Comparative Analysis of Modern Approaches to Quality Management
Having become famous and having been put to use on a massive scale after the 1980s, the TQM, Lean Management, and Six Sigma approaches to quality management came into extensive use in different organizations all over the world as a framework for building of an effective system of quality management which ensures continual improvement of an organization. However, in some cases, these systems yielded tangible results while in other cases there was no result. In my opinion, this is because some concepts in the area of quality management are merely a passing fad and have no sound and appropriate foundation.
I carried out an analysis of the specificity and differences of these approaches to find out which of them is the best conceptual framework for the building of a system of quality management in an organization. The following question was taken as a basis for comparative analysis: are these approaches oriented towards the gradual change of the system of values and organizational culture in line with the ideology of improvement and consumer orientation or not?
Before I continue with the analysis, I will explain what I mean by the TQM, Six Sigma, and Lean Management.
Total Quality Management (TQM) is primarily oriented towards increasing of customer satisfaction which can be achieved by means of managing of an organization in compliance with the following essential principles: strategy and quality policy of an organization, the primary role of management, consumer orientation of an organization, involvement of all employees, process-oriented approach, systematic approach to quality management, continuous improvement, decision making, based on facts, and mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers.
Lean Management is primarily aimed at reducing of manufacturing cycle and increasing of product value to consumers by way of elimination of all the losses in the so-called value stream. Involvement of all personnel of an organization in the process of improvement becomes the most important aspect.
Six Sigma approach is oriented towards reducing of variation of processes through search and exclusion of causes of errors or defects, focusing on the output parameters which are of critical importance for consumers as well as on a possibility of maximum reduction of costs in the course of implementation of projects for improvement. Using of in-depth statistical information as a basis for all projects for improvement is a distinguishing feature of the Six Sigma approach for which reason not all the employees but only highly qualified specialists trained in the Six Sigma techniques are usually involved in the implementation of improvements.
For analysis, I established the following criteria: origin, theory, understanding of process improvement, approach to implementation of improvements, methodology, tools, cultural framework of approach, findings (primary and secondary), advantages and disadvantages.
Table 1. Comparative Analysis of Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma and Lean Management Approaches
|Criterion||TQM||Six Sigma||Lean Management|
|Origin||Evolution of quality in Japan; the origin is related to the names of management gurus from the USA||Motorola, an American company||Toyota Motors, a Japanese company|
|Theory||Focus on consumers||Focus on the elimination of defects||Focus on the elimination of losses in the value stream|
|Understanding of process improvement||Improvement and standardization of processes||Elimination of variation and improvement of processes||Improvement of the process flow|
|Approach to the implementation of improvements||Involvement of all employees||Project management||Project management|
|Methodology||PDCA cycle (the concept of W.A. Shewhart, popularised by W.E. Deming)||DMAIC cycle||PDCA cycle as well as an understanding of value to consumer, value stream, analysis, stream arrangement, pull and perfection|
|Tools||Analytical and statistical tools||Advanced statistical and analytical tools||Analytical tools|
|The cultural background of approach||Japanese collectivism; long-term oriented; gradual improvements||American individualism; short-term oriented; |
|Japanese collectivism; long-term oriented; gradual enhancements|
|Primary findings||Increasing of customer satisfaction||Cash savings||Reduction of time|
|Secondary findings||Gaining of consumer loyalty and improvement of activity||Achievements of business objectives and improvement of financial activity||Disposal of stocks; increasing of productive efficiency and customer satisfaction|
|Advantages||High customer satisfaction; overall improvement of financial performance; involvement of all employees in the process of improvement||It enables to find sources of significant cash savings; ensured support of the top management; favorable environment for implementation of improvement projects; high qualification of project participants||High customer satisfaction; systematic optimization of the entire value stream; involvement of personnel; focus on reducing of losses of all types; significant increase in process speed with parallel reduction of prices for goods and improvement of their quality|
|Disadvantages||Vague concept; absence of roadmap of implementation; high probability of failure when implementing; absence of orientation towards improvement of the entire system; requirement for total implementation; time-consuming and resource consuming implementation||It does not increase customer satisfaction; orientation towards financial result; not all employees are involved; projects can both bring about improvement and cause damage to companies; absence of orientation towards improvement of the entire system; non-affordability for small business; high system responsiveness; plenty of complicated statistical analysis||It reduces flexibility of company and possibility to operate in unstable environment; it can result in denial of rendering of services to customers|
Summarizing the comparison of the three modern approaches to quality management, I can make the following main conclusions.
