Total Quality Management

  • Patria de Lancer JulnesEmail author
Living reference work entry


Total Quality Management Quality Movement Quality Circle Quality Control Chart Quality Control Department 
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TQM is an organization-wide, integrative effort to continuously improve the quality of an organization’s products or services and fully satisfy the needs and wants of their customers/clients.


Total quality management (TQM) has a long but spotty history, filled with false starts and great achievements that can be traced back to the American factories of the early 1900s. The emergence of mass production and concomitant need for standardization and cutting waste drove factories to emulate laboratories testing the scientific approach to improve productivity and efficiency. This era saw the emergence of both Frederick Taylor’s brand of scientific management and quality control (QC), the forerunner of TQM. However, unlike scientific management, the QC approach concepts and techniques received only sporadic attention in the United States (USA). QC figured prominently in the USA at the height of military production during World War II but then declined. It was in post-World War II Japan that QC was first widely implemented.

QC remained underdeveloped in the USA not evolving into TQM due in part to lack of involvement of management. The perception was that ensuring quality products was the exclusive responsibility of quality control departments with heavy emphasis on statistical controls (Deming 1982; Feigenbaum 1951). It wasn’t until the 1980s, with more than 20 years of accumulated success in the Japanese industry and fear that the Japanese would overtake American industry, that a more management-based version of quality control, TQM, gained a broader audience in the USA. The most prominent figures in the history of QC, and subsequently TQM, are in the USA, Walter A. Shewhart, W. Edwards Deming, Joseph Juran, and Armand Feigenbaum and in Japan, Kaoru Ishikawa.

In the public sector, the implementation of TQM coincides with the rise of the New Public Management (NPM) movement in the 1980s. This movement emphasized private sector approaches to increase government performance.

What Is TQM?

The term TQM is believed to have been first introduced by Armand Feigenbaum in 1983. This modern-day version of quality control efforts is now understood as a process and a philosophy for ensuring the quality of an organization’s products and services and can be characterized as follows:
  • Total: implies that everyone, every department, and every function in the organization are involved and focused on improving the quality of all the organization’s activities.

  • Quality: implies conforming to and exceeding all requirements. These requirements are set by the customers, who are the ultimate judges of quality.

  • Management: implies that achieving total quality does not happen by accident. Instead, it requires deliberate and continuous efforts at all stages of the production process and is led by management.

What follows describes the evolution of TQM from its QC foundation to modern times. This evolution is presented in chronological order and shows the major actors, events, concepts, and ideas that led to this management philosophy.

From Quality Control to Total Quality Management

Foundation: Quality Control 1900–1940

TQM was born out of the application of statistical quality control systems (QC), including control charts and the quality circle, developed by Dr. Walter A. Shewhart. He was a statistician, physicist, and engineer who started his work in 1918 at the Western Electric Company’s Hawthorne plant in Cicero, Illinois, and remained there until 1927 when he went to Bell Laboratories.

Shewhart recognized that the quality of a product is inherently attached to the value that the consumer gives to the product and so is based on the characteristics of the product that consumers perceive as important. Accordingly, these perceptions should guide organizations to standardize their products and maintain the standards of quality toward which they would strive. For Shewhart and those who followed, statistical control methods, including measurement and sampling as well and the isolation of causes of variability, can help industry ensure quality, improve productivity, and reduce cost. This initial application of statistical methods to address these issues in industry is marked by Shewhart’s introduction of the quality control chart in 1924, which allows for the plotting of data to study how a process changes over time in relation to preestablished tolerance limits of variation. The use of the quality control chart also sealed the importance of data in quality management – for analysis, prediction, presentation of results, and decision-making.

In his book Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product, first published in 1931, Shewhart laid the foundation for defining quality, the scientific basis for controlling quality, the economic advantage of controlling quality, and the application of statistical methods for achieving quality control and, ultimately, achieving customer satisfaction. Shewhart believed that through the application of statistical methods to routine systems of production, industry could fulfill its purpose of meeting human wants in an economical way. Key to this was the need to minimize variability of the products by setting up quality control thresholds at every stage of the production process, from start to finish. This would then reduce the cost of product fluctuation, inspection, and rejection.

In 1939 Shewhart introduced the three steps of control – specification, production, and inspection or “judgement of quality,” which he believed represented “a dynamic scientific process of acquiring knowledge” (Shewhart 1939, p. 45). These steps came to be known as the Shewhart cycle and later popularized as the Deming cycle in Japan (Deming 1986).

Further, Shewhart was an important influence on both W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran and often collaborated with Deming. Both Deming and Juran worked at the Hawthorne plant. Remarkably, this was the same plant where the scientific management studies that led to the Human Relation School were conducted.

