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Total Quality Management refers to a management strategy that ensures that the business succeeds in the long term through the satisfaction of their customers (Ahire 1997). Formally, TQM is defined as management philosophy and company practices that aim to harness the human and material resources of an organization in the most effective way to achieve the objectives of the organization (BS 1992). In this approach, all the people involved in the business cycle looks to solely satisfy the needs of the customer (Dale 2007). Several scholars have developed the common practices that are applied in a Total Quality Management approach (Ahire 1997). Some of these include ethics, integrity, trust, training, teamwork, leadership, recognition, and communication. The practices are also not only aimed at the improvement of the products, but also the development of the company culture as well.

Evaluation of Total Quality Management Theories

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Four theories on TQM have been put forward throughout its evolution.  They include, Deming's theory, Crosby's theory, Joseph Juran's theory, Ishikawa's theory. Deming’s theory was coined on the profound knowledge systems, Shewart cycle, and 14 management issues (Stahl & Grigsby 1997). The theory worked based on a ration that stated that quality could be equated to the efforts put in the development of a product, over the total costs incurred. According to the theory, a company would succeed if the stakeholders appreciated the system followed by the company, considered knowledge variation, and understood the human nature. It argues that quality is improved through a process that was aided by knowledge (Stahl & Grigsby 1997).

This theory is anchored on four issues, among them understanding the company processes (Stahl & Grigsby 1997). This would only be possible when the existing processes are perfect and can be emulated, which in most cases is not the case. Some of the employees hinder the process and understanding it would be limited. Further, the understanding of human nature is an extremely hard task, especially when a corporation has many employees and has a wide customer base (Goetsch & Davis 2006). It would be even more complex if the company outsources some of its processes, where it has little control over the process of developing the item they outsource.

Crosby's Theory indicated that any cost incurred in the process of improving quality was a cost worth incurring (Goetsch & Davis 2006). It notes that there are four absolutes to TQM, which are supported by 14 points. The four absolutes included:

  • Quality is defined as the adherence to requirements
  • The best way to ensure quality is prevention
  • Performance standard for quality is zero defects
  • Price of nonconformity is the measure for quality

Crosby’s theory is also based on the commitment of the managers, and zero defects in a product are a pillar in customer satisfaction (Morris & Alex 2001). Like in Deming’s theory, this can be challenging when the customers are widespread and tracking of the product performance is hard. The commitment to the process managers and supervisors cannot be measured and assured, thus near-impossible to implement a process over a long time effectively (Stahl & Grigsby 1997). The theory also recommends short term goals, which in many cases work over a short  period but collapse when the employees get exhausted.

Joseph Juran's Theory was known as the “Quality Trilogy” made up of planning, improving and controlling quality through which ten steps were employed (Morris & Alex 2001). The trilogy comprises of quality planning, quality improvement, and quality control. If a quality improvement project is to be successful, then all quality improvement actions must be carefully planned out and controlled. The theory highlighted ten steps that would lead to quality improvement (Morris & Alex 2001).

The main base of the theory, like in the other theories is based on the commitment and personal traits of the individual stakeholders (Robin 2001). Like in the Deming’s theory, it is difficult to track the personal behavior of the people involved in the product development, especially when the company uses outsourcing (Goetsch & Davis 2006). Further, the process of globalization makes it difficult, especially when a firm uses export market where they have no control over the performance of the product in the market. Dealers in foreign markets, who have little knowledge over the product development, often sell products like cars. The main producer may have little control over the response of the customers, hence can only have little response. 

Ishikawa's Theory focused on the procedure on how companies should handle their projects that were geared towards quality improvement (Morris & Alex 2001). The process would be achieved through seven tools which included:

  • The pareto analysis
  • Cause and effect diagrams
  • Stratification
  • Checksheets
  • Histograms
  • Scatter charts
  • Process control charts

This theory is seemingly the most practical. It deals with the statistical analysis of the company performance (Robin 2001). It also uses practical tools that do not depend on the individuals, but rather by the teamwork, such as the pareto analysis, which does not affect the individual performances, but the departmental performances (Morris & Alex 2001). It does not also involve individuals because it delves into the root causes of problems through analysis that involves the whole team of employees. It is inclusive and employees can easily own it because data over time is the main tool that determines performance. Histograms, charts and other statistical tools help the people determine the extent through which the customers preferred the commodity (Goetsch & Davis 2006). This could be then used to determine the reasons that would make people prefer a competitor’s product as opposed to the company product.

