Both quality assurance and total quality management are aimed at doing things well. Quality assurance is a process that involves building and maintaining the infrastructure and systems necessary to consistently ensure the delivery of quality products and services. Total quality management is a long-term, big-picture approach to running a company, implementing thoughtful, well-integrated systems and ideas at every level. Quality assurance is an indispensable part of total quality management: the most hands-on, practical part.
Your business depends on repeat customers and referrals, which are especially likely to be forthcoming if you provide useful, dependable products and services. The job of quality assurance is to assure customers that your company can meet their needs and deliver on its promises. This endeavor is broad-based, covering everything from sourcing the right materials to delivering finished products on time. Quality assurance also involves following up when things aren't right, making amends and troubleshooting issues.
Total quality management is a system for implementing continuous improvement using feedback loops, or incoming information about how well company systems are working. This management approach relies on broad-based employee engagement to gather information and implement changes at every level. According to TQM tenets, ethics and integrity carry through to every aspect of a company's operations. These core values align company actions with company mission, and ensure that customer needs are effectively met.
Total Quality Management approaches business systems from the customers' point of view, evaluating and redesigning systems to address customer expectations and meet customer needs. Quality assurance has essentially the same customer-focused objective, although its scope is confined to delivery of products and services. In contrast, Total Quality Management addresses a broader range of issues, from communication to leadership. These concerns set the stage for a consistent and satisfying customer experience, although they are more abstract than most quality assurance issues.
A Total Quality Management approach sets the stage for conscientious quality assurance. TQM's focus on broad, life-affirming principles such as honesty and integrity encourages a work culture that fosters creation and delivery of high-quality products and services. The management philosophy's emphasis on continuous improvement makes a space for learning and communication, helping a company build a shared knowledge base. TQM's focus on communication averts compartmentalization of knowledge and skills, encouraging collaboration and creating synergies that improve customer experience.