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IJOPM
21,10 An empirical study of the
ISO 9000 standards’
contribution towards total
1326
quality management
Katerina D. Gotzamani and George D. Tsiotras
University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece
Keywords ISO 9000, Total quality management, Performance measurement
Abstract This paper presents the results of an empirical study on the contribution of ISO 9000
standards towards total quality management (TQM). The paper is a continuation of the authors’
research on the ISO 9000 standards effectiveness and capability as an entry key to TQM. The
literature review of the above issue revealed the need for a formal empirical study to resolve the
existing debate about the standards’ long-term contribution and true value to ISO 9000-certified
companies. For the purposes of this study, a TQM measurement instrument was developed and
tested for its reliability and validity to measure TQM performance improvement in certified
companies in Greek industry. This performance improvement was then used to test the basic
research hypothesis: ``Can ISO 9000 standards provide a good first step towards TQM?’’. The
results of the study are presented in eight basic TQM categories, showing the certified companies’
performance improvement in the basic elements of each category, and revealing their strengths
and weaknesses on their way to TQM.

Introduction
It is certainly true that the development and application of a quality assurance
system helps companies to better organise and synchronise their operations by
documenting their processes, clearing out ambiguities and clearly defining
duties and responsibilities among employees and departments. Even more, its
greatest and most important advantage lies in the fact that it introduces a
preventive way of managing quality, focusing mainly on the prevention of
errors, rather than their later detection and correction, which was the focus of
the traditional ``quality control’’. The significance of prevention is highly
realised and appreciated by all authors in the literature, since the new
competitive challenge for the companies is the successful combination of high
quality and low price; in other words, the combination of quality and
productivity. The only way for companies to respond to this challenge is the
use of preventive rather than corrective methods of quality management, since
the latest highly increase costs and decrease productivity, without adding real
value to the products. Based on the above, the implementation of a quality
assurance system presents a good opportunity for companies that want to
respond to the challenge.
International Journal of Operations &
However, there is still one very serious dilemma about the quality assurance
Production Management, standards, which highly concerns both theorists and practitioners in the field.
Vol. 21 No. 10, 2001, pp. 1326-1342.
# MCB University Press, 0144-3577 This dilemma regards the degree to which the development and certification of

The optimistic view (Henkoff. two different and to a high degree conflicting views/assertions were revealed about the effectiveness of the quality assurance standards. Williams. which proved the need for a formal empirical study on the issue. the basic hypothesis examined in this paper is: H1. can ISO 9000 finally guarantee real quality improvement to the companies that apply it. which can be described as the optimistic and the pessimistic one. 1996). Marash and Marquardt 1994. 1993. some of the questions frequently raised in business articles contribution are: Can quality assurance standards boost and increase a company’s commitment to quality? 1327 Do they really encourage continuous improvement? What are the real motives behind certification? Is it a sign of commitment or is it just another marketing tool? Can it serve as a first step towards total quality management (TQM) when this is the company’s final target? What will this ``certification fashion’’ leave behind it when the temporary competitive advantage of certification is lost? Will it have emphasised and strengthened the importance of quality throughout the company? Will it have left a modernised system of quality management. together with a general feeling of disappointment and discontent about quality and quality improvement programs? The aim of this paper is to address this dilemma and provide an answer to the above raised questions through an empirical study on the standards contribution towards TQM in the Greek industry. 1997) is mainly based on the fact that the standards offer a well-structured tool to ``start with quality’’. McQueen. In fact. 1993. bureaucratic and non-flexible system. or will it just leave a complicated. making much . Can ISO 9000 quality assurance standards provide a good first step towards total quality management? Literature review conclusions on ISO 9000 standards’ contribution The above hypothesis was first examined through literature review on this issue. standards’ More specifically. 1991. which gave no specific answers to the above raised questions and dilemmas. Rayner and Porter. There is a general confusion and uncertainty regarding the effectiveness of the standards and their long-term contribution to the companies. with the capability to evolve into TQM.a quality assurance system. The paper is a continuation of the authors’ previous research on the ISO 9000 standards’ effectiveness and contribution as an entry key to TQM (Gotzamani and Tsiotras. according to the ISO 9000 series of standards. More specifically.

