Achievement of Total Quality Management

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Total Quality Management is a strategy that becomes a way of life for the company as it becomes a method of doing every possible activity in the company. But in order to be successful, it has to be introduced and led by top management. This is a fundamental requirement, and TQM implementation often fails because the top management doesn’t adopt an active role, doesn’t lead, and becomes involved in all its facets. Instead, it chooses a more passive approach where there is no leadership, just delegation and a laid-back style of implementation. This paper focuses on proving that commitment and personal involvement from top management is a crucial element of TQM. Executives have a clear responsibility which involves creating and communicating clear and consistent quality values and aims that are in alignment with the strategic mission of the company. They must also create, articulate, and implement concrete systems, methods, and performance standards and measures that will help employees achieve these aims. This will encourage employee participation and guide other quality activities in the value chain (Tsang and Antony, 2001).

The top management has to fulfill a leadership role and ensure that the TQM program is a success. Any change process and TQM being a prime example of that requires visible commitment from top management to be successful. This is because if the senior management is committed to the cause, they provide a vision and a clear direction and purpose to the rest of the employees. If they provide support and maintain a committed stance throughout all the stages of TQM, their subordinates will follow the same. This way, the implementation of quality improvement initiatives and activities in all departments will not be problematic.

TQM has been defined by many, sometimes in terms of simply satisfying the requirements of customers continually by involving the commitment of all members of the organization, and at other times, in terms of meeting the requirements of not just external customers but internal ones too. In Soltani (2005), Ho and Fung (1998) are quoted as having adopted a holistic and broad view of TQM and defined it by examining the implications of each word separately. They said:

  • Total: Everyone associated with the company is involved in continuous improvement (including its customers and suppliers if feasible);
  • Quality: Customers’ expressed and implied requirements are met fully;
  • Management: Executives are fully committed.

According to Tsang and Antony (2001), one of the most critical success factors for TQM implementation is top management and commitment. Sila and Ebrahimpour (2002) also found top management commitment to be the most common and critical aspect of TQM. Research conducted by McKinsey and Company (1989) found that 95% of the participants believed that top management commitment was the key requirement for the successful implementation of TQM. Another study conducted by Lascelles & Dale (1990) supported this view when it found that the CEO was viewed as the most powerful internal change agent for quality improvement in the organization.

Dale and Cooper (1994, p. 20) phrased it as “TQM needs the commitment, confidence, conviction, and involvement of senior managers and, if this is achieved, it avoids false starts being made.” Soltani (2005) also believed that TQM has great potential but is often ineffective because of its inefficient management and consequent inappropriate implementation. When he analyzed the causes of failed TQM programs, the lack of support and lack of loyalty and commitment originating from the top management was one of the consistent reasons in a number of cases.

Total Quality Management as an approach is widely discussed in directing organizational efforts towards achieving the goal of customer satisfaction. It is an approach that is centered completely on customer satisfaction, its tenets according to Ugboro and Obeng (2000) being continuous improvement and top management leadership and commitment. Its proponents believe that customer satisfaction is achieved only by committed top management, which fosters an organizational culture and climate which empowers employees and ensures that all efforts are directed towards this goal. Hence, in a lot of management studies, a positive relationship between leadership and commitment and employee empowerment with customer satisfaction has been assumed. But employee empowerment can rarely be achieved without support at the executive level: it involves delegation of authority and power-sharing. Hence, management leadership and commitment have been identified as crucial elements of an effective TQM program.

According to Choi and Behling (1997), top management leadership forms the very foundation of TQM. At the time of the introduction of TQM, management must ensure that an open, cooperative culture exists where employees regard customer satisfaction as part of their responsibility, not a remote goal of the company to which they are not related. For a TQM program to be successful, gauging the leadership style of an organization is very important. If it is authoritarian and decisions are centralized, meaning little or no participation from employees on matters of the organization’s quality mission, performance goals, work procedures, performance standards, or evaluation, then, according to Ugboro and Obeng (2000), it is highly likely that TQM will not be successful, since employee empowerment and involvement will be missing. However, if the leadership style is democratic, which means that employee participation and involvement are encouraged, there appears to be more scope for the achievement of TQM objectives. If employees feel excluded from the development of the company mission, vision, goals, and strategies, they will not feel an important part of the company and are not likely to take an interest in customer satisfaction or any aspect of TQM.

