sigma, on the other hand focuses on first identifying and eventually removing various defects and obstacles which might come in the way of organization’s success. In a layman’s language total quality management emphasizes on improving the existing policies and making necessary changes in the systems to ensure superior quality products and services. Organizations practicing Six Sigma are focused on removing errors and defects to ensure high quality products.

Total Quality management is a less complicated process than Six Sigma. Six-Sigma involves specially trained individuals whereas total quality management does not require extensive training. The process of Six Sigma creates special levels for employees who are only eligible to implement the same. Employees trained for Six Sigma are often certified as “Green Belts” or “Black Belts” depending on their level of proficiency. Six-Sigma requires participation of only certified professionals whereas total quality management can be referred to a part time activity which does not require any special training. Six-Sigma can be implemented by dedicated and well trained professionals.

Six-Sigma is known to deliver better and effective results as compared to total quality management. The process of Six Sigma is based on customer feedbacks and is more accurate and result oriented. Customer feedbacks play an important role in Six Sigma. Experts predict that six sigma will outshine total quality management in due course of time.

Similarities and Differences in Implementation of Quality Frameworks in Manufacturing and Service Sector


A production defect in a company like GE (General Electric) might result in that specific product or the part being removed from the assembly line and not sent out as finished product.

However, in the service sector, a process error might prove to be costly as in the case of the JPMC or Citigroup (banking or financial services company that have adopted Six Sigma) where the “leverage” for each transaction is more and hence an error in a process can be magnified several times.

A literature review of the differences between adopting Six Sigma for manufacturing and services yields the finding that there are four things to consider before service organizations adopt Six Sigma as a way of life in their organizations.

Key Similarities and Differences between Manufacturing and Service Sectors

  1. First, managers in the service sector must realize that unlike in the manufacturing sector, there are a number of processes in the banking and financial services companies (service sector) that are of varying complexity and different levels of customization. For instance, an assembly line in a manufacturing industry is an example of a highly standard process that can adopt a quality framework.However, in the banking sector, there are some processes that are highly complex and do not lend themselves to standardization in the same way that a process in the manufacturing sector does. Hence, the challenge for the service sector is to consider which process can be mass-customized meaning that the process is the same for all customers and in all conditions and then apply the quality frameworks to achieve process excellence.An example of a mass customized process in the banking industry or for that matter any service sector company would be the payroll and the credit card accounting processes that lend themselves to standardization. Similarly, in a fast food chain, the processes lend themselves to a high degree of standardization and hence these can selected for application of the quality frameworks.
  2. The second point to be considered is one of the cardinal principles of quality control: To define what is a defect and how is one going to measure it? In manufacturing industries it is often easier to spot defects as visual inspection or even advanced quality control processes can often spot defects as they relate to the quality of the product manufactured.However, in service companies, defining a defect is a challenge as the conflict between quality as demanded by the customer and the quality of the service as offered by the service provider are two different things. Owing to the perceptual nature of arriving at an understanding of what a defect is, it is often helpful to define the defects in terms of customers lost, customer satisfaction ratings and service turnaround times.What these three parameters mean is that the concept of quality in the service sector is often dictated by the customer. Hence, efforts must be made to understand the customer point of view by using skilled researchers and service representatives to implement a “feedback loop” that feeds into the system prevalent in the service industry and self corrects (in the ideal case) or is prodded to do so.
  3. The third point relates to the way in which quality slippages are analyzed within the service sector company. Continuing the same point made in the preceding paragraph, it is important to find out the “root cause” behind the defect or the deficiency in service and then act accordingly. It might be the case that complex processes with numerous rules governing each step of the process (that is the hallmark of banking and financial service companies) might need to be analyzed minutely for possible root causes for the defect.

Leadership Practices

The leadership and management practices that have been found to have contributed to the successful implementation of the quality frameworks would be analyzed in this section. As the case study pertaining to the Dow Chemical implementation of Six Sigma framework shows, there needs to be sustained focus on the goals and objectives that have been set for the Six Sigma implementation.

The analysis of the Case Study of Dow Chemical shows how the leadership implemented a “Staircase of Change Leadership” model that has the ten attributes progressing from each step starting with the enunciation of “vision” and culminating in the success step of the staircase that represents the pinnacle of achievement for Dow.

Case Study of Dow Chemical

The Dow Staircase of Change Leadership consists of the following steps: Vision, Values, Attitude, Language, Behaviours, Best Practices, Articulated Strategy, Implementation, Culture Change and Success. The emphasis at each step of the model is to have a coherent strategy to implement Six Sigma and ensure that it is driven from the top as well as embraced by the bottom.

In short a combination of top driven and bottom-up strategies that enunciate a clear vision to be the leader in achieving Six Sigma compliance is the focus of the model as followed by Dow Chemicals.

The key points about this model are the emphasis on “terminology” that is unique to the framework and its implementation (the language step), the necessary “behaviours” that are needed to be followed by each employee and which were communicated as part of “road shows” and the adoption of best practices from across the industry and customizing them to the specific case of Dow Chemicals.

