It's become fashionable lately to bash total quality management (TQM), but most of the complaints seem to be coming from big-company executives. I suspect their criticisms reveal more about their own desperate need for quick fixes than the real limitations of TQM. The rest of us have more to learn from Karen Caplan, president of Frieda's, a $22-million specialty-produce company in Los Angeles, which launched its own TQM program last summer. "We don't participate in fads," says Caplan. "Total quality management is no fad. It is a radically different way of thinking about every aspect of your business. We started TQM because that's the kind of company I want to run -- one in which the goal is the satisfaction of internal and external customers, and profit is the result. The only way to do that is to manage by fact, not by my or anyone else's intuition. Maybe the difference between us and large companies is that we didn't start TQM to fix anything. There's really nothing broken here."
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