Stephens. 1996. That is why Juran (1993) says: All in all. Stout. 1994) is based on the fact that companies focus mainly on quick and easy certification. Lamprecht. the company is more likely to move one step backwards instead of forwards. 1997. represents a sub-system of TQM (Conti. Rayner and Porter. 1990. Also. the quality assurance system. Even more. Stephens. 1991). 1994. The main conclusion drawn from the summarisation of different opinions and assertions on this matter (Betram. 1993b. they increase employees’ awareness in quality issues. This may result in the development of a static system. 1997). 1994. who is finally the only judge of quality. Marash. Sakofsky. 1994. Searstone. Gotzamani. while its final certification increases responsibility and commitment to quality. 1993. Lamprecht. Johannsen. they lower 1328 quality variations and quality related costs. 1993b. Zuckerman. They decrease the gap between the 21. 1995. 1991. 1991. McQueen. which increases bureaucracy and reduces flexibility and innovation. they ensure a more effective and uniform communication throughout the company.10 current quality management environment and TQM for the majority of the companies. Williams. Henkoff. because of the general disappointment and resentment caused to the employees by the excessive bureaucracy and workload. many companies are in for a massive letdown. Kochan. They will get registered to ISO 9000. On the other side. the standards can not guarantee efficiency. Byrnes. but on the way that these are adopted and implemented by the companies. 1994. without real commitment to quality. 1995. 1993. my prognosis for Europe is gloomy. Mayer. they increase customers’ satisfaction and trust to the company and they encourage continuous improvement through regular and imperative quality audits. 1993a. without guaranteeing real and continuous improvement of products and processes and improved satisfaction of the customer. 1994. is that the long-term effectiveness and real value of the quality assurance standards. The key for their success lies in the companies’ real commitment to quality improvement and their true motives . 1993. 1996. 1993. while they also do not include any operational or other business results in their requirements. is not based on their content and requirements. It is also claimed that although the shortages of ISO 9000 standards compared to TQM are far too many. Tummala. Taylor. it is claimed that in cases of bad implementation. Even more. they offer a shift in focus from the final products to the processes that produce these products. Carlsson and Carlsson. when properly implemented by the companies. 1993. 1992. they improve internal organisation and operation. 1993a. the pessimistic view (Corrigan. the conscientious and consistent implementation of their fixed and clear requirements can offer a good first step towards TQM. 1993b. 1996. Conti. but this alone will not enable them to attain world-class economy. In my view.IJOPM easier top management’s commitment to it. Corrigan. since the processes are not necessarily evaluated for their efficiency before they get documented. for which there are no clear requirements and directions. 1991.

the controversy that this dilemma raises in literature. that every new technical or managerial approach. 1997). 1993). If the final impression gained by the companies and their employees about quality and quality improvement is a positive one. which finally dictate the way and depth to which the standards ISO 9000 are implemented. these systems may serve as a good first step for future adoption of TQM principles and techniques. since this is practically one of their first steps towards quality improvement. On the contrary. Kochan. which proved to be highly appreciated among them (Gotzamani et al. That is why the Greek companies’ experience with the standards becomes so important for the future of quality management and improvement practices in the Greek industry. 1997). 1996) and the exponential growth of certifications among Greek companies and world-wide (Lamprecht. contributes significantly to the long-term trust and support from management and employees.for certification. The real benefits can be realised only when the companies that apply them truly understand both their capabilities and their limits (Henkoff. since the basic arguments of both the optimistic and the pessimistic view were mainly based on personal assertions and isolated experiences of certified companies.. However. The key determinant for standards success is the depth to which a company desires to proceed in satisfying their requirements. it is claimed in the theory of group decision making and business dynamics. depending on its first impression to a company and its employees. the lack of formal empirical research on this interesting and controversial issue was identified as a main deficiency of the quality management research (Williams. or completely rejected. The ISO 9000 standards offer companies the capability to standards’ develop and implement an effective and dynamic quality system.. as long as the companies show the necessary willingness and commitment to exploit it (Williams. 1996) . the absence of formal empirical research to support the optimistic or the pessimistic side. is either readily and truly approved. highlighted the need for a formal empirical research on ISO 9000 standards implementation and their capability to drive Greek companies towards TQM. 1993). by creating a dynamic and ever-improving quality system that may evolve in a TQM system. Those companies limiting their efforts 1329 to the satisfaction of the minimum necessary requirements for certification. Ahire and Rana (1995) comment: The first impression of the initial phase of TQM implementation. the long- term interest of Greek companies on TQM (Gotzamani et al. companies can really benefit from the process if they see the standards as an opportunity to organise and improve their internal operations and quality. with a focus contribution on continuous improvement and adaptation. 1992. The above mentioned dilemma about ISO 9000 effectiveness. Even more. will not be able to realise the full potential of the standards and are likely to fail.

