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Total quality management and the Deming approach to quality management

by Peter B Petersen
Journal of Management History


This article discusses the total quality management (TQM) movement and then elaborates about W. Edwards Deming's experiences and views. Finally, there is a comparison of total quality management and the Deming approach to quality management. The TQM movement was attractive to many organizations during the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s. To succeed, total quality management had many long-term requirements. One of these was that top management must have a passion for the subject. Without this sustained passion top management's attention and energy towards TQM would be diverted to other pressing needs. While Deming insisted that there was no " instant pudding " , many consultants in establishing themselves with a client suggested short-term gains. Because of this search for short-term gains, process improvement and reductions in cycle time became very popular and in some cases a final objective. Unfortunately, after they ran their short-term course, many efforts collapsed and TQM was often declared a failure. While W. Edwards Deming (1900-1993) is often associated with total quality management (TQM), he did not use nor tolerate use of the term " total quality management " . When the term was included in comments from members of his audience or visitors, Deming would be quick to emphasize that he was unaware of the term or that he did not understand the question. Then, he would usually ask the speaker to define TQM. As might be expected, the person who referred to TQM would more than likely stumble through a hastily composed definition. Deming would pick apart the definition and reveal its limitations. There was no doubt that Deming had a low regard for both the term " total quality management " and the application of a quality management practice that differed substantially from his own. In reviewing the TQM movement two major contributors deserve recognition. The first, Joseph M. Juran, like Deming, spent his life's career in the field of quality management. Particularly popular in the field of health care, Juran is famous for the Juran trilogy, the tripol concept, and his overall approach titled, " Continuous quality improvement " . Another major contributor to the TQM movement is Philip B. Crosby. As founder of the Quality College, he This article is part of a special symposium issue on an operational code approach to W. Edwards Deming: the man, the context, the savant and the legacy, guest edited by Ronald Stupak.

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