Difference between Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM)

With more and more training paths available to ambitious candidates or working executives, upskilling has become necessary for career growth. Working executives who are keen Statisticians or Project Management Professionals may consider certifications that train candidates in quality improvement strategies such as Six Sigma and Total Quality Management (TQM). These are methodologies that help businesses reduce waste while increasing productivity and profits.

Both Six Sigma and TCM are quality improvement tools, and large enterprises are increasingly adopting them for the professional integration of quality control. Six Sigma requires the skills of professionals with certifications like Green or Black Belts, while TQM requires extensive hands-on experience and training.

Working executives who want a professional certification to enhance their resume and be career-ready for large enterprises adopting Six Sigma must consider gaining Black or Green Belt certifications. As Six Sigma delivers more effective and better results when compared to the traditional approach of TQM, certifications in Six Sigma are valuable for a career in growth in large organizations. Six Sigma being more result-oriented and precise, Six Sigma has more potential than TQM in the future. If you are still wondering why to go for a Six Sigma certification, here is a primer differentiating between Six Sigma and TQM methods.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a quality management technique used to help improve current processes, products, or services by optimizing resource use, eliminating waste, and removing process silos. As the goal is to streamline quality control, Six Sigma is implemented in large manufacturing organizations, or enterprises with more than 500 employees focused on quality control.

What is Total Quality Management (TQM)

As the term suggests, TQM is a management style that involves the Total (T) or the entire organization and its processes, focuses on Quality (Q) to meet customer expectations, and helps achieve high quality with a professional Management (M) approach. Its focus on totality means continual improvement in quality and processes.

TQM is an ongoing process of quality control to streamline supply chain management, improve customer service, and ensure that well-trained staff participates in quality control.

Difference between Six Sigma and TQM

As quality improvement systems, both Six Sigma and TM reduce errors, defects, and outages in processes for quality control. There is only a thin difference between both these systems, which often confuses working executives and managers working in companies that implement quality management techniques.

Although both are valuable tools for quality management, it is necessary to understand the difference and which method to implement within your organization. The key differences lie in the focus, approach, and scope of the two quality control systems.

So let us explore the differences:

Six Sigma focuses on performance improvement by reducing the number of faulty products produced, thus increasing profits increase and enabling effective resource use. It is widely implemented in large manufacturing units, where defects and errors are common. On the other hand, TQM is more concerned with incremental and continual change in process quality improvement, making it popular within service-based organizations.


Six Sigma leverages multiple departments and uses a data-driven and statistical approach to measure process quality. TQM focuses on quantitative goals by integrating individual departments for customer satisfaction. Six Sigma focuses on identifying product defects and eliminating them, while TQM ensures an iterative and continual improvement of existing processes and systems. Six Sigma focuses on decreasing variation in the quality of production, whereas TQM focuses on improving the process.

Six Sigma primarily focuses on making the necessary changes in the systems to ensure high quality and minimal wastage, whereas TQM focuses on maintaining and improving the existing quality standards.

Six Sigma can be implemented and initiated at next-level quality processes, while TQM can reach a saturation level after some time when no further improvements in quality are possible.


Six Sigma ensures quality control by reducing the number of defects. TQM looks at quality through the integration of processes and departments. Implementation of Six Sigma helps reduce operational costs by cutting down on poor-quality products and ensuring high customer satisfaction and brand value. It differs from traditional cost-cutting operations with the potential of diminishing quality, ultimately affecting the customer satisfaction index.


Six Sigma helps produce high-quality products within well-defined specifications and gets the defect level below 3.4 DPMO (defects per million opportunities). TQM results in incremental change in process quality and higher ROI with increased adoption of quality management practices.

Total Quality Management creates processes and systems based on customer feedback and various research, which eventually helps in the digital transformation of the company.

Quality standards

Six Sigma ensures high standards of quality with a minimum number of defects. TQM meets the quality standards established by the organization. While Six Sigma delivers high-quality results and customer satisfaction, TQM ensures high quality in the processes.

Implementation roles

Six Sigma establishes clear leadership roles and a systematic approach to quality management. The key roles include Executive Leadership, Championship, Master Black belt, Black Belt, and Green Belt.

In TQM, the managers allocate resources and time for total quality management and conduct ongoing training programs for continuous innovation and strategy for superior products. Service Management Professionals process customer feedback concerning quality to take forward the business transformation goals of organizations. The manager acts as a facilitator at the workplace and assists employees in implementing TQM.

Formal Training

Six Sigma certifications and training programs verify proficiency in Six Sigma methodology. Large organizations, universities, professional associations, and professional training partners conduct the certification exam in line with the Six Sigma guidelines. Six Sigma thus calls for rigorous training and testing at various levels: green belt, black belt, and master black belt, and requires formal certifications as validations of quality management expertise.

TQM does not require certifications but on-site training in the quality management protocols followed by the company. It is heavy on staff training by the company.


Six Sigma and TQM are, however, not mutually exclusive. TQM was in practice long before the Six Sigma certifications began. So both methods can be used independently, as they co-exist and are compatible. It largely depends on the organization and the business model. In some large manufacturing industries, using both methods can combine the benefits of traditional and data-driven quality control methods to increase output improvement.

Both methods help decrease the number of defects and errors, include the participation of every person in the company, and are process centered. If you are willing to invest in your career growth, then formal training in Six Sigma certification is the way to go. However, if time and costs are constraints, you can always opt for training in TQM at the company and carve your future growth within the company.

Latest Post