Elements of TQM

Several scholars (Cua, McKone & Schroeder 2001) have developed the main elements of Total Quality Management. These elements include:

  • All activities should be customer-focused
  • Totality in employee involvement
  • The employees should be process centered
  • Use of integrated systems
  • Systematic and strategic approaches
  • Continued Process improvement
  • Factual decision
  • Effective communication 

A diagram showing the interrelations between the main elements of TQM

Despite the attractiveness of TQM, is has been a very complicated tool for organizations to employ (Robin 2001). Most organizations that have tried have failed fully satisfy their customer, who is their main source of evaluation (Anand, Ward & Tatikonda 2010). It is however imperative to note that all organizations recognize the importance of using this important tool. However, they have not been able implement it due to many issues that hinder the process of implementation. While the practices and elements of TQM are easy to identify individually, they are hard to interact in a workplace. Firms correctly identify them, but always experience difficulties that make them fail to implement (Dale 2007). Those that have succeeded partially have not been able to sustain the tool for a long time.

The employees and stakeholders involved in the process of developing and delivering a product to the customers often withhold the negative issues regarding the product (Robin 2001). They do this knowingly and may eventually deliver a poor product to the people (Pennella 2006). There is little that the other stakeholders can do about the issue, especially when the deceitful person is the main innovator (Pennella 2006). A good example is Lance Armstrong and his biographic book

In the book, he tried to motivate and explain to people how he has continuously become a leader in cycling (Shelton 2000). He however never mentioned in the book, and the subsequent ones that he used enhancing drugs in order to make the achievements he did. People believed in everything he said. The book, It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life, published in 2000 by Putman, did not include his doping activities. As customers and admirers bought the book, they believed that he was an achiever and deserved everything he won (Shelton 2000). This was a lie because in 2012, he was investigated and the report indicated that he had a well-orchestrated doping procedure that was hard to detect (Juliet 2012). Critics have argued that Armstrong’s book was a lie and its customers should be refunded, which is a sensible argument. Since he wanted to satisfy the customers by providing a motivational biography, he achieved it and his customers were happy with his work. However, the recent disclosures have shown that he had lied to them. He has therefore used unethical means to satisfy the customers, which goes against the TQM practices (Juliet 2012). The product development process should therefore not only focus on the customer, but also to a bigger part to the process, including the innovator (Lewis, Pun & Lall 2006).

Many challenges face the product process management (Robin 2001). In the recent years, firms have opted for outsourcing of some of their services. It therefore becomes complicated when the process managers from one organization tries to carefully watch the movement of their products that are handled by another firm (Dale 2007). Many firms have also become assembling organizations, putting together parts that they do not own (Mejia, Luis, David, Robert 2008). A good example is Boeing who only provide their suppliers with the designs and specifications of their desired parts, then wait for the delivery. In this case, it has been hard to effectively track the weaknesses of the assembled products which is very risky. The product development process has demanded that more units are set up to oversee the creation of the outsources products which could not be as effective as a situation where the products are developed and tailored within one organization. One of the most recent cases was the Tesco and the horse-meat issues in the late 2012 and early 2013.

The media reported that some of the beef products, especially burgers, from the company contained a significant percentage of horse meat (Felicity 2013). One of the products had a 29% horse meat while the rest was beef (Steven 2013). This detection was quickly publicized and all the beef products were removed from the stores. While horse meat is healthy to human being, it is not culturally accepted in some of the regions, including in the Ireland and United Kingdom (James 2013), where is was being sold as beef. The company responded that the supplier had incorrectly labeled the meat and this had brought about the ensued problem. The meat was delivered as beef and the retailer used them to prepare burgers and other products, which would later turn unattractive to the customers. At a closer look, the meat was said to have originated from Doly Com, where it had been correctly labeled as horsemeat (Felicity 2013). Tesco, however received the meat labeled as beef. The company faces a slump in sales and customer confidence due to this incident. Though the supplier uses and attempts to follow TQM to satisfy the customers, a flaw along this path has led to a reputational damage that could have long-lasting negative effects (Felicity 2013). As stated earlier, outsourcing has been a very risky affair since the retailer has little control over the product development process.

