Total Quality Management
TQM is the relationship between quality and productivity. It emphasizes process improvement to improve the quality of the product or service, reducing costs, and higher productivity.
Dr. Deming, a statistician and management expert credited with guiding Japan's economic recovery following World War II, created the foundation for TQM. In 1947 he was invited to help the Japanese work on their census tracts. Two years later, he returned to Japan to teach a course on statistical control. The Japanese were quite receptive to the idea of improving quality because they wanted a larger export market.
Although Deming, along with Joseph Juran, Phillip Crosby, and Kaoru Ishikawa laid the foundations of TQM, the term was actually coined by the U.S. Navy in the early 1980s. In fact, Deming does not like the term:
The term is counter productive. My work is about a transformation in management and about the profound knowledge needed for the transformation. Total quality stops people from thinking. - W. Edwards Deming (quoted in Senge, 1992)
By 1980, American corporations were in a near panic as the Japanese were selling products in the United States for less than American companies could produce them. At the time, NBC aired a special television report, "If Japan Can, Why Can't We?" that explored reasons why the Americans were not competitive, such as: low labor costs in Japan, burdensome government regulation, conflict between labor and management, and the Japanese work ethic.
However, whenever a Japanese was asked why they were so productive, they would say that Edwards Deming taught them to produce quality goods. However, when Americans were asked about Edwards Deming, they did not know who he was, even though he was treated like a god in Japan. Shortly after the program aired, Deming was besieged by calls from corporations across the country asking him for help.
Joseph Juran followed Deming to Japan where his name is just as illustrious as that of Deming. While Deming centered upon statistical tools, Juran centers upon the role of employees in quality management. In addition Juran published The Quality Control Handbook in 1950 which became the standard reference book on quality world-wide.
Another of the TQM gurus is Phillip Crosby, who developed a framework for Total Quality Management. His focus is zero defects, or get it right the first time. Crosby defines quality as conformance to the requirements which the company itself has established for its products based directly on its customers' needs.
The fourth guru associated with TQM is Kaoru Ishikawa who initiated Company-wide Quality Control that started in Japan during the period 1955-1960, following the visits of Deming and Juran. Ishikawa sees the CWQC as implying that quality does not only mean the quality of product, but also of after sales service, quality of management, the company itself and the human life. Ishikawa's biggest contributions are in simplifying statistical techniques for quality control and inventing quality circles. In addition, he created the cause-and-effect diagram (the Ishikawa diagram or the fishbone diagram).
Return to the History of Management and Leadership
Return to main History page