Practical Application: Five Principles of TQM Infographic

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an organizational model that places an emphasis on meeting customer expectations while operating efficiently and effectively. The model has been adopted by numerous organizations all around the world.

Why TQM is Important

Total Quality Management (TQM) is an organizational model that places an emphasis on meeting customer expectations while operating efficiently and effectively. An example of what can happen when the principles TQM are summarily discarded is in automaker General Motors (GM) and their journey with the Saturn brand. If you watched much TV in the early 1990s, you might remember a truly revolutionary ad campaign. Unlike many other brands, Saturn equated employee empowerment to quality products.

One of the more memorable spots showed a Saturn factory employee explaining that there was a ''rip cord'' on the production line. When pulled, this cord stopped production - literally brought the assembly line to an absolute standstill. Take a random guess. How many Saturn employees do you think were empowered to pull the cord and stop the line? The answer is, ''Virtually all of them.''

Sound strange? Not really. The purpose of both the cord itself, and the employees empowered to use it, showed the company's massive commitment to quality. The company did not want to risk sending cars out the door with quality issues. If someone saw a flaw or quality problem, Saturn executives wanted to fix it before the cars reached customers.

However, after acquiring Saturn, GM forced the brand to squeeze into the GM mold. This, by default, stripped Saturn of many TQM elements that had made the brand great.

  • Do you remember the five principles of total quality management?
  • How many, if any, of these five principles was reflected in Saturn's policy allowing workers to autonomously stop production if safety or quality was threatened?
  • Why do you think GM didn't want to allow many of these TQM practices to continue after the company acquired the brand?

The Five Pillars

Now that you've refreshed your memory regarding the principles, let's apply them to Saturn's stop cord on assembly line. First, look at the principles below:

  1. Produce quality work the first time
  2. Focus on the customer
  3. Have a strategic approach to improvement
  4. Improve continuously
  5. Encourage mutual respect and teamwork

Try to determine where each principle comes into play. Now, let's look at the second list for some common answers.

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