Success in business requires a winning strategy. That’s because quality and value never happen by accident. They must be pursued with purpose and intentional effort. Many managers and owners know this, but few know where to start when trying to increase quality levels in their business. Without an established gameplan, these businesses may spend significant amounts of energy only to go around in circles.
The good news is, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel in order to improve your offerings to your customers. There is an existing, proven strategy that has helped businesses like Xerox, Toyota, and Ford to maintain high levels of company performance, which directly impacts customer satisfaction.
When seeking to genuinely meet customer needs and maintain high levels of quality, few business strategies are as effective as Total Quality Management (TQM).
What Is Total Quality Management?
Total Quality Management is a methodology that drives toward the continuous pursuit of the needs of the customer. This holistic strategy focuses on building an organizational culture that fosters perpetual improvement, self-evaluation, and company-wide engagement.
Similar in philosophy to agile software development, success is achieved by delivering a product or service, evaluating to determine what can be improved, making the improvements, delivering the improved version to the customers, and then repeating the cycle. This “gather-see-act-repeat” ideology leads to higher levels of dedication from the team, which in turn leads to a higher-quality product or service delivered to customers.
TQM originated in the 1980s, growing out of business philosophies put into practice by manufacturing companies. Since then, TQM has seen implementation around the world in nearly every sector and has helped many businesses achieve success.
Take AtlantiCare for example. A New Jersey-based healthcare provider that manages 5,000 employees, AtlantiCare sought to improve their $280-million-per-year profits. Patient satisfaction weighs heavily on the healthcare industry, so AtlantiCare stood to gain much by pursuing increased customer satisfaction. So when they implemented the “gather-see-act-repeat” cycle — the hallmark of TQM strategy — they saw their profits more than double to $650 million.
What Are the Advantages of TQM?
TQM comes with a number of distinct benefits. When putting TQM to work, you’re on a path that helps your business pursue a high standard of excellence, which has the coveted tendency to give teams a strengthened sense of purpose. Companies who have used TQM found that most employees will respond by committing wholeheartedly to the endeavor.
TQM also lays the groundwork for constant and continual improvement of your product or services. The methodology is designed specifically to push your performance ever upward, so you can refine your processes with each iteration. This results in another benefit — empowered quality and brand management. Your control over what you offer your customers will increase as your team priorities shift towards making customer-focused decisions.
All of this builds to the most important benefit — increased customer satisfaction. Since you’ve made the customer the foundation of your efforts, you will be serving them better than ever before. As they receive this elevated treatment, they will become more loyal to your business and your brand.
When you want to provide a better product, build a better reputation, or be more helpful to your customers, the TQM method pays great dividends.
TQM in Action
Total Quality Management Principles
Implementation strategies for TQM vary from company to company, but successful plans have certain principles in common:
- Senior leadership is committed to the initiative and to building a company culture that fosters the success of TQM.
- Making decisions with actionable, measurable data is used to create a plan that enables the organization to meet the needs of the customers.
- Team members are empowered to implement TQM and adhere to its principles at their level of the business.
- The whole organization engages and works together in pursuit of the common goal: putting the customer first.
- The organization pursues perpetual improvement at every level, using a “gather-see-act-repeat” method. (Also known as the “plan-do-check-act” cycle).
- In every effort, the focus remains on the customer and what serves them best.
Failure in TQM efforts is usually tied to a lack of adherence to one of these principles. A customer focus and company-wide commitment is crucial for success.
How to Implement TQM
As mentioned above, implementation tactics will vary by organization. But like the principles of TQM, there are certain steps that are common among successful initiatives.
- Establish mission, values, and vision.
- Map out key processes and subprocesses down to every level of your business.
- Identify critical success factors (CSF) and key performance indicators to measure progress.
- Identify key customer personas.
- Design a high-quality product based on personas.
- Deliver the product.
- Collect feedback from key customers and employees.
- Develop corrective-action plans (or CAPA) for proactive improvement.
- Implement improvement.
- Repeat steps 5-10.
Corrective Action/Preventive Action Plan
Arguably, the most important piece of the TQM model is the use of corrective action/preventive action (CAPA) to create a proactive process. In essence, CAPA is a combination of 1) creating plans that help you solve issues quickly when they arise and 2) creating processes that increase transparency to help prevent problems. CAPA aims to eliminate process errors and noncompliance to industry and government regulations as well as brand standards. It’s rooted in the gather-see-act-repeat cycle and requires a significant amount of evaluation and planning to gain fast and effective execution.
Examples of CAPA plan implementations include preventive maintenance, error proofing, process/product redesign, instituting training programs, and so forth. CAPA plans, and the corrective and preventive actions that go along with them, are crucial if an organization wants to succeed in their quality management process. To learn more about CAPA best practices, check out the article “Preventive and Corrective Action Plans for When Incidents Happen.”
Implementing any of these strategies can feel overwhelming, especially for large organizations. Running a successful initiative requires having and utilizing the right tools. One tool that can make the process run more smoothly is a comprehensive quality management software. With this type of tool, you can automate and streamline much of the process of evaluation and improvement planning. To learn more about how you can improve your process while saving time, talk to the experts at RizePoint.