Design of the research questionnaire ± methodology The 20-page questionnaire used for the research was composed of the following three main parts: The first part examined the motives that lead Greek companies to certification. The last category was addressed only to those companies certified to ISO 9001. tested the standards’ contribution towards TQM. by exploring: The motives that lead Greek companies to ISO 9000 certification. (6) suppliers relations. 3 = moderate. since one of the main standards’ criticism is that companies can get registered without having to prove any positive business results from the standards’ implementation. since these are said to be decisive for the long-term effectiveness and value of the standards. to test their effectiveness as a first step towards TQM. (4) human resource management. benefits/results that they have witnessed from certification. 1330 The certified companies performance improvement from the standards’ implementation in basic TQM areas. we decided to proceed with an empirical research on the Greek ISO 9000 certified companies. internal and external. (7) customers relations. 4 = high. which constituted its main body.10 Greek industry. (5) process management. A list of ten different motives was extracted from the literature review covering all possible reasons for which companies pursue certification. 2 = low. For this reason a special TQM measurement instrument was built. The above eight categories were described through 80 important TQM . and (8) product quality design. The surveyed companies were asked to mention the extent to which each one of these motives influenced their decision for certification. 5 = very high. The overall. covering the following eight basic TQM performance categories: (1) leadership. 1 = very low. (2) strategic quality planning.IJOPM To evaluate the standards’ long-term effectiveness and contribution in the 21. (3) quality data and analysis. A typical example of the items in this part of the questionnaire is: Quality improvement of final products/services (extent to which they pursued certification for this reason): 0 = not at all. The second part of the questionnaire.

1 = very low. 3 = moderate. 2 = low. 3 = moderate. A measurement instrument is called reliable when it gives the same results. 4 = high. 5 = very high. 1992). 3 = moderate. giving a particularly high (57 per cent) response rate. An instrument’s reliability can be tested by three ways: .elements/questions. the instrument had to be first tested for its reliability and its validity. a list of 20 possible benefits was offered. whether the standards implementation boosts TQM performance or not. Finally. considering the magnitude of the questionnaire. The certified companies were asked to evaluate their ISO 9000 performance on these elements. Thus. the measurement mean must be both reliable and valid. 1 = very low. Test of the TQM measurement instrument Before using the TQM measurement instrument (in the second part of the questionnaire) to test the basic hypothesis of the research. 2 = low. by indicating the extent of practice of each one standards’ of these in their company. 1 = very low. 1996) and it was addressed to their quality assurance manager. 5 = very high. As Bryman and Cramer (1994) mention: It is generally agreed that when a mean of measuring a concept is proposed. applied to different persons or under different circumstances. in other words. asking companies to mention the degree to which they witnessed each one of them as a result of their ISO 9000 certification. 4 = high. A typical example of the items in this part of the questionnaire is: Extent to which the amount of defects and rework was reduced (as a result of ISO 9000 implementation): 0 = not at all. by that period (May. 1331 A typical example of the 80 items in this part of the questionnaire is: Extent to which employees are trained in statistical methods and techniques: Before ISO certification: 0 = not at all. 4 = high. 2 = low. and in which specific elements or areas. 5 = very high. The six-point interval rating scale was chosen for all 110-questionnaire items in order to prevent the occurrence of the central tendency error. After ISO certification: 0 = not at all. Finally. 84 answered questionnaires were received. The data were analysed with the use of the statistical package for the social sciences (SPSS) for Windows (Norusi. This way we could contribution isolate the unique standards contribution to the TQM elements performance and check whether this contribution is significant or not. the third part of the questionnaire examined the overall operational and other benefits of certification. The questionnaire was sent to almost all ISO 9000 (9001. both before and after certification. 9002 or 9003) certified companies by ELOT (the Greek organisation for standardisation). This list was also extracted from literature review and covered all possible benefits that companies could witness from certification.