In my opinion, the TQM concept is the most critical stage of development of concepts in the field of quality management since it focuses on interrelation between all the elements of such complex systems as organizations and, therefore, proves that quality of products is an integral category and, as a matter of fact, is composed of quality of all the elements of the organizational structure (internal: quality of management, quality of processes, quality of personnel, organizational culture, quality of technologies and developments, interior lines of communications, cross-boundary collaboration, etc.; external: quality of suppliers, quality of feedback and relationships with customers). Therefore, in my opinion, the total quality management or TQM is an ideal state of an organization for which any company should strive but which is impossible to be achieved in one stroke.
I tend to believe that difficulties and failures arising in the course of implementation of the TQM are not always a consequence of a misunderstanding, the vagueness of the TQM principles or absence of a roadmap for implementation of the TQM. Most likely that it is related to the insufficient maturity of companies which are eager to implement the TQM approach. The fact that the contemporary science in the field of quality management is at the value-oriented stage, unfortunately, it does not mean that all organizations keep pace with the contemporary science and are at the level of total quality management as well. Without a doubt, research and development in the field of management are beneficial and make the life of companies easier. Besides, the intention of companies to develop in tune with the times can eventually result in increasing of maturity of companies.
However, at the same time, it is the level of maturity which determines the needs of a company when specific methodologies of management become relevant at some or other stage of development of an organization. For example, there are startup companies which do not implement quality management at all or which are only aware of the necessity to rely on it. Some companies exercise quality control and search for mechanisms of quality assurance. Some organizations come to the understanding that even this is not good enough, and that improvement should be continual. Moreover, such companies make progress. While some organizations rekindle dreams of a heard by chance quality management system which can propel a company to the next level and are keen to implement such system right here and now without any analysis of the necessity for this particular initiative and the readiness of the company for such changes.
Since levels of maturity of organizations which settle down to a course of quality management can be significantly different, it is not possible to create a unified roadmap for the achievement of the TQM because reference points or starting points of changes can be widely different for different companies. Therefore, as long as the Lean Management and Six Sigma approaches have roadmaps for establishing of quality system in organizations, it is necessary to analyze whether these methodologies are appropriate for becoming the background of the development of ever-improving quality management system.
In my opinion, the Six Sigma approach cannot be considered as a comprehensive system of quality improvement because it has the following demerits: insufficient involvement of personnel in the process of improvement (only 1-3% of employees), division of responsibility for management of processes and for improvement of quality (black belts rather than process owners are responsible for improvements) and, the main thing, orientation towards financial gains and local (but not process-based) nature of projects for improvement which do not ensure systematic improvement of quality and increasing of customer satisfaction. To my thinking, because of the mentioned demerits, the Six Sigma approach cannot become the framework for continually developing a system of quality management but can be used as an additional method of improvement of an organization.
Unlike the Six Sigma approach, the Lean Management concept appears to be comprehensive enough so that to become the framework for the development of the quality management system in a business environment. Besides the availability of roadmap, i.e., technology for achieving the desired objectives, this concept has some undeniable advantages which make it a practical system of improvement. It includes a clear and transparent idea of value streams which pervade the whole organization. The critical category of the efforts aimed at improvement turns out to be not just quality which shall be improved or variation level which shall be lowered or stabilized but the value which is made available to consumers by the entire business of an organization. This implies activity of all the participants of the value stream aimed at the elimination of losses of all types which do not add such value. It contributes to ensuring of improvement of product quality, cash savings, reduction of prices for goods and, as a consequence, to increase customer satisfaction. Therefore, a distinct advantage of the Lean Management lies in involvement of all employees in the process of improvement and their responsibility for continual improvement, systematic approach to improvement by way of identifying and optimizing of value streams, increasing of customer satisfaction owing to ongoing efforts to add value to products and services as well as for elimination of losses of all types which do not add such value. It should also be mentioned that the Lean Management approach to improvement has one more peculiar feature which implies the preferential use of analytical tools rather than complex statistical methods for an understanding of problems and causes thereof. Firstly, such approach develops the employees themselves; secondly, it enables all the employees to participate in the process of improvement; thirdly, it significantly facilitates and accelerates the process of solving of problems which is especially crucial for this system because it focuses on the acceleration of processes. In conclusion, I would like to mention one more advantage of the Lean Management: its affordability both for large and for small businesses.
Thus, in my opinion, implementation of the Lean Management system in conjunction with the Six Sigma method can be an effective solution for many organizations which intend to achieve the TQM level. This approach has a high potential for development of the ever-improving Quality Management System or, more precisely, the System of High-Quality Management.