Comparison of Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM)
Six Sigma and TQM are both quality improvement systems which attempt to reduce defective products or services in an organization, while improving customer satisfaction.
Both approaches attempt to identify the fundamental sources of defects and provide long term solutions that will enhance quality. Six Sigma and TQM analyze large portions of the business, identifying problems that might not appear connected at first sight and review the culture that might be leading to quality issues.
However, there are differences in the scope as well as applications of Six Sigma and TQM:
Focus and Scope
One difference between the two systems lies in their areas of focus. While TQM concentrates on individual departments and more specific quantitative goals, TQM’s ultimate focus is customer satisfaction. The path that takes the business toward that final goal is secondary. TQM must be redefined when the predetermined goals are accomplished. Six Sigma, however, aims at continuous improvements and is self-propelled. Six sigma, when correctly applied, will continue to yield benefits after the original goals have been realized as it instills a culture that continuously aims to improve.
Six Sigma projects are managed by Black Belts who have gone through formal training and have a proven track record in quality gains. These individuals work full time on Six Sigma in their departments but return to their previous jobs after a few years. TQM, however, is run by the quality control department and professionals who specialize on quality improvements, usually, for their entire career. Six Sigma aims to spread the ownership of quality improvement to the entire organization while those who run TQM are more experienced in the quality field. Six Sigma is often driven by a focus on cutting costs and tends to work best if it has specific financial goals. TQM, however, pursues objectives that are harder to boil down to a single figure, such as customer satisfaction and long-term strategic excellence.
Lesson for the Small Business
Small businesses can use principles from Six Sigma and TQM, understanding that cost-cutting and increased customer satisfaction can go hand in hand. If cost-cutting also effectively targets the root causes of customer complaints and defects, the job will be done right the first time with as little waste as possible. Furthermore, every employee must focus on the end result – the quality of the final product and customer experience above all else. Doing exactly what you are told is good. Questioning whether the job can be done better and communicating ideas to co-workers is better.