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The role of TQM in strategic product innovation: an empirical assessment

Graça Miranda Silva (Department of Management, ISEG – Economics and Business Management School, Technical University of Lisbon, Lisbon, Portugal)
Paulo J. Gomes (Department of Technology, Operations, and Information Management, Babson College, Babson park, Massachusetts, USA)
Luís Filipe Lages (Nova School of Business and Economics, Universidade Nova Lisboa, Portugal, and CERGAM, IAE Aix, Aix Marseille Université, France)
Zulema Lopes Pereira (Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, FCT/UNL, Lisbon, Portugal)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to study the effect of total quality management (TQM) resources on strategic product innovation. It addresses the apparent tension between quality management and innovation management and seeks empirical support for the proposition that quality management resources can be used to support strategic innovation. Based on resource-based view, it defines key resources that firms develop during implementation of TQM systems: TQM culture, product design capability, and process improvement capability – and assesses the role of these resources in the success of product innovation.


A survey of 112 manufacturing firms was conducted and the resulting data were analyzed using partial least squares (PLS) to determine how TQM constructs affect strategic product innovation.


The main finding suggests that only product design capability contributes to strategic product innovation. TQM culture has a direct influence on process improvement and product design capabilities but not on product innovation. The effect of innovation capability and innovation orientation on product innovation was only supported for innovation capability. The effect of innovation orientation is mediated by the development of innovation capability.

Research limitations/implications

The paper focusses on the level of maturity of capability development without taking into consideration the time since adoption. Also, the measure of product innovation is based on the degree of product newness but does not dichotomize in terms of radical vs incremental. Several arguments supporting a negative relationship between TQM and innovation often refer to radical or breakthrough innovation. It would be interesting to test the model while distinguishing between radical and incremental innovation. The use of cross-sectional data is a methodological limitation.

Practical implications

The results suggest that managers can leverage their quality management systems to support product innovation. In particular, the ability to design quality into products leads to higher levels of strategic production innovation. The successful deployment of TQM capabilities requires an integrative and well-structured approach, involving top leadership engagement of employees and customer orientation. While TQM culture is critical to the development of quality management capabilities, it does not directly affect the innovativeness of a firm.


The paper explores the relationship between quality management systems and strategic product innovation. Further work is needed to test whether TQM effect on strategic innovation is different for radical and incremental products, and for other innovation outcomes such as process and service innovation.



The authors thank participants at POMS 2009 conference for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. Graca Silva ackowledges the financial support, via ADVANCE, from the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT Portugal) through the project Pest-OE/EGE/UI4027/2011 and Luis Filipe Lages ackowledges Nova Forum. The authors acknowledge the three anonymous IJOPM reviewers for comments on previous versions of the paper.


Miranda Silva, G., J. Gomes, P., Filipe Lages, L. and Lopes Pereira, Z. (2014), "The role of TQM in strategic product innovation: an empirical assessment", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 34 No. 10, pp. 1307-1337.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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