Total Quality Management (TQM)

Quality is a very subjective thing. Sometimes it is easily visible, sometimes you require an expert to tell the difference.

There are various definitions of quality given by various authorities organizations. Every definition gives a unique perspective about quality.

ISO 9000: "Degree to which a set of inherent characteristics fulfills requirements." The standard defines requirement as need or expectation”.

Six Sigma: "Number of defects per million opportunities."

Philip B. Crosby: "Conformance to requirements." The requirements may not fully represent customer expectations; Crosby treats this as a separate problem.

These definitions talk about quality meeting pre-set criteria. It is all about conforming to known requirements.

Following definitions talk about consumer’s perspective. And a consumer’s top priority is always to get some functionality from the product.

Joseph M Juran: "Fitness for use." Fitness is defined by the customer. Noriaki Kano and others, present a two-dimensional model of quality: "must-be quality" and "attract" Definitions.

Robert Pirsig: "The result of care."

Genichi Taguchi:

  1. "Uniformity around a target value."
  2. "The loss a product imposes on society after it is shipped."

Taguchi talks about lack of variations against set parameters. As attaining 100% perfection is impossible in real life situations, so Taguchi talks about getting as closer to perfection as possible. Moreover, Taguchi harps on the issue of cost to the society in the long run if there is bad quality in a product or service.

Let us take an example of a spurious quality electric iron. The iron may lead to spoiling the cloth, higher electricity bill, and even electric shock.

American Society for Quality:

"A subjective term for which each person has his or her own definition. In technical usage, quality can have two meanings:

  1. The characteristics of a product or service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated or implied needs;
  2. A product or service free of deficiencies."

The definition by American Society talks about subjectivity of quality. For a rural person traveling in a rickety bus can mean comfort, while for the jet-set people an AC taxi will give the bare minimum comfort. Quality of a product or service refers to the perception of the degree to which the product or service meets the customer's expectations. Quality has no specific meaning unless related to a specific function and/or object. Quality is a perceptual, conditional and somewhat subjective attribute. In totality quality means conformance to pre-set criteria as well as ability to satisfy the end user. If a pen is unable to write then the diamond studded on it is of no use.

Dimensions of Quality Performance:

The top most dimension of quality is the functionality of a product. For example a mixer grinder should be able to grind the hard turmeric, otherwise three speed gear box is of no use to the end user. Features are like add on benefits, like fancy attachments provided with the mixer grinder. A pleasant look will always add value to the product. If the mixer is from USHA or PHILIPS then it will help the customer in buying decision. Take the example of Maruti service centre advt which talks about the possibility of finding one in the remotest corner of India. This is about reliability and serviceability. The product should be safe and can be handled with kid’s gloves. Popularity of Windows over other operating systems is a good example of user friendliness winning over customers. Apple i-Pod has options of changing skin which is ideal for the target group shows the power of customizability in winning over customers.