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Towards a unifying theory of management standard implementation: The case of ISO 9001/ISO 14001

Albena Ivanova (Department of Management, Robert Morris University, Moon Township, Pennsylania, USA)
John Gray (Department of Management Sciences, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
Kingshuk Sinha (Department of Operations and Management Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA)

International Journal of Operations & Production Management

ISSN: 0144-3577

Article publication date: 30 September 2014




The purpose of this paper is to develop an integrated theoretical framework of the interrelation of the key success factors in the process of standards implementation.


Extensive case study work was carried out in ten American plants that had adopted ISO 9001 and or ISO 14001. First, within-case analysis captures the uniqueness of the implementation processes at each plant and leads to construction of the causal maps. Next, cross-case comparison identifies the key factors and the relationship between them, resulting in the theoretical framework.


The key factors affecting implementation effectiveness include focus on internal improvement, top management support, design of the system around existing processes, use of information technology, positive employees’ attitude, and employees’ usage of the system. The resulting framework suggests three alternative pathways to effective implementation of standards: (i) incentives pathway, i.e., by providing the right incentives; (ii) integration pathway, i.e., by designing the system around existing processes; and (iii) information technology pathway, i.e., by using information technology.

Research limitations/implications

The key contribution of this research is the integrated theoretical framework.

Practical implications

Practically, this framework provides managers a clear depiction of the key actions required at each stage of standard implementation.


To the best of our knowledge, this is the first integrated framework of the factors affecting standard adoption. We believe this framework is applicable to other meta-standards.



Ivanova, A., Gray, J. and Sinha, K. (2014), "Towards a unifying theory of management standard implementation: The case of ISO 9001/ISO 14001", International Journal of Operations & Production Management, Vol. 34 No. 10, pp. 1269-1306.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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