Total Quality Management: Is It a Fad, Fashion, or Fit?

Keywords Total Quality Management: Is It a Fad Fashion or Fit? management practices
Standards groups

The term TQM first surfaced in the mid-1980s, and
was promoted based on a relatively limited number of
success stories such as those at Xerox, Motorola, and
Hewlett Packard; the Japanese experience; and national
quality campaigns such as that in the United Kingdom;
and excellence awards such as the Malcolm Baldrige
National Quality Award and the European Quality
Award. TQM has, for some period of time, been at the
center of management thinking for a relatively small
group of believers. Japan has at least two more decades
of experience than the West; however, even in Japan it
was, for a long time, kept in a small circle of believers
(for example, JUSE consultants) and was not exposed
to a broader audience. This only started to happen in
the mid-1980s. In Japan, America, and Europe, in the
first instance, only a few believers, acting on their faith
in TQM, were able to apply the concept. There have
been some empirical studies, which have focused on
supporting the general success of quality management
(for example, Ahire, Golhan, and Waller 1996; Saraph,
Benson, and Schroeder 1989; Flynn, Schroeder, and
Sakakibara 1994; Powell 1995). However, criticism of
the concept started in the early 1990s (for example,
A. T. Kearney and TQM Magazine 1992; Fuchsberg 1993;
the Economist Intelligence Unit 1992; Miller 1992). It
was typically claimed that TQM does not produce sufficient
results for the expenditure that has been committed
to its introduction and development; that TQM is an
excuse for streamlining the organizations; and that the
concept produces too much inward thinking.

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Defines standard
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This paper examines the fad, fashion, and fit theory
using the case of total quality management (TQM).
The examination has been undertaken using a range
of research studies, commencing in the late 1980s.
Three stages have been identified in the evolution by
which a fad can become a fit with normal management
practice. In stage 1, the fad must be clearly defined
and measurable. In terms of TQM, the clarification
was the ISO 9000 series and quality award models.
Stage 2 is the move to a fashion, which comes about
when major pressures toward widespread adoption of
the fad are present. For example, there was pressure
from major customers for their suppliers to achieve
ISO 9000 certification. As a consequence, the ISO 9000
series became a fast-spreading fashion. Stage 3 is the
move either from fad to fit or the move from fashion
to fit. Fit into normal management practice means
that the original fad will have effected the normal way
of working within whole organizations and not just a
small part such as would be the case in the adoption
of a mere fashion. The fieldwork shows that such a
change will only occur when there is strong internal
motivation and emotional involvement to implement
TQM. It is also pointed out that, should such a move
take place from fad or fashion to fit, then chances are
that organizational performance will also be perceived
to have been effected in a positive way.

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