In Search of Quality Management : Rethinking and Reinterpreting

Abstract: Quality Management has, in addition to its establishment as a management discipline of organisational and industrial importance, instituted itself as a topic of national concern with nationwide surges and contractions in the dissemination of practices. Empirical data are examined in this thesis in relation to the current status and historical development of such trends among twelve leading industrial nations. In the interpretation and analysis of the country data, a model based on a new theoretical framework is introduced. The framework is abstracted from an extensive literature review concerning the historical development of ideas in Quality Management. It postulates that the development of the field has been in accordance with two distinct schools of thought, the Deterministic School of Thought and the Continuous Improvement School of Thought. The ability of the proposed dual-path framework to overcome main criticism against Quality Management is also elaborated. The comparative analysis shows that China, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and the United States, in terms of current national approach, predominantly position themselves within the Continuous Improvement School of Thought. Similarly, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Norway, and Saudi Arabia relate more to the Deterministic School of Thought. In addition to this classification, the comparison of the historical development patterns also reveal nuances so far unaccounted for in empirical studies. On a more general level it is then discussed how the proposed framework accommodates a synthesising of other studies on current status and historical development. Empirical data on the attitudes and beliefs of bluecollar workers in the twelve countries are also presented. In this analysis it is revealed that the two schools of thought in certain areas provide a basis for interpreting bluecollar workers' expressions of attitudes and beliefs in Quality Management. In the final part, it is described how the whole research process extends beyond the identification of the dual-path framework in terms of empirical evidence, knowledge and perspectives on Quality Management. A number of future research issues are also discussed, both in relation to the proposed and alternative frameworks.