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Exploring Six Sigma and Total Quality Management: Differences, Similarities, and Qualifications

Six Sigma and Total Quality Management

In today’s competitive market, ensuring high quality is crucial for businesses. Consumers are more informed and expect top-notch products and services. This has led businesses worldwide to adopt Total Quality Management (TQM) and Six Sigma methodologies.

TQM and Six Sigma are about improving quality, meeting evolving consumer demands, and maintaining a positive brand reputation. Using these methodologies, businesses can differentiate themselves, attract new customers, and build a strong brand.

This is why professionals with expertise in these methodologies are in high demand. Upskilling yourself with a quality management or Six Sigma training course can expand career avenues across industries.

But do TQM and Six Sigma offer the same benefits? How to choose one over the other?

This article compares TQM and Six Sigma, which will help you choose the right approach for your organization.

What is TQM, and What is it Used for?

Total Quality Management, or TQM, is the practice of evaluating all the aspects of a business, from suppliers to delivery and customer service. The motive is to ensure every stakeholder knows their role in quality improvement. TQM is achieved by regularly detecting and reducing errors in the supply chain, organization processes, and customer service with the help of regular employee training. Optimization of the totality of the enterprise forms the core of the TQM.

Here are some chief uses of TQM.

  • To involve employees in formulating the improvement process with the help of their expertise
  • To enable employees to grow beyond information-giving to implementing recommendations in quality management
  • To inculcate a process-based approach, data analysis, and problem-solving using a circumspective and creative approach
  • To drive fact-based decision-making
  • To develop integrated systems that enable efficient strategic planning
  • To devise streamlined communication systems that transfer necessary information to all the concerned parties required for quality improvement
  • To stress to all the business verticals the criticality of their role in achieving customer satisfaction

Also Read: Six Sigma Tools: Here’s Top Powerful Tools You Should Know in 2024

The Benefits and Challenges of Total Quality Management

TQM is popular with several organizations worldwide for its unique benefits. Here are the chief pros of TQM.


  • Customer-centred approach leading to improved customer satisfaction
  • Development of a positive work environment and an improved company culture via effective communication
  • Lowers waste of money and time
  • Can be customized as per the needs and capabilities of the industry in question
  • Improvement in sales and brand image.
  • Reduced operational costs in the organization as a whole
  • Organization develops adaptability to changes required for quality enhancement.

However, TQM has certain drawbacks that can interfere with its application. Let’s take a quick look at them.


  • Although the basic concept of TQM is well understood, it is not a standardized process that anyone and everyone can use
  • IT needs focus from each department of the company, which may be theoretically correct but may not always be practically possible or preferred. Employees may not be receptive to a TQM exercise if it disrupts their process schedules to a large extent
  • A high initial investment is required to put TQM into practice
  • Experts are required to devise suitable action plans and implement TQM
  • Initial implementation of TQM highlights gaps in customer service and redressal of customer complaints ― although this may seem negative, it is an opportunity for improvement
  • TQM isn’t a one-off — it’s a continuous program that needs regular input and continuous implementation
  • Results are not seen immediately, and using only a data-driven method can restrict creativity

What is Six Sigma, and What is it Used for?

Six Sigma is a methodology that aims to root out the cause of errors with the help of data analysis, recommend improvement methods, and achieve quality enhancement by implementing the methods and measuring their impact statistically.

The number of defective parts or errors observed per a standard number of products determines the efficiency and quality of the process. Six Sigma uses the DMAIC method to achieve this improvement. The DMAIC method involves five steps:

  • Define (D), where you define the scope of the problem.
  • Measure (M), where the various parameters involved in the process are identified and measured.
  • Analyze (A), where you evaluate the process in detail to identify the cause of the known errors as well as detect any unknown factors contributing to undetected or potential defects.
  • Improve (I), where the data analysis is performed to obtain statistically significant parameters that can be used to recommend and implement incremental improvements.
  • Control (C), where you check the efficacy of the applied improvements and visit the previous steps if the recommendations are not working to the desired level.

Let us now look at some of the main uses of Six Sigma.

  • To identify the cause of problems resulting in multiple customer complaints and sales loss.
  • To provide concrete numerical metrics to determine the quality level
  • To train employees in the systematic thought process of going to the root of the problem and providing them with tools.
  • To achieve predictability in the quality of the process and/or product

Also Read: What is Value Stream Mapping? Process, Examples, and Everything You Need to Know

The Benefits and Challenges of Six Sigma

Now let us go through the benefits and challenges associated with Six Sigma.


  • Six Sigma is a tried-and-tested method, and there is a guarantee of success in implementation
  • Organizations can see tangible results in a practical timeframe
  • Increases sales and improves the brand value
  • Enhances customer satisfaction and improves channels for complaint redressal
  • Easy to implement and can be understood by employees
  • Enables concerned stakeholders to get involved in quality improvement without interfering with their planned operations
  • Reduces wastage and scrap
  • Inculcates values of continuous learning, attention to detail, error identification, and creative problem-solving in the company culture


  • Implementing Six Sigma in larger organizations is difficult as not all departments may be receptive to participating due to differing priorities
  • It can be complicated for everyone to understand due to the statistical nature of the analysis
  • Acquiring sufficient and correct data for the analysis may not always be feasible for a process involving multiple departments
  • While effective in saving costs and boosting sales, Six Sigma may result in substantial operational and overhead expenditure if the exercise extends over a long term without a resolution in a reasonable timeframe

Differences Between TQM vs. Six Sigma

TQM and Six Sigma aim to improve quality, but they have subtle differences. Let’s explore some of them.

