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JOCM

7,2 Quality Management and the


Process of Change
Jeanne Almaraz
6 Graduate School of Management, University of California, Irvine, USA

Since the early 1980s, practitioners have attempted to influence academic institutions
to address the issue of quality implementation seriously, both in the classroom
setting and in research pursuits. Quality programmes have received a great deal
of attention in the popular press. However, academic researchers, especially in
the area of organizational behaviour, have been less than forthcoming in their
pursuit of the quality management paradigm. Research studies of the “quality
phenomenon” by organizational researchers have been noticeably scant.
The omission of the quality management paradigm in organizational behaviour
research represents a serious gap in our knowledge of how organizations function.
While some debate the longevity of the quality “fad”, the reality of quality
programmes exists to some degree in most major organizations in the USA.
Therefore, it is time to overcome this hurdle and address quality management
and its resultant impact on organizational behaviour. One way of doing this is
to redefine quality as a major determinant of organizational change.
The implementation of quality programmes often leads to major change within
an organization. Such change may be studied at a variety of levels. For example,
at the organizational level, the implementation of quality may represent a strategic
move to become more competitive. At the unit level, work units, or teams, are
sometimes created to fulfil quality goals. Many teams become empowered through
the quality paradigm. Individuals are also impacted by the change resulting from
the implementation of quality programmes. From top managers down through
the various levels of employees, the issue of resistance to change and the
institutionalization of quality concepts are key determinants of success. At all
levels, the successful implementation of a quality programme requires top
management commitment. It is apparent that when quality is viewed as a
determinant of organizational change, the research opportunities are profound.
In order to see how research on quality relates to organizational research, it is
helpful to understand the evolution of the quality management paradigm and
also the seeming lethargy of academics in acknowledging its importance. The
following discussion will address this issue. It first provides an overview of the
quality construct by considering quality as a major determinant of organizational
change. With this perspective, three issues inherent in quality programmes are
outlined and discussed. These issues are carried forward further in five very
interesting articles in this special edition of the Journal of Organizational Change
Journal of Organizational Change Management.
Management, Vol. 7 No. 2, 1994,
pp. 6-14. © MCB University Press,
The title of this issue is “Quality Management and the Process of Change”.
0953-4814 Our hope is that this sampling of quality management research, both conceptual
and empirical, will focus your attention on the magnitude as well as the profound Quality
relevance of organizational research possibilities within the quality management Management
paradigm. Such research is needed to show the relationship between quality
management programmes and organizational behaviour and change. This
information has great value both for those practitioners trying to implement
quality programmes and for those researchers trying to focus their efforts on the
most relevant issues in their organizational research. 7
Development of the Quality Management Paradigm
Given the popularity of quality programmes in organizations today, one would
anticipate that research on quality would be quite prolific. However, for a variety
of reasons, this is not the case. One important reason is the origin of the quality
construct. Study in the area of quality management has taken a very convoluted
path, when observed from a research perspective. The foundations of quality
management were laid by Deming (1986), Juran (1988), Crosby (1984) and others
who advocated the use of statistics to control variation in the manufacturing
process. This approach was expanded to address improvement issues in other
areas of the organization. These quality “gurus” have been prolific in writing
how-to books in improving quality. Consulting groups have sprung up nationwide
to facilitate the implementation of quality programmes. The Malcolm Baldrige
National Quality Award, with its specific criteria for evaluating organizational
quality, has been used as a guideline for many organizations.
This evolution is not typical of a traditional organizational research issue. As
a result, many organizational researchers have ignored the behavioural side of
the quality phenomenon. Since quality was first studied via statistical control of
the manufacturing process, its study was relegated primarily to those in operations
research. Operations researchers have provided some valuable insights into the
degree of implementation of quality programmes (Ebrahimpour, 1988; Modaress
and Ansari, 1989; Ross and Georgoff, 1991), as well as some instrument and
theory development (see the works of Sakakibara et al., 1990 and Saraph et al.,
1989, for good examples). However, the issues of organizational behaviour (for
example, top management commitment and the impact of organizational change)
receive only cursory attention in this research.
Increased interest in the quality management paradigm is developing in the
academic community. At the National Meetings of the Academy of Management,
many researchers met to discuss their work in the area of quality management
(TQM Caucuses, 1992; 1993). However, several individuals admitted to having
removed the term “quality” from their manuscripts, in order to be considered for
publication in the major management journals. This is one more indication that
quality management has yet to be accepted and respected as being worthy of
organizational behaviour research.