The use of statistical methods for quality control continued to develop and disseminate through the 1930s as manufacturing became more complex, increasing the need for skilled individuals to perform quality inspections and to learn to minimize variation throughout the production system. Looking back, history shows Deming playing an important role in the dissemination of statistical methods training. While he was in charge of math and statistics courses at the graduate school of the US Department of Agriculture, he invited some of the luminaries of statistics to give lectures. One of these was Shewhart, who was interested in making statistical control techniques accessible to workers and focused his training on the practical use of statistics in the production process.

Quality Control During World War II (the 1940s)

The ideas about quality improvement were elaborated and received a tremendous boost during World War II when American manufacturing personnel received training on the use of statistical methods to improve the quality of military products and processes. Both the training in these methods and the war figure prominently in the evolution toward TQM. Key actors during the 1940s included the War Production Board whose work focused on promoting and supporting training to American industries and Deming, who was among those who provided the training.

Also during this time, after leaving Western Electric Company, Joseph Juran, another proponent of the use of statistical controls, joined the government’s Land Lease Administration. In this capacity he improved the efficiency of processes so that oversea allies could receive supplies in a timely manner. Others also focused on promulgating statistical controls including Ellis Ott, Harold Dodge, Harry Romig, and Eugene Grant (Watson 2005).

Moreover, during World War II a 23-year-old Armand Feigenbaum supported the war effort and continued to build the foundation for what would become TQM. Feigenbaum was made manager of quality control at the General Electric’s (GE) Schenectady plant in New York. This plant built the bulk of the propulsion equipment required during the war for cruisers, aircraft fighters, vessels, and submarines (Watson 2005; Schenectady Public Library 2015). Through his work here, Feigenbaum expanded and further refined the QC concepts to develop what he came to call total quality control (TQC), described below.

Post World War II: Total Quality Control and Reconstruction in Japan

A 1950s version of QC methods with a more holistic approach, closely mirroring some of the characteristics of modern TQM, was total quality control, TQC, a system-engineering approach introduced by Armand Feigenbaum in his 1951 book Quality Control: Principles, Practice and Administration. The TQC approach was later refined and elaborated in the Feigenbaum (1961, 1983) republication of this book with the title Total Quality Control. Feigenbaum (1951) introduced a set of 37 principles for establishing quality control programs based on “experiences with total quality control” (p. 1). The first principle was a definition of TQC as “an effective system for integrating the quality-development, quality-maintenance, and quality improvement efforts of the various groups in an organization so as to enable production and service at the most economical levels which allow for full customer satisfaction” (1951, p. 1). Watson (2005) summarizes the basic tenets of Feigenbaum’s approach to quality as follows:
  • Quality is an organization-wide process.

  • Quality is what the customer says it is.

  • Quality and cost are a sum, not a difference.

  • Quality requires both individual and teamwork zealotry.

  • Quality is a way of managing.

  • Quality and innovation are mutually dependent.

  • Quality is an ethic.

  • Quality requires continuous improvement.

  • Quality is the most cost-effective, least capital-intensive route to productivity.

  • Quality is implemented as a total system connected to both customers and suppliers.

Feigenbaum continued to develop and implement TQC as a senior executive at GE, both in the USA and in Europe and Japan. Concurrently, Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran conducted training on the application of statistics to quality improvement for Japanese industry workers, managers, researchers, and engineers (1950 and 1954, respectively). The Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers (JUSE), which focused its efforts on the reconstruction of Japan’s economy after the war, invited them to deliver lectures and provide training on QC.

By the time Deming and Juran arrived, the Japanese had already begun to study quality and the application of statistical methods for quality control of customer goods. They had been exposed to “the men from the Bell Laboratories [who] explained to members of JUSE that statistical methods had improved accuracy of American weapons” (Deming 1982, p. 100).

When Deming visited Japan in 1950, he delivered numerous lectures across Japan. It was during one of his lectures with top management that Deming also introduced a chart showing production as a system and argued that quality improvement involves the entire production line (Deming 1982). It was also during this time that he popularized the use of the Shewhart cycle referenced earlier.

In his 1982 book Quality Productivity and Competitive Position (later refined and republished as Out of the Crisis in 1986), Deming lamented that while the application of statistical methods gained great importance in Japan’s reconstruction efforts and eventually led to the unparalleled success of the Japanese economy, in America by 1950 the “Brilliant applications burned, fizzled, and died out” (p. 101). Discussion of quality control and improvement in mainstream America had to wait until the 1980s. Nevertheless, the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), now the American Society for Quality (ASQ), was born in 1946 out of the quality efforts implemented during World War II and has continued in existence since then with a mission to uphold standards of quality and promote innovation in quality.

