Total Quality Management
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Total Quality Management, or TQM, is a conceptual term for driving the highest quality through the total development process and life cycle of a product. It has its roots in the Six Sigma strategy developed by Motorola, and promulgated by a host of CEO’s and consultants. Robert Galvin, former CEO of Motorola invented Six Sigma in the 1980s. Jack Welch, the CEO of GE quickly picked up the banner. Welch’s driving motivation was that “our quality stinks — the Japanese are coming, and we need to do something”.
The term “Six Sigma” comes from statistics. The Greek letter sigma is used to measure how far something deviates from perfection. Six Sigma means a company tries to make “error-free products 99.9997% of the time–a minuscule 3.4 errors per million opportunities”. TQM proponents maintain that poor quality costs money. Lost sales, lost goodwill, remedial activities to fix problems and downtime all add up to more in losses than the expense of producing higher quality management and products. These losses, proponents argue, detract from profitability, which translates into lower stock prices for the shareholders.
The TQM program is initiated at the top levels, and infused throughout the organization to include every employee. Certain people in the management team get extensive training, and become “Black Belts,” implying top-level martial arts capabilities. Black Belts work on four projects a year, each targeted at saving $250,000. Other individuals attend less extensive training, and become “Green Belts.” Still others get “Yellow Belts.” When the strategy is implemented properly, one to three percent of a company’s employees and management will possess a Black Belt rating.