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Different interpretations of a “fixed” concept: Examining Juran's cost of quality from an actor‐network perspective

David Emsley (Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 28 March 2008




This paper aims to examine the reasons why introducing a “fixed” management accounting technique, such as Juran's cost of quality technique, results in different, rather than similar outcomes.


Actor‐Network Theory (ANT) was used to examine events in a longitudinal case study where Juran's cost of quality technique was introduced into two manufacturing plants of the same organisation.


Both plants developed the cost of quality in significantly different ways to Juran's “fixed” cost of quality technique. In addition, significant differences were also found between the plants, despite the intention to replicate the cost of quality from one plant to the other.

Research limitations/implications

Although the precise circumstances of the plants in the case study are unique, the principles of ANT that describe how the cost of quality was introduced and the differences that were observed, are likely to be relevant to other organisations and techniques.

Practical implications

The practical implications of this study are that “fixed” techniques – such as Juran's cost of quality – are not fixed and are unlikely to be implemented in “textbook” fashion. To manage the innovation process better, practitioners need to understand the heterogeneity of actors' interests, the variety and complexity of the context and the iterative, recursive nature of the innovation process.


Although the cost of quality is an important management accounting technique, this is one of the few studies to have empirically examined it.



Emsley, D. (2008), "Different interpretations of a “fixed” concept: Examining Juran's cost of quality from an actor‐network perspective", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 375-397.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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