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Perceptions and reality in quality and environmental management systems: A research survey in China and Poland

John H.S. Craig (Girac Limited, Preston Capes, UK)
Mark Lemon (Centre for Resource Management and Efficiency, Cranfield University, Cranfield, UK)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The aim of the original and recent research in this study is to determine why, in these rapidly developing economies, management systems such as TQM, ISO 14001 and ISO 9001 fail to realize continuing improvement and remediation methodologies capable of improving technical performance and enhancing economic profit.


The research uses cultural frameworks to analyze the mechanisms which are preventing a greater realization of opportunities in the improvement of management systems, going on to suggest interventions. Within this approach there were three modes of data collection, an administered Likert questionnaire (developed from prior research in Poland, and pre‐tested in Lithuania, Greece and the UK) comprising every manager in the management levels of 12 heavy industrial factories in China and Poland, interviews with the senior managers, and the determination of the empirical (true) reality for environmental performance in each factory. Analysis of these data sets supported an evaluation of the alignment between perceived and actual environmental performance, and a comparison within and between countries.


The interactions between management levels were influenced by socio‐cultural factors, which in turn determined the means of communicating knowledge between these levels. This might have affected the perceptions and mind‐sets of employees in the management chain, and hence the practical effects of any decisions based on concomitant mind‐sets “on the ground”. New management systems might not be properly understood owing to these factors.

Research limitations/implications

While the specific environmental impacts of culture were particular to each factory and cannot be generalized, the socio‐cultural phenomena on which they were based can be used for comparative purposes. There was a practical constraint, despite promises of confidentiality, on how questions were answered owing to a prevailing fear and punishment practice; in a process of remediation the constraint will be the reluctance of managers to step outside of this practice.

Practical implications

The practical outcomes of the study lie mainly in the re‐alignment of management perceptions subject to hierarchical constraints and cultures of dubious value.


The methodology, which included an assessment of the actual and potential risk to the environment for each factory (empirical reality), matched against cultural indicators is quite new. The paper has three areas of potential value: to researchers who wish to use a combination of soft and hard interpretations for environmental and quality performance; to management practitioners who can better interpret how the nature of communication between management interfaces affects the ability to take remedial action; and to academic researchers in a better understanding of socio‐cultural group dynamics.



Craig, J.H.S. and Lemon, M. (2008), "Perceptions and reality in quality and environmental management systems: A research survey in China and Poland", The TQM Journal, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 196-208.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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