Case Study of Doosan Company

The other case study that is being analyzed for Leadership practices is the one that has been followed by the Doosan Company in South Korea. Under the six-sigma framework adopted by Doosan, there are five elements in the model that are aligned with each other in pursuit of the objective of quality excellence.

The five elements that Doosan incorporates in its model are

  1. top-level management commitment,
  2. stakeholder involvement,
  3. training schemes,
  4. project team activities, and
  5. measurement system

An analysis of the elements reveals the fact that each of them cannot function without the cooperation and collaboration of the other and a coordinated and synchronous approach towards pursuing the Six Sigma framework is what gives Doosan the edge over its competitors.

The PDSA (Plan-Do-Study-Act) Technique for Quality Improvement

What is the PDSA Technique ?

The PDSA or the Plan-Do-Study-Act technique is a famous QI or Quality Improvement Tool or Initiative that helps organizations enhance the quality of their products and services. The PDSA technique hinges on the iterative process wherein each cycle begins with planning the quality improvement, actualizing the method or the process for QI, studying the results to determine whether the QI was successful or not, and then acting upon the feedback for the next cycle to incorporate such feedback.


As the literature mentions, “The PDSA Cycle is a systematic series of steps for gaining valuable learning and knowledge for the continual improvement of a product or process. Also known as the Deming Wheel, or Deming Cycle, the concept and application was first introduced to Dr. Deming by his mentor, Walter Shewhart of the famous Bell Laboratories in New York” (Deming.org).

This means that the emphasis on continuous improvement of products and services through iterative cycles starting with planning and then performing the steps needed to enhance the quality, studying the results to determine what went right and what went wrong, and lastly, incorporating the feedback into the next cycle to make the process better lies at the heart of the PDSA technique.Plan-Do-Study-Act Technique

(Source: https://www.deming.org/theman/theories/pdsacycle)

Components of the PDSA Technique

As the figure above demonstrates, the PDSA Cycle starts with the Plan step that entails identifying a goal or an objective and then formulating a plan of action wherein the success metrics or the measures that indicate the determination of the success of the plan are defined followed by a well thought-out strategy to put the plan into action.

Next is the Do Step wherein the actual implementation of the strategies of the plan is done.

After that is the Study Step wherein the outcomes of the implementation are monitored and measured and the determination of the success or otherwise of the plan is made.

The final step is the Act phase wherein the feedback from the previous step is integrated into the learning from the entire process and then based on the same, the goals are adjusted as well as the methods changed to ensure the success of the next iteration and this can also include reformulation or recalibration of the strategy altogether.

What Each Step in the PDSA Technique Means and How Each Step Manifests

To explain in plain words, the first step in the PDSA cycle is the planning phase where the needed process improvements are finalized in line with the overall goals and objectives for which the process improvement or Quality Improvement is needed.

Usually, this step is the phase when organizations recognize the need for Quality Improvement and determine the parameters or the measurements that are required to achieve the objectives.

The next step is the Doing phase where the planned improvements are put in place, and the process for the manufacture of the product or the service is modified and enhanced according to the desired goals.

For instance, if the purpose of the Quality Improvement initiative is to decrease the number of defects as measured by percentages to less than 3%, the planning phase determines this measure as well as formulates the needed improvements to the process to ensure that defects are kept within the range.

The Do step is the phase when the manufacturing process is enhanced by actualizing the process improvements that are needed to keep the defects within the range. This step is the meat of the PDSA cycle wherein it is the phase where the actual work to enhance quality is done. This is followed by the Study step wherein the results from the QI are measured to determine whether the process improvement yielded the necessary results.

Taking a Real World Example and Applying Theory to Practice

For instance, in our example, once the process improvement has been put in place, the Study Phase reviews the feedback in terms of whether the goals of keeping the percentage of defects to less than 3% have been met. In case such measures are found to have not been met, then the possible reasons for failure as well as the corrective steps and measures needed to achieve the goals in the next step are the determined.

This can take the form of studying the process to see how it can be improved the next time. The Study step is also the step where the entire cycle is matched from beginning to end and the determination of success or failure are done accordingly. Indeed, if the QI meets its objectives, then there is no need to repeat the cycle and the final step, which is the Act Phase, can then close out the changes and make them permanent.

However, in case it is found that the QI did not meet its objectives, the “Act” step provides the opportunity to put corrective measures in place by studying the feedback about what went wrong and then acting upon the feedback by starting the next iteration again from the Planning Step all the way to the end step which is the Acting on the feedback step.

Conclusion: How Implementing the PDSA Technique can help Organizations

In this way, the PDSA technique is an iterative or cyclical process that repeats itself until the desired results are actualized. Since each iteration improves upon the previous cycle, the end result of successive iterations is that the Quality of the Product or Service is significantly enhanced to the point where more enhancements are not needed and the process for making the product or service is deemed to be of the highest quality.

In this way, the PDSA technique offers a good way to put in place quality improvement initiatives that yield the desired results and ensure that the process is free from defects.