The implementation of total quality is a critical element of success for six sigma. It is the base from which all other ideas, procedures, methodologies, and tools of six sigma can be developed, nurtured, and successfully implemented.
Although the focus of a total quality culture is the control and enhancement of quality, it has evolved into highly successful methodologies for many different aspects of successful management and operation of companies. Total quality infuses the whole organization with a common set of terminology and procedures to perform the following important tasks:
1. Problem identification and resolution. The organization is trained to spot problems, in quality or otherwise, identify them promptly, and suggest methods for improvement. Alternatives are studied and weighed carefully, decisions properly made and adverse consequences evaluated. Management is kept informed and provides guidance, encouragement, and resources for successful completion of the tasks.
2. Team process. Total quality is synonymous with the team process. It encourages working in groups, helping team members reconcile individual versus group goals, set team objectives and expectations, make collective decisions and learn to operate with less management direction. All of these elements will be very important for the successful implementation of six sigma projects.
3. Continuous improvements. This is the idea of not being satisfied with the status quo, not doing things the same old way (SOW), and constantly seeking better performance from people, equipment, and processes. Part of continuous improvement is the challenge to realize that a limit has been reached with the current situation, and to seek other alternatives and original ideas for improvement. Expectations should be set correctly; improvements can be achieved in big steps only when using new technologies or methodologies. Total quality allows for small steps, which when accumulated over time, lead to large steps.
One of the inhibitors of total quality at the engineering level is the engineers 7 view that it is for manufacturing and less skilled personnel in the company -- “fourth grade stuff.” In addition，engineers by nature have been trained in universities to compete instead of collaborate: grades and exams stress individual contribution rather than teamwork. These cultural inhibitors have to be dealt with by treating them as a procedural as well as training issues. Emphasizing quality and teamwork on performance evaluations sends a strong message that the company is serious about implementing a total quality program.
Total quality teams that provide for completion of successful projects at all the engineering and marketing functional levels are good precursors and training grounds for a thriving six sigma culture in the company.