Resistance to the Quality Management Paradigm


There is often strong resistance to new ways of thinking and new forms of
organizing. This is a phenomenon often studied in organizational research.
JOCM Ironically, in terms of quality, this very phenomenon is found among organizational
7,2 researchers themselves. Support for research on quality is fuelled by a surprising
source – the business community. This support was seen in an open letter printed
in Harvard Business Review, December, 1991, in which many CEOs from major
US firms implored business schools to address the issue of TQM, both in adding
it to school curricula as well as incorporating the values into their own organizations.
8 As Lyman Porter stated at the National Academy of Management Meeting (1992):
This is the first organized effort on the part of the business community to influence the business
school curricula. This is an issue that will not go away. It is something that we, as administrators
of business schools, must address.

This role by the business community (influencing the focus of organizational


research) is not a typical occurrence. The result is that many organizational
behaviour researchers are still sceptical of the value of research in the quality
arena.
A second factor inhibiting research on quality is the fact that the implementation
of quality programmes on an organizational level represents a paradigmatic shift
from the traditional form of management espoused by most American executives.
The United States has evolved from world leader to one of many global competitors.
However, the traditional, individualistic paradigm of management and performance
persists in most organizations. The need to work together in teams, at all levels
of the organization (including cross-functionally) is vital to organizational survival.
Yet, as Kuhn (1970) reminds us, the shifting of paradigms does not occur easily.
Change of such magnitude is not incremental, but rather a framebreaking change
in organizational functioning and organizing, making it both difficult to implement
and difficult to study.

Defining the Quality Construct


Another issue responsible for inhibiting research on quality is the multi-faceted
nature of the quality construct. Garvin identifies five separate definitions of
quality (Garvin, 1986). The first two are cognitive, based on perceptions of
individuals assessing quality of a product or service. The remaining three are
concrete in terms of operationalizing the meaning of quality and the ease of
comparison with other organizations. The first two definitions include the
transcendent view of quality, i.e. an abstract property that we learn to recognize
through experience (“I know it when I see it”). The value-based definition of
quality is viewed from the perspective of utility theory in economics (Leftwich,
1979) and is defined in terms of costs and prices – the provision of product or
service at acceptable cost or price. The determination of value is a subjective
judgement on the part of the consumer. This is the anchor of the majority of
research in the service sector – exploring the gaps between perceived expected
value and actual value (Abshire and Premeaux, 1991; Murdick et al., 1990;
Parasuraman et al., 1985).
The remaining three definitions of quality are most heavily utilized in the Quality
writings of the operations management literature and the quality “gurus”, such Management
as Deming (1986), Juran (1988), and Crosby (1984):
(1) User-based definition: Quality is measured by the degree to which the
wants and needs of customers are satisfied.
(2) Product-based definition: Quality refers to the amount of desired attributes 9
contained in the product.
(3) Manufacturing-based definition: Quality is measured by the percentage
of scrap or rework required during the production process.
Given this variety of definitions, the gereralizability of research on quality is very
low (Garvin, 1988). For example, Leonard and Sasser (1982) discuss the need to
improve the overall level of “quality” in organizations, referring both to product
and process quality. Modaress and Ansari (1989) surveyed US manufacturing
firms to determine the “level” of quality (i.e. the extent of quality technique
implementation). In addition Hauser and Clausing (1988) define quality according
to how the needs of the customer are translated and implemented by those on
the manufacturing floor. Such variety has added to the confusion in quality
research as various authors discuss different aspects of quality.

Research on Quality Issues


While quality programmes have existed in organizations for quite some time,
research on quality issues has lagged far behind. This is partly due to the unique
way in which the quality management paradigm was brought to the attention
of organizational behaviourists. It is also due to the difficulty which researchers
have had both in defining quality and in placing quality management research
into the organizational research paradigm. The implementation of quality
programmes invariably leads to changes in the organization, affecting people,
tasks, technology, and structure (Leavitt, 1965). Can we infer a causal relationship
between quality management and organizational culture? What is the relationship
of management to organizational change? It is to a discussion of quality management
in the context of organizational change theory that we now turn.

