For a management method to be deemed truly effective, it must be able to transcend fads and it
must continue to deliver tangible results as time as goes by. Total Quality Management, better
known by the acronym TQM, is one management method that has definitely survived the test of
time. It was largely credited for revolutionizing not only the businesses in Japan but the whole
Japanese economy during the 1950s. More than a half century since, TQM is still very much
relevant. Many even argue that it is more relevant today than it was when it was first conceived.
What sets TQM apart from other management methods is that it is a scientific approach to
managing organizations. Unlike other methods that rely on opinions, TQM is based solely on
facts. This characteristic of TQM is the main reason why it wasn’t immediately received and
applied in western countries even though it was first developed by a westerner – W. Edwards
Deming (the method was originally known as Deming’s Management Method).
For TQM to work, managers and business leaders must learn to let go of their reliance on
opinions. Unfortunately, during the 50s and even decades after, not many western leaders are
prepared to do so. This is the reason why Japan gained a large competitive advantage and was
able to pull off what can be considered as the greatest economic miracle of the 20th Century.
When Deming taught his method to top-tier management in Japan in the 50s they were all ears
and they diligently applied the method. This resulted in a ten fold increase in the country’s gross
domestic product (GDP) in the period between 1970 and 1990.
The emergence of the Internet has spawned volumes of what can be called as opinion-based
information. One does not need to go far to find this type of information. Anyone who has a
Facebook account is bombarded everyday by unverified information. This pseudo-information
though does not only invade individuals, it also infects organizations. Unfortunately, not all
leaders have the capacity to distinguish fact from mere fiction. Indeed, the number of leaders
who makes decisions based on opinions posted on the Internet is unbelievably high. For those
who follow TQM though, this could mean having a great competitive edge.
One of the things that one needs to know about TQM though is that it does not provide instant
results. Yes, the Japanese miracle was quite a feat but even that did not happen overnight. This
is probably another reason why the method did not become an instant hit in the west. TQM is
not something that one can test drive and see immediate outcomes. TQM does not appear
attractive to many business leaders because it does not offer the rapid growth that most of them
If TQM was able to turn the Japanese economy around, then you can imagine what it can do to
your business or organization. But it may require a total change of business mindset, a
paradigm shift in how you manage your organization. Now more than ever, it is tempting to rely
on opinion-based information that can be found on the Internet. But if you are ready to put in the
time, effort and the discipline needed to implement TQM, then you will surely be rewarded with
improved customer experiences, better employee relationships and, of course, greater revenue.