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The Six Sigma Tool and TQM are Not the Same

Aug 17, 2007
Many business people have yet to recognize the difference between the Six Sigma tool and total quality management, also referred to as TQM. Though, at a glance, they do look rather similar, and the Six Sigma tool does indeed employ some of the techniques and strategies that are the foundation for TQM, they remain two entirely separate methods of doing business.

While both the Six Sigma tool and TQM place emphasis on how critical it is to look at a business' entire support and leadership structure from top to bottom, the similarities don't go much further than that. It is the focus on quality that causes the confusion between total quality management and the Six Sigma tool. Both approaches to business believe that constantly improving the quality of a business is vital to its continuing success. Furthermore, the Six Sigma tool cycle of define-measure-analyze-improve-control is comparable to the TQM cycle plan-do-study-act.

However, the differences are vast and important between these two strategies. It is these differences that explains why the Six Sigma tool continues to grow in popularity, while the TQM is fading out over time.

Among these differences, management is primary. In contrast with TQM, the Six Sigma tool was not created by people who had very little experience in management, and were therefore only capable of developing a plan that had very broad management guidelines. Instead, the Six Sigma tool was formulated by a group of the most capable CEOs in the United States, who had only business success as their ultimate goal. They worked through all of the tools and techniques know about the business world and incorporated each of the most effective, tried-and-true methods for having businesses operate at their full potential, in a framework that makes it entirely possible.

Therefore, the Six Sigma tool can be seen as a much more holistic approach to doing business. Though loosely based on traditional concepts, it employs those that have been known to work consistently across multiple industries and business sizes. It also focuses not only on the end result, but on the entire business and its processes and policies.

Of course, there are many other differences as well; to be rapidly summed up, the main difference of the Six Sigma tool is its ability to give organization a much clearer path toward success by using its potential to its fullest.
About the Author
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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