Exploring Trends, Patterns and Characteristics of Quality Management Through Text Mining

University dissertation from Sundsvall : Mid Sweden University

Abstract: At frequent intervals, new reports and papers are published stressing the importance of high quality and quality improvement measures in the public and private sector if Sweden is to survive as a welfare state and industrial nation. The situation seems not to be unique for Sweden: similar opinions can be heard in other parts of the world as well. In the 21st century, consumers and citizens should be provided with continuously improved quality at a lower cost, otherwise businesses are likely to go bankrupt and politicians may lose the trust of the people. Quality is, thus, a word that is used persistently by people in power and the social commentators of today. From this perspective, it might seem fitting that quality, quality management (QM), total quality management (TQM) and other closely related terminologies are well defined, to make possible constructive dialogue that will culminate in effective action. This is often not the case, which is why vision statements, campaigns and other quality improvement measures risk falling short before they are even launched. With this background, the purpose of this thesis is to facilitate fruitful dialogue by examining QM-research and how trends, terminologies and research focus have shifted over time. By increasing the understanding of how QM-research has evolved it is also possible to create a coherent overview which hopefully can help to reduce confusion and polarisation amongst scholars and practitioners. In this way, it might be possible to increase the number of successful quality improvement measures as well as to lay the foundations for sustainable and system-wide quality improvement actions in society at large.The thesis is based on three studies, of which the first is looking into conference proceedings from one of the globally most prominent scientific conferences on quality – the QMOD-ICQSS conference. The two subsequent studies use abstracts from three of the top ranked scientific journals dealing with quality - International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management, Total Quality Management Journal and Total Quality Management & Business Excellence. All studies have been conducted according to text mining methodology, which entails usage of statistical tools in the form of hard- and software for data collection, modelling and analysis. The approach is exploratory and previously not verified with this purpose, which is why the three studies offer unique perspectives on the research field, at the same time as new methodological tools and approaches are investigated and tested.Through the studies it is possible to show occurrence of trends in research alignment as well as in publication design and popularity. The studies also identify central, perpetual, topics around which the research has been concentrated. These topics indicate that the research field, in spite of momentary trends and fashions, rests on a firm foundation regarding problem definition and approaches to solve them. Finally, a model is presented which summarizes the perspectives and outsets which distinguish QM and make it a research field in its own right.