  • Six Sigma aims to improve product quality consistency. On the other hand, TQM aims to improve the overall quality of the process.
  • Six Sigma ensures the involvement of all organizational departments involved in producing a particular product. TQM extends this involvement from the suppliers to the customer delivery and service departments.
  • Six Sigma is a standardized process with an established set of methods, tools, and rules. TQM is not a standardized process; it depends on the experts to develop the plan for TQM and determine the paradigms and tools to use.
  • Six Sigma is a statistical process. TQM is a fact-based process that may not always use statistics to the extent that Six Sigma does.
  • Six Sigma is error-focused, while TQM is focused on end-to-end improvement.
  • Six Sigma implementation requires individuals with certification from an accredited institute. TQM experts do not need certifications and usually rely on their existing knowledge and experience.

Similarities Between TQM and Six Sigma

Despite the differences, TQM and Six Sigma have some commonalities. Here’s a short list of the similarities between them.

  • They are implemented to improve the quality of the products.
  • Both of them select an established process as the focus of the investigation.
  • Their goal is to reduce the number of defective products and waste.
  • Both push for involvement from all the concerned teams in the organization.

Also Read: Six Sigma Black Belt Salaries in 2024: Everything You Need to Know!

Careers: Six Sigma vs. TQM

TQM is a non-standard process that relies primarily on the expertise and knowledge of the professionals. Hence, the TQM experts are the ones who have been quality professionals and have worked on multiple quality improvement techniques. While there are quality management certifications, there is no definitive level of expertise. The average annual salary of a TQM specialist is $109,523. The typical job descriptions include a broad range of tasks ranging from supply chain management, developing quality improvement plans, and assessing customer feedback.

On the other hand, Six Sigma is a standardized process with six levels of certifications. There is a defined scope at every level, and professionals can work on quality even during the early stages of their careers. You do not have to wait till you reach mid-level management to begin a Six Sigma career. These professionals are highly sought after. The average annual salary of a Lean Six Sigma differs based on experience, but the higher levels, such as Green Belt and Black Belt, earn a six-figure salary.

Selecting a comprehensive Six Sigma training course will build a solid foundation and prepare you for a lucrative career in this field.

Are TQM and Six Sigma Mutually Exclusive?

Contrary to popular belief, TQM precedes Six Sigma. Quality was considered an organizational exercise, and TQM was the answer. However, its scope is too wide to be used for moderate-sized processes that do not require all the organization’s departments. Nevertheless, it can be implemented as an organizational approach to quality.

Meanwhile, Six Sigma is customizable for the various processes. Organizations can choose to conduct the Six Sigma exercise for the entire system or only some parts of the system. There is more freedom to choose what to investigate using Six Sigma. It can be a method used as a part of the TQM goal. This method does not require professionals to include suppliers if the project scope does not demand it.

Thus, while not the same, TQM and Six Sigma are compatible. They can be used in congruence to accomplish enterprises’ strategic quality goals. However, their scope needs to be defined so that they do not duplicate data and study the same processes. Such a blurring of the scope can lead to a waste of resources.

Thus, while not mutually exclusive, there is a great opportunity to combine them and use them for maximum quality improvement. This can be achieved when TQM is defined as the big picture and Six Sigma is chosen as the path to achieve TQM.

Six Sigma is a perfect starting point for an individual focused on quality management. You can learn everything from basic concepts while working on quality projects. You can build a solid foundation and then build the knowledge as you go through the higher-level concepts of Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belts. Once you are armed with sufficient expertise in Six Sigma, the transition to TQM will be a smooth ride.

Get Certified to Kickstart a Successful Quality Management Career

Implementing the appropriate quality improvement technique ensures an accurate analysis of the errors and recommendations of suitable techniques. This is especially true for various businesses and processes, where each may require a customized treatment. Hence, you must know what each improvement technique entails to gauge which most applies to the issue.

You can learn how to do this by choosing a comprehensive Six Sigma bootcamp. It includes critical concepts along with industry-applicable capstone projects. Enroll to build the skills that will help you become qualified for lucrative job prospects in quality management and Six Sigma.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How is Six Sigma related to TQM?

Six Sigma is one method used to achieve TQM in an organization. TQM can define the process for which Six Sigma should be implemented.

  1. Which industries use Six Sigma and Total Quality Management?

Almost all industries use Six Sigma, especially software, technology, healthcare, customer service, manufacturing, energy, Aerospace, and electronics. TQM is used by banking, finance, medicine, manufacturing, automotive, and hardware. However, many industries have recently used both Six Sigma and TQM.

  1. Is Six Sigma better than TQM?

Both Six Sigma and TQM have their advantages. It is critical to choose the correct method based on the scope.

  1. Can TQM and Six Sigma be used together?

TQM and Six Sigma can be used together if their scopes are clearly defined.

  1. Do you have to be certified to implement TQM or Six Sigma?

There are limited quality management certifications for TQM, but they may not be mandatory. However, for Six Sigma, you must be certified and have the required experience to achieve the best possible result.

You might also like to read:

A Guide to Six Sigma Projects

Quality Management Process: A Beginner’s Guide

Six Sigma Books Worth Reading

What is Lean Six Sigma Green Belt?

How To Get Six Sigma Green Belt Certification?

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