Total Quality Management (TQM) is a business strategy that actually preceded Lean, and much of its focus on waste-reduction, continuous improvement, and the elimination of defects has since been rolled into Lean. However, Total Quality Management by itself can provide significant efficiency gains even if you don’t adopt a fully Lean approach. As the name implies, Total Quality Management is, well, totally focused on quality.

The key differentiations of Total Quality Management include:

  • Obsession with quality: In a Total Quality Management environment, everyone talks about quality, thinks about quality, and measures quality at every turn.

  • Employee empowerment: Under Total Quality Management, if an employee notices something that’s causing defects, he has the power to remedy it directly. No need to assemble a team or write a project plan first (although for more systemic problems, a more extensive solution may be necessary).

  • Small improvements add up: Often improvements made in the spirit of Total Quality Management are small — not Six Sigma improvements of 70 percent or greater. However, in the aggregate, these gains can really add up.

Total Quality Management is best for businesses that produce products that must meet high quality standards; not for organizations that currently produce low-quality or highly variable-quality results.