total quality management (TQM)

  

Definition

A holistic approach to long-term success that views continuous improvement in all aspects of an organization as a process and not as a short-term goal. It aims to radically transform the organization through progressive changes in the attitudes, practices, structures, and systems.

Total quality management transcends the product quality approach, involves everyone in the organization, and encompasses its every function: administration, communications, distribution, manufacturing, marketing, planning, training, etc. Coined by the US Naval Air Systems Command in early 1980s, this term has now taken on several meanings and includes (1) commitment and direct involvement of highest-level executives in setting quality goals and policies, allocation of resources, and monitoring of results; (2) realization that transforming an organization means fundamental changes in basic beliefs and practices and that this transformation is everyone's job; (3) building quality into products and practices right from the beginning; (4) understanding of the changing needs of the internal and external customers, and stakeholders, and satisfying them in a cost effective manner; (5) instituting leadership in place of mere supervision so that every individual performs in the best possible manner to improve quality and productivity, thereby continually reducing total cost; (6) eliminating barriers between people and departments so that they work as teams to achieve common objectives; and (7) instituting flexible programs for training and education, and providing meaningful measures of performance that guide the self-improvement efforts of everyone involved.

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