For his part, Juran spread the philosophy that achieving quality required both technical and managerial involvement but that the main responsibility for quality lies on upper management and their application of the management process based on “the quality trilogy”: planning, control, and improvement (Juran 1988, p. 35G.8). This philosophy was a radical departure from previous quality improvement practices, which assigned the responsibility for quality control to specific quality control departments and was confined to manufacturing and quality inspection.

After the visits of Juran and Deming, and between the periods of 1955 and 1960, Kaoru Ishikawa introduced the term company-wide quality control (CWQC), a version of total quality control (Ishikawa 1985). This version decentralized quality control and spread the responsibility on the entire organization. With CWQC, Japanese companies started to deemphasize the application of statistical methods and techniques as the main approach for quality improvement in favor of a broader approach that combined these methods with organizational-wide strategies and managerial methods (Strang and Kim 2009). The lectures by Juran led to the expansion of the concept of quality control to all the areas and branches of the company (Juran 1988). Thus, a main difference from Feigenbaum’s version of TQC, as explained by Ishikawa (1985), was that while Feigenbaum advocated TQC be conducted by QC specialists, in Japan all units and employees became involved (p. 90).

Moreover, building on the teachings of Deming and Juran, in the early 1960s, Ishikawa also introduced quality circles, which became a component of the quality improvement practices in Japan and later in the USA. These were small groups of employees (5–10) that performed similar jobs, coming together periodically to study and discuss production-related problems, identify causes of the problems using simple statistical techniques, including the Ishikawa diagram (fish and bone diagram), and suggest and carry out solutions to increase productivity and quality. By combining the application of statistical methods/tools with employee participation in the company’s decision-making process, this made quality control “everybody’s business in an organization” (Sengupta 1987, p. 54).

Quality control circles, as initially dubbed by Ishikawa, were characterized by voluntary participation (jishusei, Lillrank and Kanö 1989) in that workers were not coerced or mandated to participate but by themselves “initiated and sustained the effort” (Ishikawa 1985). The groups were often led by a foreman or supervisor. Through its magazine Quality Control for the Foremen, JUSE promoted the approach among Japanese workers, adopting the slogan “QC circle members—Let’s study!” (Ishikawa, preface to the original edition, 1986), providing instructional material for studying and training on quality control methods, and organizing lectures and conventions where workers could learn from each other. The number of registered QC with JUSE went from three in 1962 to a staggering 148,106 by 1982 and 1,205,780 registered members in the late 1980s, spreading rapidly throughout Japan’s industry at a registration rate of about 1000 circles a month (Cole 1980; Juran 1988).

1980s Onward—Rebirth of the Quality Movement in the USA and Emergence of Total Quality Management

The ideas and methods for improving quality, first developed in the USA and then elaborated and applied in Japan with spectacular results, circled back to the USA at a time when American manufacturing was in decline. The rebirth of the quality movement evolved into the concept we now know as TQM. Although TQM is often associated with Deming, the first person to use the term TQM to describe an inclusive organizational-wide approach to quality control was Feigenbaum (Watson 1995). In the 1983 version of his Total Quality Control book, Feigenbaum described the organization-wide impact of a total quality control approach as one that “deepens the work and the very concept of quality control…. [P]ermits what might be called total quality management [emphasis in original] to cover the full scope of the product and service ‘life cycle’ from product conception through production and customer service” (p. 14).

Through the years a number of American companies and government organizations had experimented, with varying degrees of success, with the different strategies of the quality movement widely popularized in Japan. However, by all accounts, the reemergence of the interest in quality improvement in the USA was an attempt to respond to the success of the Japanese quality revolution (Juran 1988).

By the 1980s this “revolution” in Japan threatened American manufacturers and the national economy. By then it was widely believed that American products were no longer competitive (Deming 1982). Investing in producing quality products, reducing the cost of “unquality things,” and implementing zero defects began to be promulgated as a way to improve profits (Crosby 1979, p. 1). Similar to the 1900s, the 1980s were characterized by a need to reduce waste. By turning waste into better product and services, the company would unleash a chain reaction that would result in “lower cost, better competitive position, happier people on the job, jobs, and more jobs” (Deming 1986, p. 2). Also, though not a new idea, the notion that everyone in the organization, all the way from top management to frontline employees, has a role in quality improvement finally started to take hold in business strategy.

Sounding the clarion call for the need for transformation of management in American industry to stay competitive, Deming (1982, 1986) proposed a set of 14 points. These have now become equivalent to TQM, though not originally presented as such (Deming 1982, pp. 16–17, p. 30):
  1. 1.

    Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service.

