Six Sigma is a relatively new concept as compared to Total Quality Management (TQM). However, when it was conceptualized, it was not intended to be a replacement for TQM. Both Six Sigma and TQM have many similarities and are compatible in varied business environments, including manufacturing and service industries. While TQM has helped many companies in improving the quality of manufactured goods or services rendered, Six Sigma has the potential of delivering even sharper results.
Total Quality Management
Total Quality Management is often associated with the development, deployment, and maintenance of organizational systems that are required for various business processes. It is based on a strategic approach that focuses on maintaining existing quality standards as well as making incremental quality improvements. It can also be described as a cultural initiative as the focus is on establishing a culture of collaboration among various functional departments within an organization for improving overall quality.
Comparison To Six Sigma
In comparison, 6 Sigma is more than just a process improvement program as it is based on concepts that focus on continuous quality improvements for achieving near perfection by restricting the number of possible defects to less than 3.4 defects per million. It is complementary to Statistical Process Control (SPC), which uses statistical methods for monitoring and controlling business processes. Although both SPC and TQM help in improving quality, they often reach a stage after which no further quality improvements can be made. 6 Sigma, on the other hand, is different as it focuses on taking quality improvement processes to the next level.
The basic difference between 6 Sigma and TQM is the approach. While TQM views quality as conformance to internal requirements, 6 Sigma focuses on improving quality by reducing the number of defects. The end result may be the same in both the concepts (i.e. producing better quality products). 6 Sigma helps organizations in reducing operational costs by focusing on defect reduction, cycle time reduction, and cost savings. It is different from conventional cost cutting measures that may reduce value and quality. It focuses on identifying and eliminating costs that provide no value to customers such as costs incurred due to waste.
TQM initiatives focus on improving individual operations within unrelated business processes whereas 6 Sigma programs focus on improving all the operations within a single business process. Six Sigma projects require the skills of professionals that are certified as 'black belts' whereas TQM initiatives are usually a part-time activity that can be managed by non-dedicated managers.
Applications Where Six Sigma Is Better
Six Sigma initiatives are based on a preplanned project charter that outlines the scale of a project, financial targets, anticipated benefits and milestones. In comparison, organizations that have implemented TQM, work without fully knowing what the financial gains might be. Six Sigma is based on DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) that helps in making precise measurements, identifying exact problems, and providing solutions that can be measured.
Six sigma is also different from TQM in that it is fact based and data driven, result oriented, providing quantifiable and measurable bottom-line results, linked to strategy and related to customer requirements. It is applicable to all common business processes such as administration, sales, marketing and R & D. Although many tools and techniques used in Six Sigma may appear similar to TQM, they are often distinct as in Six Sigma, the focus is on the strategic and systematic application of the tools on targeted projects at the appropriate time. It is predicted that Six Sigma will outlast TQM as it has the potential of achieving more than TQM.
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Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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