Quality Programmes as Determinants of Organizational Change


Total quality management (TQM) is one acronym describing the quality management
paradigm. It refers to a management process directed at establishing organized
continuous process improvement activities, involving everyone in an organization
in a totally integrated effort towards improving performance at every level
(Department of Defense, 1989).
TQM in US firms can best be described as framebreaking change. This is very
different from the way in which quality programmes were implemented in Japan.
Incremental steps and fine-tuning were typical in the 40 years that the Japanese
have had to implement quality (Cole, 1989). The USA does not have this luxury
of time. Many firms have come to recognize that their survival is dependent on
JOCM making major changes now. However, achieving the level of cultural change
7,2 required by TQM is not an overnight process. Such change must be planned and
carefully implemented.
Change of this magnitude and complexity is not adequately defined by traditional
stage models of change (Beckhard and Harris, 1987; Lewin, 1975). There is a great
need for research on the current complexities of change in organizations. In its
10 early days, change theory focused on only one organizational subsystem, such
as the human or technological subsystems. As we approach the twenty-first
century, organizations and their environments have become increasingly complex.
The types of changes required in organizations have also become more complex.
Change seldom occurs in stable, slow-moving environments, as depicted in Lewin’s
Three-Stage Model of Change (1947). While change may be incremental in nature,
many organizations are faced with major, core change, which represents a radical
departure from “the old way of doing things” (Nadler and Tushman, 1989). The
study of TQM in organizations provides a valuable opportunity for research on
the complexity of change and the chance for theory development on framebreaking
change. Bass (1985) defines this type of core change as affecting the mission or
culture of the organization. Tichy defines major organizational change as: “non-
routine, non-incremental, discontinuous change which alters the overall orientation
of the organization and/or its components” (Tichy, 1983, p. 24).
The components referred to by Tichy are those found in Leavitt’s Contingency
Model (1965), which depicts the interconnection of people, task, technology, and
structure. A major change may begin in any of the four components. Its magnitude
will be such that all components will make some adjustment to the change, and
may in fact incur major changes as a result. Such change will affect the culture
of the organization, that is, the values, beliefs and expectations of organization
members. The result of such a major change will transform the organization.
There is a great need to focus change theory research on the radical, transformational
changes occurring in organizations. In many organizations, such terminology
accurately defines the implementation of TQM or other major quality management
programmes. Both scholars and practitioners have a need to know what the
implications of such changes are, how to design and implement such changes
and what leadership qualities are required for success.

Resistance to Change
It is well known that people are, for the most part, resistant to change of any
sort. This is especially true in the case of transformational change. In organizations,
many factors come into play, such as fear of the unknown, habit, the possibility
of economic insecurity, threats to social relationships, and failure to recognize
the need for change (Nadler, 1988). Such reasons will result in change that is
ultimately stamped out and equilibrium returned, unless organization leaders
step in to facilitate acceptance of the change.

Organizational Readiness for Change


Another issue of importance in change theory is the difference between how the
organization looks at present and how it is expected to look after the change.
The importance of identifying organizational parameters prior to change has Quality
been noted in only a few cases. Cameron et al. (1993) discusses “organizational Management
readiness” for change. Depending on the existing culture and the degree to which
a change (such as TQM) differs from that culture, an organization may be more
or less ready for such a change. Tichy and Devanna (1986) discuss “creating a
need for change”; in effect, opening up the organizational culture to be receptive
to the change. They note that this is especially difficult when there is no apparent 11
crisis, but rather the long-range vision of a leader who anticipates the time it
takes to implement organizational change.
Resistance to change is especially relevant if the vision of a leader differs from
the values and beliefs of the existing organizational culture. If that is the case,
then cultural issues must be addressed (Schein, 1991; Trice and Beyer, 1991). This
is the part of the process that is easy to overlook in major change efforts in
organizations. If the organizational culture fails to assimilate the vision and its
implications, desired change will never become accepted and will ultimately fail.

