Comparing TQM, Six Sigma and Lean Management

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Since the globalisation came to effect, many of the organisations adopted TQM and were seen as the exemplars for quality management practices, see. There have been many ways used to describe quality management and each provide a different and unique representation to Quality Management. In general Quality management can be attributed to or associated with change in management practices, a fresh improved methods of managing organisations, a superior and competitive alternative to enhance organisational performance.

"John Godfrey Saxe's famous fable - The Blind Men and the Elephant in which six blind men attempt, and ultimately fail, to describe an elephant could actually be a good description of quality management" Andersson R. et al. This story highlights the fact how different people interpret a situation judging it with their own perspective and knowledge. Similarly lot of work had been done on quality management and different practices which were adjudged better than those existing. Different Quality management concepts developed as a consequence like Total quality management (TQM), Six sigma, lean manufacturing, business process re-engineering, just-in-time (JIT), Kaizen and Business Excellence

Different quality management tools were described

TQM : A continuously developing management system which has values, practices and tools, aimed to provide optimal customer satisfaction minimal amount of resources - Andersson et al

Six Sigma : It is recognised as a methodology which organisations can adopt to improve their bottom line by structuring thier processes and supervising daily business activities with an objective to reduce waste and also increasing customer satisfaction

Lean means : It was first developed by Toyota and it emphasises on structured approach to identify and eliminate waste by improving processes continuously.

Although these concepts do differ in definitions but they all corroborate from similar sources and are centripital to the idea of improvements through minimising waste and resources while improving customer satisfaction and organisational performance both financially and non-financially. As discussed in our History section these concepts originated from the quality evolution in Japan after the World War II - Andersson et al"

|| Concepts || || TQM || || Six Sigma || || Lean Management ||

| Origin | | The quality evolution in Japan | | The quality evolution in Japan and \\

Motorola | | The quality evolution in Japan and Toyota |

| Theory | | Focus on customers | | No defects | | Remove waste |

| Process View | | Improve and uniform processes | | Reduce variation and improve processes | | Improve flow in processes |

| Approach | | Let everybody be committed | | Project management | | Project management |

| Methodologies | | PDSA (Plan, Do, Study,Act) | | Define, measure, analyse, improve (or \\

design), control (or verify) | | Understanding customer value, value \\

stream, analysis, flow, pull, perfection |

| Tools | | Analytical and statistical tools | | Analytical tools and advanced statistical | | Analytical tools |

| Primary Effects | | Increase customer satisfaction | | Save money | | Reduce lead time |

| Secondary Effects | | Achieves customer loyalty and improves \\

performance | | Achieves business goals and improves financial performance | | Reduces inventory, increases productivity \\

and customer satisfaction |

| Criticism | | No tangible improvements, \\

resource-demanding, unclear notion | | Does not involve everybody, does not \\

improve customer satisfaction, does not \\

have a system view | | Reduces flexibility, causes congestion in \\

the supply chain, not applicable in all \\

industries |

| Organisations | | Ritz Carlton, General Electric, Southwest Airlines | | Motorola, Ford, Wipro, DuPont | | Toyota |

However the above table suggests that there are many commonalities in TQM and Six Sigma, but Six Sigma has been regarded as more complete and more comprehensive methodology than TQM. More researches show us that Sic Sigma, TQM or Lean have common objectives and all focus on improving performances, and Six Sigma and Lean cover most of the factors responsible for success of TQM. "As TQM is often accused for being blur and unclear, Six sigma and lean can be appropriate approaches for organisations in order to make important progress in the field of quality management." Andersson R. et al

Another way compare TQM is to evaluate performance of non-TQM organizations with TQM organizations on the basis of customer satisfaction, Top management, Quality management, continuous improvement in processes, employee involvement, training and development. Many studies deduce the fact that with the exception of customer focus, TQM firms are able to score over non-TQM. This exception that both TQM and non-TQM firms have more or less similar level of customer satisfaction can be understood by the fact that every organization puts customer in the focal point to gain market share.


In view of the parable mentioned above, one could state that as each blind men's understanding about the complete situation is quite similar; the three quality concepts discussed above have similarities as well, especially concerning origin, approaches, tools and outcomes. A rational analysis of these quality management tools, TQM and six sigma implicates many similarities, while the lean concept differs slightly to the Six Sigma and TQM. However, many authors recommended that organizations can achieve higher performance levels and greater efficiencies if they can be able to combine TQM, Six Sigma and Lean for their particular important attributes. Andersson al suggests that although these methodologies of quality management are complementary but six sigma and lean provide an clearer and superior pathways which an organisation can adopt to consolidate the core values proposed by TQM. In todays competitive world although every big or small enterprise has primary focus on its customers and have their own unique practices for customer satisfaction TQM provides a more stable and structures approach to achive not only customer satisfaction but also improve organisational performance in the long run.