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The human side of introducing
total quality management
Two case studies from Australia
Ron Edwards and Amrik S. Sohal
Department of Management, Monash University,
Caulfield East, Australia
Keywords Total quality management, Economic sustainability, Case studies, Australia
Abstract The aim of this paper is to explore the reasons why businesses, having adopted total
quality management (TQM), fail to sustain their reforms over time. In order to gain insights into
the pressures that, despite good intentions, can make full implementation of TQM problematic, a
case study approach is used. The research indicates that a lack of attention to the human element
of change, especially inconsistent senior management support, a lack of involvement of supervisors
and middle managers in planning for change, and lack of attention to groups of staff affected
negatively by the changes, explain why businesses may face difficulty sustaining reform programs.
Total quality management (TQM) has been the subject of discussion among
management academics for many years. Its advocates represent TQM as a
superior philosophy of management and there has been considerable research
conducted over the past decade that demonstrates the positive links between
the adoption of TQM practices and organisational performance (see for
example: Flynn et al., 1995; Powell, 1995; Samson and Terziovski, 1999).
However, despite the enthusiasm for TQM among organisations, attempts to
introduce it into the workplace often face unexpected problems. The aim of this
paper is to explore the factors that might explain these problems. The paper is
based on two in-depth case studies in which the commitment to TQM was not
sustained. In each case study, we describe the main TQM elements and then
discuss why TQM was not sustained.
Literature review
While there is a significant body of literature examining the relationship
between TQM implementation and its results, relatively little research has
examined the implementation process. We believe that one of the reasons is
because the implementation of the TQM process is still providing difficulties
for many companies around the world, including Australia, despite the fact
that the implementation process has been claimed as the determinant of the
success/failure of organisations in realising the benefits of TQM (Samson and
Terziovski, 1999). One of the criteria of the success of TQM programmes is its
sustainability over a long period of time. This is because the failure of TQM
programmes has been recorded in the literature, of which the failure rate in the
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
http://www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister http://www.emeraldinsight.com/0143-7720.htm
The human side
of introducing
International Journal of Manpower
Vol. 24 No. 5, 2003
pp. 551-567
q MCB UP Limited
DOI 10.1108/01437720310491080
USA and Europe accounting for nearly one-third (Harari, 1993). Sustainability,
however, is not solely concerned with the “age” of the TQM programme, but
more importantly, its role in supporting organisational competitiveness (Zairi,
2001). A review of the literature discussing the TQM implementation processes
has identified the major factors that could determine the success or failure of
TQM programmes and the extent to which they yield significant benefits for
the organizations (Dale and Cooper, 1994; Mann and Kehoe, 1995; Sohal et al.,
1998). This paper focuses on several key issues concerning the implementation
of TQM programmes, particularly involving the human resource management
side of implementation, which need consideration. Some of these issues are
briefly discussed hereafter.
As reported in Hackman and Wageman (1995), training is the second most
commonly used practice in implementing TQM, with the content being
primarily focused on interpersonal skills, quality improvement processes,
problem solving, teamwork, statistical analysis, and benchmarking. The
underlying assumption is that change occurs as a consequence of education
and training, not only in terms of individual attitudes and behaviours, but also
as a result of changed organisational practices (Coyle-Shapiro, 1999).
Specifically, managers who have undergone a training programme are
expected to be able to act as agents of change. The study by Wilkinson et al.
(1994) indicates a strong relationship between the adequacy of training and the
success of TQM programmes. However, the results also identified a number of
key concerns, including the manner in which production demands undermined
the opportunity to attain the maximum benefits from the training, and the lack
of resources to implement the knowledge gained from the training.
Employee participation has also been acknowledged by TQM proponents as
instrumental in the success of TQM programmes (Lawler, 1994). The
underlying principle is that all employees must participate in, and be
responsibile for, the quality assurance of their work as well as continuously
searching to improve the process (Ishikawa, 1985). However, those responsible
for introducing change need to win the commitment of the employees.
According to Verma and McKersie (1987), employees will be willing to
participate in TQM if their views on the benefits of TQM are positive, and will
withdraw their participation if they perceive the opposite. More specifically, the
findings of the study by Coyle-Shapiro (1999) suggest that the employees’
assessment on the beneficial impact of TQM is more important in predicting
subsequent participation in TQM than is their initial participation. Gardner
and Carlopio (1996) hold that the employee perceptions of their firm’s TQM
programmes are related to their affective reactions, which will determine their
level of participation. They further argue that there are several elements of
such affective outcomes, most notably job satisfaction which is primarily a
result of their feelings of being involved and, more importantly, their degree of
job empowerment

Type Of Service: Academic paper writing
Type of Assignment: Case study
Subject: Business
Pages / Words: 2/1000
Number of sources: 8
Academic Level: Freshman(College 1st year)
Paper Format: Harvard
Line Spacing: Single
Language Style: AU English

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