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Six Sigma and TQM

In the last few decades, many quality management approaches have been developed and utilized by various organizations. Some of these approaches include Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, Lean, etc. It is important for any organization to know how these quality management approaches are interrelated to implement them appropriately.

The Six Sigma concept was developed at Motorola in the 1980s. Six Sigma can be viewed as a philosophy, a technique, or a goal. The term “Six Sigma” is drawn from the statistical discipline “Process Capability Studies.”It is a shorthand term for “six standard deviations from the “mean.” For example, if a company produces 1,000,000 parts/units, and its processes are at Six Sigma level, then the defects will be 3.4 or less. However, if the processes are at the three-sigma level, the company ends up with as many as 66,807 defects for every 1,000,000 parts/units produced. Total Quality Management (TQM) is a business management approach intended to implement a quality improvement program within a company. It is based on the participation of all the members of an organization and aims at long-term success through customer satisfaction and benefits to all members of the organization and to society.

Most practitioners believe that Six Sigma and TQM are one and the same. Although they are closely related in terms of the approach to quality management, they are not the same. Both approaches aim to provide best-in-class quality management. Six Sigma aims to limit the number of defects per output. It focuses more on achieving perfection by reducing defects to 3.4 occurrences per million opportunities. On the other hand, TQM focuses on continuous improvement. It focuses on identifying and eliminating the causes that prevent the system from functioning at its ideal level. The key difference between TQM and Six Sigma is that TQM believes in improving quality according to the standards set by the organization whereas Six Sigma focuses on reducing defects to get better results by prioritizing customers and their requirements. However, both Six Sigma and TQM aim to improve the quality of services by reducing errors with contributions from all the stakeholders associated with the initiative of the organization.

To conclude, we can say that Six Sigma and TQM are not the same but are faces of the same coin. An organization can implement them together to optimize performance and throughput.


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