What is Total Quality Management

TQM Total Quality Management as a method of corporate management

Engineers in management positions can use the concept of Total Quality Management to reduce error rates and increase the quality of products and processes.

TQM stands for Total Quality Management.

Photo: panthermedia.net/Constantin Stanciu

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Total Quality Management (TQM) describes how a company can be managed in a very efficient way. TQM should ideally be part of the corporate culture and not be applied to individual products or departments. The principle can definitely be combined with other quality management concepts, for example with Six Sigma or Lean Management. The aim is to achieve a particularly high quality for all products and services and thus to increase the economic success of the company.

Total Quality Management was created in the USA in the 1940s. The concept was developed further in Japan in particular. It wasn't until the 1970s that it caught on in the United States. In Europe, 14 large companies founded the non-profit organization European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) in the late 1980s. The members developed that EFQM Excellence Model, which is considered the basis for Total Quality Management in Europe and is continuously revised by the organization. EFQM also offers various trainings and webinars and has with EQUIP developed a method to evaluate TQM. Through membership and the exchange of experience with well-known companies, EFQM is the most important point of contact for companies interested in Total Quality Management.

Definition of total quality management

The content-related approach of Total Quality Management is already expressed in the individual terms.


The concept is synonymous with “comprehensive quality management”, which describes the principle even better: All employees are involved in total quality management. Because only if everyone does their job very well will the result be appropriate. The work of the employees at reception, for example, is an important service and can improve customer satisfaction. One of the goals of TQM is therefore to awaken an understanding of the importance of their contribution in all employees and, of course, to bring about practical improvements. Accordingly, the concept also applies across the board to all products and services and all departments from accounting to human resources to the supply chain.


There are different definitions for quality, because it does not only describe the characteristics of a product or service. For a company, quality must be seen from the customer's point of view: Does the offer meet their needs? For example, additional functions that a customer perceives as unnecessary can even reduce the quality of a product in their eyes. For example when they take up your time or complicate the handling. Quality is therefore not a fixed parameter, but has to be constantly checked for every product and service and, if necessary, redefined.


Total quality management requires a rethink in the company. Every employee has to drive the concept forward in his or her area of ​​work. This only works with a management level that actively and consistently applies TQM, communicates the steps and at the same time acts as a role model.

Difference between TQM and standardized QM systems

In many areas of industry, quality standards serve to increase the success of a company. They are also an important tool for verifying standards to third parties. The standards of the EN ISO 9000 ff. Series define the relevant criteria and serve as the basis for certification processes by independent bodies. A temporary certificate is proof of compliance with quality standards and thus of successful quality management.

There is an essential difference to total quality management here. There are no standards, so certification is therefore not possible. Instead, companies can fall back on the guidelines of the European Foundation for Quality Management and apply the model of self-assessment. Since the approaches overlap, it is also possible to introduce TQM in parallel to a standardized quality management system in order to improve its results.

How is the introduction of Total Quality Management going?

TQM is decided at management level. This is also where implementation begins. However, the key to success is to take the word “total” seriously. All levels of the hierarchy in all departments must be informed about the concept and understand that it is beneficial for them, their workplace and the company as a whole to implement the methods. In addition, the employees should be encouraged and challenged within the scope of their possibilities in order to achieve improvements in the work processes.

Since there is no fixed procedure, there are several models for introducing total quality management in companies. This is an example Phase model.

  • Awareness phase: The phase model begins with the so-called awareness phase. This is the period in which all employees are involved and trained. Start the first pilot projects. The aim of this phase of TQM is to develop a kind of future vision for the company. This can also be based on a benchmark.
  • Realization phase: In this phase, the findings from the pilot projects are transferred to all areas of the company.
  • Stabilization phase: It is used to query the changes at regular intervals and to evaluate the current state - are adjustments necessary? Which positive results can be transferred to other departments and areas? This can also include promoting innovations in a targeted manner in order to build on high quality standards.
  • In the final phase, Total Quality Management should be so firmly anchored in the minds of the employees that the constant search for potential improvements is part of everyday work.

What does the concept of EFQM for Total Quality Management look like?

In the EFQM Excellence Model, the so-called basic concepts of Excellence are initially defined. These are based on European values ​​that were first listed in the “European Convention on Human Rights (1953)” and later in the “European Social Charter” (revised in 1996). These are principles for sustainable and socially responsible corporate management, some of which have been explicitly included in the total quality management model, others only implicitly - such as the prohibition of corruption and forced labor - as they are already anchored in the legislation of European countries.

The basic concepts are:

  1. Creating benefits for customers
  2. Shaping the future sustainably
  3. Develop the skills of the organization
  4. Promote creativity and innovation
  5. Lead with vision, inspiration and integrity
  6. Actively manage changes
  7. Be successful through employees
  8. Achieve consistently outstanding results

Which criteria are used for Total Quality Management?

The EFQM has also developed 9 criteria that should be taken into account for good quality management. This is a presentation of basic subject areas. It does not define detailed methods for total quality management.

guide - The executives develop a vision for Total Quality Management, in which direction the company could develop. They are role models, improve and review the team's performance. You ensure flexibility and manage changes effectively.

strategy - A company needs a clear strategy that is primarily oriented towards the needs of the target group and the company's possibilities. This is implemented through objectives and concrete plans.

Employee - Appreciation of employees is important. This also includes supporting skills through further training, motivating employees and promoting their commitment.

Partnerships and resources - There must be guidelines for external partnerships and contacts with suppliers as well as for your own resources if quality management is to function across the board. This includes buildings, equipment, materials, technology and knowledge.

Processes, products and services - Here it is important to consciously design, control and improve in the sense of Total Quality Management. This not only affects the products and manufacturing processes, but also processes and services such as sales, marketing, invoicing, complaint management and logistics.

Customer-related results - Results are only outstanding when they meet or exceed the needs and expectations of their customers. For this it is necessary to use measuring instruments to determine whether the performance corresponds to the strategy. Clear goals are important, always oriented towards the needs of the customer. A comparison with competitors should not be missing in Total Quality Management. Specific areas include:

  • Product delivery and service delivery
  • Customer service
  • Handling complaints
  • Involvement of customers and partners in the development of products and processes

Employee-related results - The results meet or exceed employee expectations. Just like in the customer context, it is important to understand the needs of the staff and implement guidelines in order to satisfy them. Again, a comparison with other companies and their strategies makes sense. Important points are, for example:

  • Participation and engagement
  • Competence and performance management
  • Leadership performance
  • Training and career development
  • Internal communication

Society-related results - In addition to the target groups and the company's own employees, the criteria of Total Quality Management also consider the role of companies for society. Appropriate guidelines should produce results that meet the expectations of external stakeholders. This relates, for example, to:

  • Ecological, economic and social activities
  • Compliance with government and regulatory requirements
  • Health and safety benefits
  • Ethical responsibility for sources of supply and procurement terms

Key results - This is about the overarching corporate goals that should be met. These include, for example, financial indicators such as project costs and financial ratios. The key indicators also include factors that have a direct influence on the results, for example the performance of partners and suppliers as well as the use of technology.

The bottom line is that Total Quality Management describes the approach to corporate management, which is reflected in all processes in all departments. Therefore, TQM can be combined with various other approaches to quality management that specify specific structures and methods, for example with Six Sigma or Lean Management.

A contribution by:

  • Nicole gap

    Nicole Lücke does science journalism for research centers and universities, reports on medical congresses and looks after customer magazines for energy providers. She is a shareholder of content qualities. Your topics: energy, technology, sustainability, medicine / medical technology.