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 a way in which the basic elements can be made operational in practice. Based on this model a quality diagnostic 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 ofrealizing TQM and 'measuring' and stimulating continuous quality improvement. © 1993 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.