  2. 2.

    Adopt the new philosophy.

  3. 3.

    Cease dependence on mass inspection.

  4. 4.

    End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag.

  5. 5.

    Constantly and forever improve the system of production and service.

  6. 6.

    Institute modern methods of training on the job.

  7. 7.

    Institute modern methods of supervision (leadership).

  8. 8.

    Drive out fear.

  9. 9.

    Break down barriers between staff areas.

  10. 10.

    Eliminate numerical goals for the work force.

  11. 11.

    Eliminate work standards and numerical quotas.

  12. 12.

    Remove barriers that hinder the hourly worker.

  13. 13.

    Institute a vigorous program of education and training.

  14. 14.

    Create a structure in top management that will push every day on the above 13 principles.


These 14 points share similar ideas as the 37 principles promulgated by Feigenbaum. According to Deming (1982), these points formed the basis of the system of management implemented in Japan post World War II.

The imperative for American firms to implement such quality management systems was elevated when in 1987 the US Congress established the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This award, equivalent to the Deming Prize established in Japan by JUSE in 1950, recognizes excellence in seven quality management domains: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledge management; human resource development and management; process management; and results.

The management literature suggests that the adoption of TQM in the USA was rapid and widespread from the mid-1980s through its peak in the mid-1990s and then experienced a rapid decline in popularity (Strang and Kim 2009). TQM was enthusiastically endorsed in industry and government by President Bush who touted the approach as “’Reasserting our leadership’” (Carr and Littman, 1990, p. 2, quoted in Swiss, 1990, p. 356). But the efforts to promote TQM in government did not go unopposed.

One of the most oft-cited critiques of TQM was delivered by Swiss (1992), who argued that Deming’s version of TQM, which he called “orthodox TQM,” was not suitable for application to the public sector. Swiss believed that the manufacturing foundation of TQM made it difficult to adapt to organizations that produce services. Furthermore, unlike private companies, government cannot readily identify its customers. As such, the basic tenet of customer satisfaction could not be fulfilled. Swiss also worried that Deming’s orthodoxy, with its emphasis on inputs and processes, would lead to goal displacement. Finally, Swiss argued that the turnover of high-level government executives made it difficult to create a culture of continuous quality improvement, a requirement for successful implementation of TQM. However, Swiss recognized some value in TQM. He encouraged public sector organizations to implement a modified version of TQM that retained customers’ feedback, the tracking of performance, continuous improvement, and employee participation as guiding principles. Swiss may as well have been foretelling the fate of TQM in the public sector. TQM per se was enveloped in the New Public Management movement.

Although the principles and values identified by Swiss continue to be promoted, the language of TQM in government has been replaced by practices promulgated by the National Performance Review, with its emphasis on a citizen/customer orientation in government and cutting waste; the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993, reauthorized in 2010 as Government Performance and Results Modernization Act, with its emphasis on performance measurement, strategic management, and stakeholder involvement; as well as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), with its emphasis on accountability and accuracy in financial practices.

The private sector TQM appears to have been replaced by the Six Sigma method. This method, first developed by the Motorola company engineer Bill Smith in the mid-1980s, seeks to improve performance through the reduction of defects. The approach harkens back to the practices of the QC movement, with its emphasis on statistical analysis, Shewhart cycle, quality circles, and the qualitative methodology introduced by Ishikawa (Folaron 2003). It also encompasses some of the values of TQM and the ISO 900 and QS 1200, such as the focus on satisfying customers’ desires. General Electric, once again, played a crucial role in the dissemination of the Six Sigma method when in 1995 CEO Jack Welch discovered it and successfully adopted it to improve performance and financial performance (Watson 2001).


The history of TQM is firmly grounded in a foundation that consists of the application of statistical methods to quality control (QC). Though not always discussed, early QC efforts were also based on an underlying logic of a system perspective where all aspects of the production process needed intervention to ensure products that satisfy customers’ needs and reduce waste. That QC was practically abandoned in the USA after playing center stage during World War II may have been due to the fact that for the most part, quality control was viewed as the responsibility of quality departments, engineers in particular, and not managers.

Although the teachings of Juran and Feigenbaum emphasized the important role managers play in the improvement of quality, the realization in Japan that quality was everybody’s job helped post-World War II Japan become a major industrial economy. Only then, in the 1980s, were the principles of TQM, often associated with Deming, adopted in the USA not only in manufacturing but also in service organizations, including healthcare. In the public sector, where TQM was received with skepticism by some, it became part of the larger New Public Management discourse. While some of the values espoused by TQM have been maintained, TQM as such has largely faded from both the public and the private sectors.



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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Penn State HarrisburgMiddletownUSA