89 Human resource management 0. and testing their 1332 correlation (split-halves method). as is the case with the TQM categories. while generally values higher than 0. The closer this is to one.85 coefficients for each Customer’s relations 0. The instrument’s content validity for this research is assured by the extensive literature review conducted on the subject.85).86 Table I.86 Quality data and analysis 0. which means that it must really measure the concept or the phenomenon that it was designed to measure. were very high (> 0. The exact reliability coefficients for every TQM category are presented below (Table I). The results proved the internal consistency of each TQM category’s elements in the instrument.90 Strategic quality planning 0.8 are regarded as satisfactory. There are three validity measures: (1) content validity. the highest the internal consistency of a dimension.95 TQM category Product quality design 0. (3) Breaking down the same instrument into two parts.10 consistency method). Process management 0.94 Internal reliability Supplier’s relations 0. since the reliability coefficients for all TQM dimensions. by its approval from experts on the subject/phenomenon that it concerns. since the instrument must also prove to be valid. (2) predictive validity.IJOPM (1) Based on the correlation of the instrument’s elements (internal 21. (2) Based on the correlation between two different forms of the same measurement instrument (re-test or alternative form method). The basic TQM categories and the elements in each category were extracted from extensive literature TQM category Cronbach’s alpha Leadership 0. in this case TQM. 1994). The internal consistency was measured using the Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient. Content validity can only be checked qualitatively/subjectively. and (3) construct validity. A measurement instrument’s reliability is necessary but not enough.92 . since this is said to be the most popular for testing an instrument’s reliability. From the above methods. ``Content validity’’ or ``face validity’’ concerns the instrument’s adequacy for the measurement of the concept or the idea that it measures. the internal consistency method was used for the research. This method is also suggested as particularly important in measurement instruments with super-variables or multiple-elements dimensions (Bryman and Cramer.

review on TQM theory and each TQM area separately. as described under their basic categories (Gotzamani. the predictive validity of the instrument was tested though multiple regression analysis between the companies’ mean performance improvement score in each one of the eight TQM categories of the instrument (eight independent variables) and their mean score in their overall benefits from certification (dependent variable). as these were indicated in the third part of the questionnaire. and thus it could be safely used to test the basic hypothesis of the survey. its adequacy was confirmed by academics and quality assurance managers in its pilot study and. ``construct validity’’ was assured by applying Factor Analysis (Rummel. contribution 2000). 1970) separately in each TQM category. by ELOT. the companies’ performance on TQM elements. Since the measurement instrument of this research was measuring TQM performance improvement from certification. both reliably and accurately. To test this kind of validity. stressed the 1333 importance of the survey and the value of the measurement instrument as a self-assessment tool for companies to monitor performance improvements against TQM. Moreover. The companies’ performance differences (performance after certification ± . TQM performance improvement from certification The basic hypothesis of the survey was tested with the help of the parametric test (t-test for paired samples) and the non-parametric tests (sign-test for two related samples and Wilcoxon matched-pairs test for two related samples). and the multiple correlation coefficient R was estimated equal to 0. through an accompanying letter to the questionnaire. Finally. the Greek organisation for standardisation. by revealing two to three basic factors in each one of the eight basic TQM categories (multi- variables). 2000). The above analysis proved that the TQM measurement instrument developed for this research measured. refers to the degree to which an instrument can successfully predict the variable or the phenomenon that it examines.94 (significant F = 0.89. The results of factor analysis gave to the measurement instrument its final form. ``Predictive validity’’ or ``concurrent validity’’. one has to test the correlation coefficient between the measurement instrument and another independent variable which is directly related to the variable or phenomenon measured by the instrument. More specifically. The quality assurance manager of ELOT. Thus. from the most ISO 9000 popular quality gurus’ theories and the main quality awards (MBNQA and standards’ EQA) requirements. These main factors (sub-categories) helped to eliminate the initial number of variables and to better describe the requirements of the broader TQM categories (Gotzamani. was estimated equal to 0.0086). finally. it was related to the overall companies’ improvements and benefits from certification. The multiple regression coefficient R2. the strong relationship between the measurement instrument and the related independent variable proved the predictive validity of the instrument.