Ugboro and Obeng (2000) performed a study in which they linked employee empowerment to consequent job satisfaction, which in turn leads to increased customer satisfaction, the cornerstone of most TQM programs. They obtained data on empowerment, job satisfaction, and top management leadership and commitment from organizations selected for this purpose due to their commitment to and implementation of important elements of TQM. It was found that the roles and commitment of top management are strongly and positively correlated with employee empowerment and employee satisfaction. Also statistically significant were the correlations between employee empowerment and job satisfaction. Hence, the authors proposed that if employees were satisfied because of both reasons. The empowerment their jobs provided them, and from top management commitment, would invariably lead to enhanced customer satisfaction, which, for a TQM-oriented company, is its first priority.

In organizations where the TQM program was successful, top management was not just committed by actively involved in communicating with lower organizational levels, making job requirements and specifications easily available, providing better promotion and development opportunities, and ensuring that employees were aware of the organization’s values, vision, and tactical plans. Also, top management created a culture where total quality was promoted – they were involved in monitoring and evaluating the progress of important quality control programs, they ensured that ample resources were available and appropriately allocated to implement these total quality initiatives, and they put in place effective performance measurement mechanisms and reward systems which recognized and credited the contributions which employees and managers made towards fulfilling the organization’s total quality objectives (Ugboro and Obeng, 2000).

It would be a mistaken belief to think that top management support is required only at the introduction stages of TQM. Rather, as Dale and Cooper (1994, p. 26) said, “The CEO and his/her senior management team must never become satisfied and complacent with the progress which the organization has made in TQM. They must strive continually to achieve quality in the product, service and associated processes.” In Choi and Behling (1997), A.V. Feigenbaum is quoted as, “Basic quality responsibility rests in the hands of top company management….Getting quality results is not a short-term, instant-pudding way to improve competitiveness; implementing total quality management requires hands-on, continuous leadership.”

Kanji (1998) discussed a Total Quality Culture and management’s role in creating and fostering it. He said senior management must define a mission and goals that encourage a Quality Culture as well as a Quality strategy and shared values to all members of the organization. Additionally, they must adopt an active role in issues such as the use of resources, establishment of goals, resources, information systems, development of human resources, and investment in training and education to enhance financial performance and customer satisfaction and lead to quality achievements. They must also communicate with and motivate employees so that there can be continuous improvement of products and processes.

Aside from all the factors mentioned above, Deming (1986) brought a new perspective to the importance of management commitment as he said that this improves the performance of “man and machine,” enhances quality and performance, and increases output while at the same time “brings pride of workmanship.”

The supporting data above has been gathered from a number of sources, all vouching for the importance of management’s role in ensuring the success of Total Quality Management. Senior management must adopt an actively involved stance, whereby they first understand the concepts of TQM and its long-term impact, then lead the process, give their employees a sense of purpose and provide direction, and stay actively involved before and after implementation so that they can continuously enhance customer satisfaction. In order to this, they must empower employees and leaders in a participative way so that employees take ownership of TQM activities and ensure the success of the program.


Choi, T. Y., & Behling, O. (1997). Top managers and TQM success: one more look after all these years. Academy of Management Executive, 11(1), 37-47.

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Deming, W. E. (1986). Out of the Crisis. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Centre for Advanced Engineering Study.

Kanji, G. K. (1998). Measurement of business excellence. Total Quality Management, 9(7), 633–643.

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Ugboro, I., & Obeng, K. (2000) Top management leadership, employee empowerment, job satisfaction, and customer satisfaction in TQM organizations: an empirical study. Journal of Quality Management 5, 247-272.

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