From extensive literature research a total quality management (TQM) model is developed. This model describes the basic elements of the concept of TQM. It also provides the way in which the basic elements can be made operational in practice. Based on this model a quality-diagnostical instrument is developed to establish the actual TQM-situation in an organization. The instrument has been tested in two cases in an existing company and the results look promising for purposes of using the instrument in the process of realizing TQM and 'measuring' and stimulating continuous quality improvement. © 1992, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.