it reached very high levels after certification. Generally. the production process. Performance after certification was found to be significantly greater in all TQM elements and in every basic TQM category. 3 = moderate. This was more or less expected since the standards mainly concern the development. while the mean performance in this category before certification was less than moderate. providing a good first step towards TQM. proving that the development and certification of an ISO 9000 quality assurance system really boosts TQM performance in certified companies. since the standards require tighter controls during. mainly through systematic documentation and control of critical processes’ and products’ quality. instead of after. 2 = low. which provides a solid basis for future improvement. 5 = very high). errors prevention at the product Figure 1.10 measurement elements of the instrument. 1 = very low. The standards’ most important contribution was in the category ``process management’’. proving that the companies’ TQM performance is significantly 1334 positively affected from certification. the process management methods and techniques become more preventive than detective. where 0 = not at all. 4 = high. preventive maintenance and calibration of equipment.IJOPM performance before certification) were tested for each one of the 80 TQM 21. Thus. Figure 1 shows the performance improvement achieved in each one of the eight basic TQM categories in the ISO 9000 certified Greek companies (the companies’ score in each TQM category was taken from their mean score in the items describing this category. standardisation and documentation of those processes that directly affect quality. This finding provides an answer to the ISO 9000 effectiveness debate. Performance on the basic TQM categories before and after ISO 9000 certification . The null hypothesis that this performance difference is equal to zero was rejected in 99 per cent confidence interval for all 80 TQM measurement variables.

which also highly increase. almost the lowest of all TQM elements. if any. Less encouraging also. Although this increase helps assure the quality of the materials. something that is frequently mentioned as a main deficiency of the standards implementation. The standards’ contribution is also very significant in the company’s performance in the category related to ``customers’’. it contradicts with the TQM philosophy. Significantly lower is the improvement offered in the category ``human resource management’’. On the contrary. proving that Greek companies have very low performance before certification. but also areas which are vital for the customer’s satisfaction and the company’s survival in the future. before a company reaches the point where it can really trust its operations. there is little. are indicative of the TQM philosophy on this matter. and thus the quality of the final products. Flexibility was the contribution only element to which some companies (seven) declared an even negative effect from certification.design phase and clear definition and standardisation of duties and ISO 9000 responsibilities. is the dramatic increase of incoming materials 1335 supervision and control after certification. in issues related to human resource management. The same thing holds also for the final products controls. and Crosby’s (1979) slogan: ``Do things right the first time’’. which was the one with the lowest performance both before and after certification. However. mutual trust and co-operation between the company and a small number of carefully selected and reliable suppliers should replace excessive quality controls of incoming materials. Particularly positive is the improvement it offers in complaints handling and processing for the quality improvement of products and/or services. According to TQM theory. Deming’s (1982) point: ``Cease dependence on massive inspection’’. excessive quality controls are necessary in order to assure the quality of the products that reach the customer and in order to avoid the enormous cost of dissatisfied or disappointed customers. it proves to be very important because it improves areas with very poor performance before certification. Particularly low is their performance relative to employees’ . Also very significant is the contribution of ISO 9000 standards to the monitoring and use of ``quality data’’. one of the categories with the poorest performance before certification. improvement (the lowest standards’ in this category) regarding the work system’s flexibility. Although this contribution is not as high as in other TQM categories. The results in this category are impressive. This increase also adds cost to the final product without really adding value to it and it should ideally be replaced by trust in the production process and things made right the first time. However. the improvements in this category are mainly related to the monitoring and keeping of quality data and less to their real processing and evaluation for fact-based decision making and quality improvement. Only dramatic improvements in the operations process quality can really increase the company’s trust in it and lower the need for excessive quality controls. although to a lower degree. after certification.

