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Total Quality Management (TQM): The Critical Role of Quality in Responding to the Covid-19 Crisis

by Allan Ung

The Critical Role of Quality in Responding to the Covid-19 Crisis

"Quality has to be caused, not controlled.”

Philip Crosby

In recent years, Lean Manufacturing has gained popularity as a management philosophy, but it's crucial to understand that successful Lean organizations in Japan are built on a strong foundation of quality. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of Total Quality Management (TQM), an organizational management approach that focuses on producing quality products and services to fulfil customer needs through continuous quality improvement.

The rush to manufacture and distribute the Covid-19 vaccines has exposed various defects and errors in the process. These incidents could have been reduced or avoided with the implementation of a holistic TQM system and robust quality processes. John Oakland's TQM model serves as a useful guide to improve products and services as well as the entire organizational management system.

Total Quality Management (TQM) Model

Total Quality Management (TQM) Model

Source: Adapted from John Oakland

Oakland's TQM model highlights that all work is a process, and each process is treated as an internal customer of the preceding process and an internal supplier to the next downstream process. Quality means meeting requirements, and to achieve quality, both input and output requirements for the process must be satisfied. The chain continues until it reaches the external customer - the one who ultimately pays for the final product or service.

TQM requires a combination of soft skills and hard skills. The soft skills include commitment, communication, and culture, and the hard skills consist of team, tools, and systems. The CEO must demonstrate serious obsessional commitment to quality, create awareness through publicity and awareness events, establish a vision, mission, and values for the organization, and define roles and responsibilities. Quality improvement teams must be formed, and teams must be educated to use data analysis tools and statistical quality tools for continuous improvement. International standards such as ISO 9001 quality management systems and computer-aided design/manufacturing systems must be leveraged.

In conclusion, Quality is not a fad, and it's still highly relevant to companies and organizations today in the creation of value. The Covid-19 vaccine-related quality problems have highlighted that quality is essential in everything we do. Unless products and services meet the needs and expectations of customers, there is no value in delivering them faster or making them cheaper. Total Quality Management is critical in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, and it's imperative for organizations to focus on producing quality products and services to fulfill customer needs through continuous quality improvement.

Allan Ung

Article by Allan Ung, Principal Consultant at Operational Excellence Consulting, a Singapore-based management consultancy firm that assists organizations in maximizing customer value and minimizing wastes through adoption of Design Thinking and Lean Thinking practices. For more information, please visit


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