Leadership and Change


The issue of leadership is key when discussing transformational changes, which
often occur in the implementation of quality programmes. Traditional change
theory focused on the manager of day-to-day operations, not the leaders of
transformational change. Modern change theorists often note the importance of
the leader of change. However, they have not incorporated leadership theory into
their discussion. Researchers on quality have long acknowledged the importance
of leadership and commitment required for a successful quality programme.
However, the lack of definitive work on this relationship between leadership and
change presents another fine opportunity for organizational researchers.

Top Management Commitment


Nearly all writers on quality attest that top management commitment is vital to
the successful manifestation of a quality improvement programme (Ansari, 1986;
Benson et al., 1991; Ebrahimpour, 1988; Garvin, 1988; Maddox et al., 1992).
Management is the key which allows quality improvement to occur in organizations.
However, few managers acknowledge the need for a change in management beliefs
and values in order to support and nourish the new cultural reality represented
by quality. This reality is embodied in the holistic tenets of total quality management
(Deming, 1986 ; Oakland, 1989; Sashkin and Kiser, 1992). As quality moves from
a process of inspection of finished products to a continuous process which
permeates all facets of the organization, the importance of top management
commitment and the issues of organizational culture cannot be underestimated.
When quality management is presented as a determinant of organizational
change, many questions arise which address change theory, organizational
behaviour, and organizational research. The quality management paradigm fits
easily within the bounds of organizational research and lends itself neatly to
questions suited for theoretical exploration and empirical testing. Organizational
behaviourists, in their quest for knowledge about how people and organizations
JOCM function, would do well to incorporate the quality management paradigm into
7,2 their own research. The results will greatly advance our knowledge and will
provide practitioners with something of true value.

Quality Management and the Process of Change


In this special edition of the Journal of Organizational Change Management, we
12 define quality programmes as determinants of major organizational change.
Positioned this way, we will address some of the challenges that organizations
must face when dealing with quality programmes. Three key issues will be
presented in the articles to follow:
(1) Quality as a strategic choice.
(2) The Team concept.
(3) Implementation of quality programmes.

Quality as a Strategic Choice


Quality improvement programmes are implemented in organizations in many
forms (i.e. in terms of process, product, and customer satisfaction). The goal of
quality improvement is to have a positive impact in the areas so designated for
improvement. The decision to implement quality has moved up from the quality
assurance level of inspection (where it first began) into the boardrooms of top
executives who seek to integrate quality into the strategic gameplan of their
organizations. In focusing on quality, it is vital to consider the organizational
context in which quality management decisions are being made. In the article
by Shani and Rogberg, quality as a strategic choice is discussed in relationship
to the structural configuration of a firm.

The Team Concept


TQM in US firms can best be described as framebreaking change. A key reason
for this classification is that quality facilitates a move from the traditional,
individualistic structure of American organizations to one in which emphasis is
placed on teamwork. However, achieving the level of culture change needed by
TQM is not an overnight process. Such change must be planned and carefully
implemented. In his article, David Waldman points out the systemic orientation
of quality programmes, arguing for the need to align performance management
systems with the team-based philosophy of quality programmes. Carol Sexton
focuses on a specific technique, namely self-managed work teams, discussing
the benefits (and problems) which may result from this choice.

Implementation of Quality Programmes


Implementation refers to the front-end effort to operationalize some aspect of
quality. This may be in terms of the product or service itself, the process of
creating such a product or service, or even the perception consumers have regarding
the product or service. The act of implementing a quality programme focused at
one of these dimensions may be short term and immediate. Such efforts can be Quality
easily measured and recorded. Management
Steven Sommer and Deryl Merritt present an empirical study of TQM in health
care. This study is indicative of the professional empirical research that quality
programmes may produce, and shows the value of TQM possible even in the
short term. Bert Spector and Michael Beer conclude this issue of JOCM by
identifying a sequence of steps required for successful implementation of quality 13
programmes.
We know that the issue of quality exists in most organizations to some degree.
The decision to implement a quality programme has become a necessity for many
organizations. Given such a drive, or necessity, the way in which top management
chooses to support such a new programme will determine its ultimate success.
The issue of quality management, and the changes that such an issue entails,
places quality management in the realm of organization development, and even
within organizational behaviour. The articles presented in this special issue will
both convey the value of the quality management paradigm to the research
community and give practitioners insight into the value of academic research
for their own organizational realities.

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