While total quality management (TQM) has been widely applied in the management of change, and is likely to remain a priority into the next century, failure rates at times above 75 per cent give cause for concern. The study on which this paper is based has reviewed TQM as an approach to change management. Four interrelated classifications of organisational change are presented: change as structure (or “functional change”), process, values, or power distribution. Of these, it is contended, TQM adequately addresses only process change, with incidences of failure closely correlated to the application of process‐based TQM techniques in change contexts characterised by structure, values or power. This study suggests that, for TQM to be applied successfully, either an approach is required which adequately addresses all types of change context (a so‐called “systemic” approach), or its application needs to be restricted to those contexts where process dominates.
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