although their performance in specific elements of those categories must be further improved. TQM performance after certification The companies’ TQM performance after certification was found to be quite good in most TQM categories. Regarding the companies’ relations with their ``suppliers’’. Thus. in the development of close partnership. is the fact that the highest score after ISO 9000 certification in this category. in choosing suppliers. but it does get improved from the standards’ implementation. Great improvement is also achieved in the evaluation of the managerial system. mutual trust. in offering formal incentives for quality improvement. Even more. On the opposite. compared to the significance of cost and time. performance in this category may not be very high after certification.10 quality improvement. a highly positive result is the increase of quality’s significance. as well as in recognising those who contribute towards quality improvement. appraisal and continuous training. and particularly for the adoption of TQM. as a result of certification. For the 1336 majority of the companies. this observation looks particularly discouraging. is almost zero. as desired. and especially in ``product design’’. ``strategic quality planning’’ and ``process management’’. human resource management constitutes the most challenging and demanding category for those companies that want to proceed to TQM. participation and contribution to decision making. as a result of certification. there is very little improvement. there is need for more effort in the areas of ``human resource management’’ and ``suppliers’ relations’’. and parallel growth with suppliers. all of which are particularly important for customer satisfaction. Finally. in the development of employee participation programs and systems for formal proposals submission. in employee evaluation. However. particularly promising for the long-term success of companies. At first. which have the lower after- certification performance. since the role of leadership is commonly agreed to be decisive for the success of every effort. The role and importance of the human factor in . was top management’s commitment to quality and the importance of quality as a strategic competitive weapon. On the contrary. all of which are highly stressed in the TQM philosophy. although it increases for companies with very poor performance before certification. in the frequency of quality issues discussions in top management meetings and in the development and monitoring of quality goals in the business plan.IJOPM training and education in quality-related issues. in methods and techniques for 21. in the totality of new product’s tests and inspections before entering the market and in customer requirements analysis at the product development phase. the improvement they have in these issues. the category with the lowest improvement from certification is the category concerning ``leadership’’. The greatest improvement in the category ``product design’’ was achieved in the clarity of the product and process design specifications.

Another important finding of the research is that the certified companies’ final performance on TQM elements is not totally explained and attributed to the ISO 9000 certification. it is proved that certified companies’ performance is particularly high in TQM elements directly related to the final product quality. Such elements are: employee motivation and participation for quality improvement. employee encouragement for offering suggestions and proposals. medium (50-200 employees) and large size (> 200 employees) companies. since all relevant correlation coefficients were found to be positive and statistically significant in a 99. this variation decreases after certification. This was proved by the examination of the correlation coefficients Pearson’s r and Spearman’s n Ä . which proved that there is statistically significant and positive relationship between the companies’ performance before and after ISO 9000 certification. but even in these cases. proving the holistic nature of the TQM philosophy. tend to have similar performance in all other TQM categories. using . and so employees’ commitment and participation standards’ is regarded as necessary for the successful adoption of TQM. their 1337 performance is particularly low in elements less directly related to the final product quality. a company’s performance in any TQM category was proved to be positively related to its performance in all other TQM categories. the implementation of a standard quality assurance system does offer some progress. However. companies with a high or low performance in one TQM category. contribution More specifically. Companies with high performance on TQM issues before certification have less to gain from ISO 9000 certification. Differences in certification results based on the companies’ size The examination of significant differences between small (< 50 employees).improving quality and increasing customer satisfaction has been strongly ISO 9000 stressed by all TQM authors. partnership and technical support of suppliers. Thus. like quality control of processes and final products. Companies with a lower performance in TQM issues before certification. This was also proved by the statistically significant but negative relationship between the companies’ before-ISO performance and the improvement of their performance from certification. It was also proved that although there is significant variation in the companies’ performance before their certification.9 per cent confidence interval. Finally. employee training in quality improvement methods and statistical techniques. but equally important with them. minimizing the performance distance that separates them. towards TQM. showing that the lower performance companies make greater efforts than the others do. systematic monitoring of customer satisfaction and comparison to the satisfaction offered by competitors. Part of this performance level is explained and attributed to the companies’ performance on the same TQM elements prior to their certification. although lower. both before and after certification. recording and availability of quality data and the role of the quality department. benefit more from it.

