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Total: All Encompassing or Involving Everybody?

What does the “total” in total quality control mean? It isn't a simple matter of looking in a dictionary, of course, because it relates to a very specific definition coined by Armand V. Feigenbaum in 1951. According to this post by Michel Baudin, Feigenbaum meant Quality Control should start with product development and end with customer support. When this concept was carried to Japan by Kaoru Ishikawa, the definition was again changed to fit Total Quality Management (TQM), and implied the participation of every employee in the task of achieving the highest quality product. But getting every employee on board is a monumental task for even the most seasoned leaders. As Baudin explains: 

A TQM program may mandate that the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) process be used when implementing any change throughout the company. Since everybody must participate, the PhD-level scientists at R&D will be required to undergo PDCA training and to formally use it to organize all their activities. As a group, they will be offended and some may quit. Elsewhere in the company, project leaders will dutifully reports their action items as being in a state of P, D, C or A. The organization can claim to be on board with the program but truly is not.

Baudin then goes on to share other TQM-esque programs that one can undertake, but each share the defining characteristic of requiring top-down involvement: if the newest, least-senior level employee feels as though the very top of the organization isn't committed, you can be sure that any program is doomed from the start. 

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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