Why TQM still deserves a look…

One of my favorite quotes is from statistician George E.P. Box: “All models are wrong; Some models are useful.” Indeed, no model is perfect or inclusive on any subject, and  I think you should look at as many as you can on any important topic, then determine your own uses for what you find and discard the rest.

Consider Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s philosophy that helped form the management process of Total Quality Management (TQM). It unfortunately is labeled by many as one of those management “flavors of the month” that just didn’t work. Actually,  it worked well for those companies who put the effort into making it work, then a bunch of other companies thought they could just take it and make it work for them, only to end up disappointed because they tried to pound a square peg in a round hole. I think categorizing TQM as a “failure” or even just dismissing it as a “flavor of the month” is unfair.

As big a fan as I am of Deming and the TQM philosophy, I’m the first to say I don’t agree with every aspect of it. That doesn’t mean it’s not valuable. If a we take the whole philosophy of TQM and mine through it for the nuggets we can use and then discard what we can’t, I think we’ll  be very happy with the outcome. And we’ll have more ownership of the end result because we had deeper involvement in its development.

Here’s a link to a discussion of Deming’s 14 Points. I’d urge you to take a look at these 14 Points not with the goal of applying all of them in your current situation, but with the simple, useful goal of seeing which one(s) might be worthy  of consideration. At the very least I’ll bet a glance at these 14 Points will spark some ideas.

One of the greatest pieces of advice I received several years ago was to never try to blindly adopt any one idea, philosophy, or system, but to instead look warily at EVERY idea, philosophy and system with the goal of finding at least one thing that could be taken and adapted to my own situation. I’d encourage you to do the same thing. Taking that approach gives you a wealth of ideas to pull from and avoids the pressure of trying to find a single solution from a single source. If you look for a single source for all the answers, you’re bound to be disappointed eventually. If you look for one idea from every source, you may be downright amazed at how many good ideas jump out at you.

Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” – Picasso