Total Quality Management – more than just Quality Management

With quality management (QM), an organization focuses on improving product and service quality. Total Quality Management (TQM) goes a step further and is dedicated to consistently improving quality in all aspects of a company.

What is Total Quality Management?

Quality management (QM) involves all coordinated activities and measures to increase the quality of products or services in a company. The goal of QM is to control and optimize product or service quality and the related customer satisfaction.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is a holistically focused quality management method and considers both corporate objectives and legal requirements at all levels of a company with the participation of all employees.

Until the early 20th century, the prevailing view was that management could limit itself to defining and controlling quality processes.

This changed with the concept of TQM.

The foundation of TQM is the concept that quality is not just present in one layer of a corporation, but that everyone in the organization contributes to it. TQM consequently broadens the importance of quality management in a company and simultaneously puts the customer at the center of all considerations. With TQM, businesses concentrate on integrated, process-centric QM, continuous improvement, and fact-based decision making.

TQM can be split into two main sections: Quality Assurance and Quality Control.
Quality assurance is mainly concerned with documentation and reporting. It helps businesses in obtaining and maintaining certifications in line with QM standards and regulations. Quality control, then again, is focused on process measurement and data analysis to guarantee quality.

Comparison between classic quality assurance and a TQM approach

Classic Quality Assurance Total-Quality-Management
People make mistakes Processes provoke errors
Individual employees are responsible for errors All employees are responsible for errors
Zero defects are not achievable Zero defects as a goal
Purchase from many suppliers Partnership with few suppliers
Customers must take what the company offers in terms of quality Everything is aligned to complete customer satisfaction

What are the 8 principles of TQM?

The principles of TQM are a set of management approaches for a customer-oriented organization that embeds all employees in continuous improvement. It uses strategy, data, and efficient communication to integrate the quality discipline into corporate culture and activities. Multiple concepts of TQM can be found in modern QM systems. In summary, there are eight TQM principles:

total quality management
  1. Focusing on the customer
    The customer determines the level of quality. If customers are happy, improvements are effective.
  2. Employee participation
    All employees (all roles at all levels) are involved in the organization objectives and the continuous improvement.
  3. Process oriented
    Focus on business processes including all individual work steps and persistent monitoring.
  4. Integrated system
    Vertically structured departments relate to the horizontal business processes.
  5. Strategic and systematic approach
    Combination of strategic and systematic approach to realize the visions and objectives of a company.
  6. Fact-based decision making
    TQM requires that an organization continuously collects and analyses data to increase decision accuracy, build consensus, and make predictions based on the past.
  7. Communication
    Effective communication for maintaining morale and motivation of employees at all levels. Communication thus involves strategies, methods, and always up-to-date information.
  8. Continual improvement
    Continual improvement drives a company to be both analytical and creative to become more competitive and more efficient in meeting stakeholder expectations.

These principles are fundamental to TQM. Many organizations define them as core values and principles.

Ongoing Challenges in TQM

Since TQM requires a high amount of change management, its application is continuously linked with challenges. Even agile companies that are focused on permanent learning and improvement will likely face the following issues:

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Insufficient employee involvement:
The matter of quality is not just the responsibility of one level of the company but encompasses all employees in the organization. Employee commitment and motivation therefore have a positive effect on comprehensive QM.

Obstacles presented by quality culture:
The lack of a true quality culture, as part of the general corporate culture, increases the risk of resistance to change. Trust and acceptance of employees are essential to effectively manage change processes in a company.

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Inefficient communication channel:
To achieve high-quality business results, it is necessary that relevant information is communicated at the right time and through the correct channels within the company.

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Autocratic leadership style:
If an autocratic leadership style is practiced in the company, the quality of QM processes will be limited. Leadership is the most important organizational factor for internal QM because it has an impact on job satisfaction, stress acceptance and employee well-being.

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Difficulties in identifying customer needs:
Companies often fail to identify customer needs. Most of the time it is due to inaccurate data, improper collection, or misinterpretation. Only companies with a true understanding of the needs of their customers can effectively improve customer satisfaction.

TQM implementation

The implementation of TQM requires the company and its management to be committed to continuous improvement. Success of TQM can only be achieved through constant improvement and continuous learning. To counteract to the previously mentioned challenges, here is our business advice:

TQM implementation
  • Your management level is committed to the change process.
  • Provide all necessary resources and a work environment in which employees can be involved in achieving the objectives.
  • Ensure a compatible sense of belonging amongst employees (praise, recognition, motivation).
  • Set up an official line of communication so that all employees are aware of updates, policy changes and new processes.
  • Provide training for employees who need to learn new processes and want to explore new opportunities.
  • Obtain methodological skills (e.g., CIP, management techniques, project management).
  • Implement policies to establish product, process, and system improvements as measurable goals for individuals, teams, and departments.
  • Gather, analyze, and review data to make sure it is reliable and accurate.

Implementing TQM in a company is a complex step that needs a lot of effort. Nonetheless, in the long run, it can significantly increase the success of a company.


The advantages of introducing a TQM are numerous. Here are the most critical ones:

  • Greater profitability and productivity
  • Reduced costs and better cost management
  • Strengthened competitive position via improved performance across the organization
  • Adaptability to shifting or emerging market conditions, environmental or government regulations
  • Enhanced customer orientation and satisfaction
  • Strengthened employee loyalty and accountability (each employee is valuable)
  • Increased consistency and foreseeable results

The TQM approach enables organizations to focus on improving quality at all organizational levels in the company. Thus, TQM serves as an approach to sustainably accelerate business growth and foster innovation.

Get to know BIC Process Design

Success Story: KOSTAL upgrades its process management to global quality management

The need for a comprehensive and systematic process management, derived from ISO 9001, presents significant challenges for many businesses that have previously considered quality management separately from other management systems. Discover how Leopold Kostal GmbH & Co. KG has tackled this challenge by implementing the BIC Platform as an integrated management system.

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