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Difference Between TQM and Six Sigma

business-1TQM vs Six Sigma

Business leaders and managers often get torn between TQM and Six Sigma while trying to choose the best management and quality control approach for their organizations. Understanding the differences between the two is the most important thing in such situations.

TQM refers to Total Quality Management. This approach has been around for sometime before Six Sigma was introduced. Whereas proponents of either approach would prefer mutual exclusivity in business, the two could actually complement each other, and can be very compatible in various business situations.

Where TQM will facilitate quality improvement of processes, products and services, Six Sigma will help to give the improvements an edge and keep them more focused. The question many ask, is that if both TQM and Six Sigma aim at improving quality, then what’s really the difference between them?

TQM’s focus is general improvement by approaching the problem collaboratively and culturally. Although Six Sigma utilizes the efforts of many departments, it is more of a statistical approach, and is very much data driven. It makes use of measuring and analyzing data to determine how defects and differences could be minimized to the level where there are 3.4 defects per million cycles/products, while a process is being run.
Statistical Process Control is employed while using Six Sigma, and the two of them make use of statistics for process monitoring and maintenance.
While TQM strives for increased levels of performance, Six Sigma focuses on setting minimum standards and acceptance requirements. Fundamentally, what differentiates TQM from Six Sigma, is how each approaches quality control.

In TQM, the definition of quality is the level at which a product/process meets the set company standards. In Six Sigma, the definition is a relational one, stressing that quality is reflected in the least number of defects, which must, as much as possible, be eliminated. However, it’s worth noting that Six Sigma’s quality definition is to a greater part decided by the customer who determines the value of the product. Six Sigma’s approach is more holistic, seeking to make the entire business better, rather than focusing on stand-alone processes and operations within divided departments.

While TQM doesn’t require full-time dedication in supporting the quality management process, the Six Sigma approach requires certified professionals in Six Sigma techniques.

TQM was invented well before Six Sigma, and as such, Six Sigma broadly inherited many of TQM’s principles.
The focus of TQM is general improvement using collaborative and cultural approach to a problem, while Six Sigma is more statistical and data driven.
TQM emphasizes increased performance levels; Six Sigma stresses acceptance requirements and minimum standards.
TQM’s quality definition is where a product meets set company standards, while Six Sigma’s quality definition is, to a larger part, determined by the customer.

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1 Comment

  1. TQM vs Six Sigma

    Key difference is that TQM offered very little of interest to a CEO; there were seldom explicit financial results that could be linked to a CEO’s annual or strategic goals. Many TQM efforts were implemented on blind faith that ‘things would get better’ if quality improved. The problem was not the people, it was the process.

    Six Sigma has changed all this with its emphasis on financial results that make it clear what executives will gain and have gained through their continued involvement. As with TQM, however, the results are self-evident: the biggest gains have been made in companies where executives are an integral part of Six Sigma deployment and vice versa.

    Six Sigma is strongly rooted with the objective of bottom-line benefits, and that’s why it scores over TQM heavily. Also, because it makes a very serious call for embedding a Six Sigma culture: an infrastructure needed for success anchored by strong management involvement.

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