The dynamism in the business world has also been a hindrance to the articulation of the TQM with the existing product development and distribution (Dale 2007). The organizational and cultural environments and processes that surround suppliers have become complicated and the implementation of TQM been made harder (Mejia, Luis, David, Robert 2008).  This could have led to the Tesco controversies.

Causes of Difficulties of Implementation of TQM

Technological Advancements and Customer Dynamics

The technological evolutions have led to the increased demand by the customers (Mejia, Luis, David, Robert 2008). As opposed to the traditional role of corporations to produce and deliver, the role has included the consideration of specific needs of a certain customer. The customer is therefore highly involved in the development of the product. The supplier is required to have concrete knowledge on the needs of the customer since new innovations are made every day. Poor understanding of the customers can be disastrous, as witnessed in the recalling of Toyota cars. Despite having been a leading car manufacturer and seller for a long time, they were not absolutely sure about the problems that the customers encountered. The company was forced to recall over 5.2 million vehicles for the design in the floor mat, and another 2.3 million vehicles for acceleration pedal discrepancies between 2009 and 2011 (Linebaugh 2010). Customers complained of experiences of unintended accelerations causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.  Customers have reported accidents from all over the world due to these issues (Gardner 2010). These defects resulted from problems in the design of the pedal. Products such as vehicles should be as friendly to the user as possible due to the magnitude of destruction that they cause when the vehicle-user interface is poor. The company should always ensure that the vehicles are near perfect, which is the main goal of TQM in business management (Ken & Ralph 2009). From the failure in the company, we can infer that TQM is a hard concept to practice because the interaction between product developers and the customer may be little and discrepancies would be recognized at an advanced stage of product use (Bronstad 2010). With the continued sale of their vehicles, Toyota was not in a position to realize that their products had flaws, which makes it hard to deterione the  levels of customer satisfaction.

Inadequate Quality Measurement

Elite groups have not appreciated the successes of TQM with the magnitude that it is expressed in theoretical aspects (Kotter, John & Dan 2002). Most of them have consistently pointed out that there are many incomplete issues with regard to measuring the quality of products from the customers’ point of view. There are many diverse tastes and likenesses by different customers, and there would be a problem to measure their satisfaction rate. While some of the customers may be fully satisfied by a product, some may be significantly dissatisfied with the same product. There has not been a universal definition of quality in the areas where TQM has been employed (Kotter, John & Dan 2002). Critiques have questioned the ability of theoretical tools to help managers to manage a business sustainably. They have cited the failure of tools such as Management by objectives, Business Process Reengineering, Six Sigma, and even Total Quality Management in real life situations. These critics indicate that these tools have always failed, and TQM, being among them is equally impractical (Cua, McKone & Schroeder 2001). They attempt to keep the employees rigid with their work and with the dynamic world, they become impractical or very difficult to execute.


Most of the business management tools are very attractive on paper and look very practical to implement. They are, however, complex and hard to follow within a business situation. Total Quality Management is a very attractive approach to running a business and has a positive outlook to please the customer to the highest level possible. It is guided by principles that are easy to implement at an individual level. However, the articulation of these principles into the business setup is faced with numerous difficulties. Issues such as the integration of different cultures in corporations due to globalization, as well as the social and economic dynamism are the biggest hindrances to the application and success of these approaches. Many companies have decided to sophisticate their systems by outsourcing which is risky on the quality of the final product. All these economic factors have led to the production of poor products that do not satisfy the clients as intended. One thing that need to be done in order to satisfy customers, is through developing a workplace culture that would make the employees give their best to the company in order to ensure that they give their best to the development of the products. Strategic management would be the best-suited way to manage because it gives the managers room to change tactics as per the prevailing circumstances, as long as the applied methods help in achieving the goals, mission, and vision of the organization.

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