Small businesses have already the advantage of flat administrative structures and high flexibility (not common of large businesses). whereas small companies are satisfied with ISO 9000 accreditation. between those companies recently certified (in the last two years) and those earlier certified (more than two years ago). small companies do not seem to be interested in proceeding to TQM. facilitating implementation of TQM. showed significant differences between them regarding their performance in the category ``human resource management’’ and in specific other TQM elements. Performance improvement from certification and performance after certification in the category ``human resource management’’ was significantly higher for the earlier certified companies. A number of other studies also prove that certification benefits are more and greater in small than in large companies. as well as in their overall benefits from the standards’ implementation. compared to that of the most recently certified. proved that there are no significant differences between 21. McAdam and McKeown (1999) prove that although many small businesses are benefiting from ISO 9000. Differences in certification results based on the year of certification The examination of differences. Huarng and Fenghueih (1998). and thus fewer chances for improvement from it. Also. This proves that large companies. Small businesses are reluctant to pursue TQM.IJOPM one-way ANOVA. 1338 The TQM performance improvement was significantly lower for large companies than it was for small. This results in them implementing ISO 9000 only. an increasing number of small ISO 9000 businesses are not progressing towards TQM. in their performance improvement from certification in most TQM categories. mainly because they are happy with ISO 9000 benefits and they are less aware of TQM than larger ones. having little intention of exceeding their quality programmes further. which usually operate more formally than the smaller ones. the earlier certified companies presented significantly higher performance improvement in many important indicators of quality . prove that SMEs improve their documentation system of quality processes and performance assessment more than the largest enterprises. On the other hand. However. are more likely to have higher quality management performance before certification. and as a result. making less important the need for it.10 them in respect to their TQM performance after certification. but at the same time.or medium-size ones. Lee and Palmer (1999) prove that small companies are more likely to implement the standards because of external rather than internal factors and show less understanding of the relationship between ISO 9000 and TQM. using one-way ANOVA. Also. They prove that large companies are more likely to use ISO 9000 as a precursor to TQM. they stand to benefit more from ISO 9000 registration. they presented statistically significant differences. in a 95 per cent confidence interval.

But although the start seems positive and optimistic. . Moreover. ``customer relations’’). standards’ competitors’ performance evaluation. like the frequency of quality issues discussed in top management ISO 9000 meetings. which proved to be the ones with the lowest performance improvement from certification. based on the combination of literature review results with the results of the empirical study on the Greek industry. How companies will proceed depends very much on their particular needs and on where they stand after certification. achieving significant improvements in many of their weak performance areas. Further research should focus on the companies’ steps after ISO 9000 certification. However. concerning mainly the ``soft’’ elements of quality. The above finding supports the argument that the certified companies’ commitment to quality and their progress towards TQM increase as time goes 1339 by and as their quality assurance system becomes more mature. dedication of time and money for contribution employee training. The basic conclusion drawn. Improvements in these elements are particularly important. There is no research as to the right order of their implementation and it will be really difficult for anyone to suggest an ``ideal’’ order. companies that have been certified for a longer period of time.commitment. the standards’ contribution was found to be higher for small.and medium-size companies. and others discussed earlier in the paper. in certain issues. ``employee participation and empowerment’’. like human resource management. implementation of employee participation programs and recognition of employees who contribute to quality improvement. companies with lower performance on TQM elements prior to their certification and. Conclusions The main findings of the above research offer a strongly justified and formal answer to the many and important dilemmas presented in the literature about ISO 9000 long-term effectiveness and value to the certified companies. since there is adequate research proving that business performance is more heavily influenced by the ``soft’’ elements of TQM rather than the ``hard’’ ones. which were discussed earlier in the paper. is that the development and certification of a quality assurance system according to one of the ISO 9000 standards can offer a good first step towards TQM. since it offers significant improvement in companies’ performance in all TQM elements and areas examined by the research. it is proved that it boosts quality culture and quality commitment and it offers significant operational and other benefits to the certified companies. it is clear that the companies’ efforts after certification should focus on the ``soft’’ elements of TQM (``leadership’’. suppliers’ relations. Those companies wishing to proceed further should focus on those important quality issues not covered by the standards’ requirements. However. there is much yet to be achieved by the ISO 9000 certified ccompanies on their road to TQM. the systematic recording of data for overall performance evaluation.

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