The Implementation of TQM

The implementation of total quality management is similar to that of other decentralized control methods. In developing TQM, companies need to understand how consumers define quality in both the goods and services offered. If a company pays more attention to quality in its production process, fewer problems will occur later when the product is in the consumer's hands. One way to measure product performance and quality is through customer surveys, which can help managers identify design or manufacturing problems.

According to quality consultant Armand V. Feigenbaum, the end user best defines quality, which means that quality is open to subjective interpretations. Consumer perceptions have to be changed if a company wants to change a product's quality image. Extended service programs and improved warranties can help accomplish this feat. As examples, Whirlpool Corporation promises that parts for all models will be available for 15 years, and Mercedes‐Benz provides technical roadside assistance after service hours.

Another means of ensuring a commitment to quality “after the sale” is via a product or service guarantee. Wal‐Mart is known for its no‐hassles return policy for any product—with or without a receipt. Mail‐order house L. L. Bean will replace a pair of hunting boots purchased ten years earlier with new boots. Saturn automobile retailers provide total refunds for vehicles within 30 days if the customer is not fully satisfied. However, many companies are not willing to incur the short‐run costs associated with such guarantees.

Commitment throughout the organization

To be effective, the TQM philosophy must begin at the top. From the board of directors to the hourly line employees, TQM must be supported at all levels if the firm is to realize any real improvements in quality. In addition to commitment from the top, the organization must meet these requirements if TQM is to succeed:

  • A change in corporate culture about the importance of quality
  • Forging of internal team partnerships to achieve quality, process, and project improvements, and the creation of external partnerships with customers and suppliers
  • Audits to assure quality techniques
  • Removal of obstacles to successful implementation, such as lack of time or money in the short run

Typically, two to ten years are needed to reap the benefits of a successful TQM program.