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Total Business Management for the Small Business Model

Continuing the theme from an earlier article on "Which quality system or methodology to choose?", I want to re-introduce some fundamental quality (and business) management principles from an older but well known stalwart  of quality - TQM (Total Quality Management).  I'm going to provide a brief definition of the 8 essential requirements for implementing TQM, then develop the concept of a small business model, which would be more aptly named  -  Total Business Management.   I use the small business model for two reasons:

1.       The article is only focused on introducing effective quality practices to a small budget business, without the maintenance overheads of a larger, more comprehensive QMS.

2.       TBM (Total Business Management) for Small Business, as describe here is purely a model, a starting point or foundation that can be scaled as appropriate, both horizontally (ie. in scope), and vertically (in size and quantity).

The challenges one faces introducing quality management, process controls and continuous improvement to medium to large organisations are in most situations (especially with a CMMI rating of 1 ) numerous, complex and often daunting.  All Quality Consutants worth their salt would say they are never insurmountable, if a systematic approach is taken, the most appropriate best practices are adopted, and effective business plans are developed and support top down from the General Manager (and CIO in the case of IT Service Management).

TBM for Small Business

Clearly, TQM or our TBM Small Business model would not suffice for larger businesses, in isolation of other adopted standards, methodologies, and quality control disciplines that come with systems like ISO:9001, ITIL or Lean Six Sigma.

 TBM Requirements:

1.       Customer Focus  -  (a)  Continuously survey for customer satisfaction (value, quality and zero-defects), (b) Regularly review customer requirements.  (c)  Frequently interact with, and involve the customer. (This is critically number one because a growing (or dwindling) customer base can "make or break" a small business in most situations. )

2.       Total Staff Involvement - This is the 2nd most critical requirement to success with the TBM model, and far simpler to implement in small businesses (eg. < 100 employees). Make staff ownership of customer satisfaction a requirement of hiring, provide training on the company's quality practices and policies, provide periodical review (not personal rewards) of every employee's level of involvement with customer satisfaction.

3.       Process Improvement -  All staff are required to continuously assess all processes in the business for both (a)  their effectiveness (time-effort-cost to customer value ratio), and  (b) their efficiency (accuracy, thoroughness and ease of use).  Defective processes cost the company time and money, and contribute to customer dissatisfaction.  An employee in the TBM model is not meeting his or her hiring obligation if process defects are not reported, recorded and fixed.  Ensure all staff understand that a highly effective process today (eg. baking home-made curried beef pies) might remain efficient but become ineffective in 6 to months without any change to process (due to change in customer requirements or taste).

4.       Solid Vision and Values, Flexible Mission -  Document the company's vision and value (which should be enduring and part of company brand), and frequently share them with customers and staff alike. On the other hand, continually review and revise the company's documented Mission Statement and Business Objectives.  If the mission and objectives are out of date and not working, then change them.

5.       Business Research and Strategy - Small businesses cannot afford to wait until a process becomes inefficient or defective, or for a lost customer (or potential customer or business opportunity).  Continually review internal both internal processes, and external markets and customer needs, requirements and opportunities.  Utilise market research, customer and employee surveys.  Recognise when your products or services lose value, or become obsolete.

6.       Continual Improvement - (a) Include Continuous Improvement in daily activities by all staff (covering the first 5 TBM requirements, as well as review of all other aspects of your business, including use of current technology, types of service / products, and customer areas).  (b) Recognise when something is not working in your business, and change it.

7.       Real Facts and Data  -  Whilst bigger businesses and organisations depend on analysing large amounts of data for internal and external quality performance of products, services, processes (and staff), as well as marketing and business opportunities, this would be cost inefficient in most small businesses.  Whatever the type and level of analysis and research is determined appropriate for the business, it is always essential to ensure it is complete, accurate and current.  For a small business, decisions based on market research which were founded on inaccurate data and facts, could lead to adverse or even dire consequences for the success of the business.

8.       Frequent and Effective Communication - This is required between (a) the business (management) with staff and customers, (b) staff and customers (c) management and staff with colleagues and community from similar businesses, technologies, customers across the globe.  Perpetual, pervasive communication and networking, combined with the other TBM requirements is key to the success of the business and the effectivenes of the TBM model.


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Hi Ken,

I found this article really interesting. Especially the eight key requirements for implementing a simple quality model.

My organisation is quite large and given the difficulties we are having adopting ITIL, I am having a lot of trouble getting support for an enterprise quality program (which I believe would be very useful in helping to 'bed down' ITIL.)

I think a scaled back proposal/approach might be more acceptable but have you considered writing an article or presentation aimed at managers or executives that spells out the benefits to bb gained and resources needed when implementing an enterprise scale quality management team?


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Scalable Approach for an enterprise quality programme

Thanks for your comments. In many (if not most) cases the biggest challenge to implementing quality programs is getting buy-in and commitment from managers. Whilst I have my own ideas on the problems with this, there are already some well presented writings on the subject, which I would be happy to discuss and introduce in a follow-up article. ASQ (American Society for Quality) in particular produces some excellent writings on many systems and approaches, including TQM and ITIL. For example, a presentation to managers could commence with an introduction of the Primary Elements of TQM (from ASQ), before detailing the benefits of ITIL (or other quality systems, based on the organisation's products, services and needs). ASQ also include in the TQM guide a reminder of Deming's 14 Points of TQM management pratice. In a management presentation, I would also be referencing a statement on Leadership as succintly expressed in the ASQ TQM guide.

The first 2 points of the TBM Requirements are an good starting point.

I have seen the problem from both sides both as a customer representing a 120 employee manufacturing business and as a 'footsoldier' in both small and Enterprise sized IT Service Vendors/Integrators. 

The people out in the field interacting with customers give a lasting impressions which determines whether a contract is renewed. You can try and hide your technical staff from a customer using various Account Managers, etc but eventually an engineer will have to go onsite to implement or fix something.

Companies spend so much of their resources on sales staff/generating new business but it so much cheaper to retain clients you have and add some new business rather than trying to continuously replace disgruntled ones who don't renew service agreements.



Hi Ken,
I totally agree with  the eight points made and as a Manager of a microbusiness I can vouch for their validity to me but I have been a manager for more than twenty years and need convincing when it comes to big business and experience has shown me that the Manager's that I deal with are underqualified, under read and ill equipped to do the job which they have been employed to do.  In a small business this soon becomes very evident but in a large business any of the points can become blurred and lost.  It has been my experience that, in most  cases, the wrong people have been promoted (this has been done for a relatively short period) an in a short time maximum damage is done without  Senior Manager's being aware.  People are promoted for a variety of reasons and call  me a cynic but my experience has been a) to employ somone at a higher level before retirement so that they earn significantly higher wages or b) the person is employed so that someone  can be blamed if something is found to go significantly wrong.
I am particularly sceptical when a person's job description tags on "Quality", "Occupational Health", "Safety" or "Environment" all challenging if tackled alone but often bundled together and often with another job.  I do not think that these people are employed to fail but they have been employed by Managers that fail to recognise some of the eight points made which means as organisation we are failing. 
With interest I read the comment from the person that said it is easier to get repeat business that keep soliciting for new.  So often organisations go through the motions of getting quotes without really knowing what is required.  Unfortunately it is necessary to become an expert in what is required if the best service that meets all eight goals is to be met.

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