The quality movement from six perspectives

William J. Miller (Department of Management, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, Georgia, USA)
Robert J. Duesing (Department of Management, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, Georgia, USA)
Christopher M. Lowery (Department of Management, Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, Georgia, USA)
Andrew T. Sumner (Department of Health Administration, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA)

The TQM Journal

ISSN: 1754-2731

Publication date: 9 April 2018



The purpose of this paper is to examine the quality movement in the framework of an organizing taxonomy model from six perspectives: global trend, national mandate, industry trend, organizational strategy, operational strategy, and personal philosophy.


The authors use the organizing taxonomy model to analyze the quality movement from each of the six perspectives in terms utilizing a diverse range of key questions, characteristics, and issues which must be addressed.


The analysis shows that viewing the quality movement from these various perspectives can help practitioners in developing an understanding of the quality movement not only from a historical standpoint, but also in terms of current requirements and future demands. This can also benefit quality management researchers in terms of organizing the focus of their research on the various perspectives. The organizing taxonomy model can also be used to assess other phenomena such as lean, supply chain management, knowledge management, and business analytics which are similarly impacting organizations across all industries and throughout the world.


The paper presents a fresh look at the quality movement from a range of perspectives and provides insight into an organized method of assessing major movements that continue to impact businesses globally.



Miller, W., Duesing, R., Lowery, C. and Sumner, A. (2018), "The quality movement from six perspectives", The TQM Journal, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 182-196.

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited


For the last 35 years, stemming most dramatically from the emergence of Japan in the world economy, a movement has steadily progressed and evolved which has continually required organizations to adapt and change. Some have said that this movement represents a shift on the same scale as the development of the factory system in the eighteenth century and the assembly line in the twentieth century) (Jacobs et al., 2009; Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, 1991; Garvin, 1988). This movement was originally called the quality movement, later known as total quality management (TQM), with more recent terminology changed to reflect shifting methodologies and adjustments in focus: organizational excellence, business excellence, Just in Time, Lean, Six Sigma, and supply chain management (Brown, 2013; Dahlgaard-Park and Dahlgaard, 2007). The consequences of this movement have led not only to considerable effort for most organizations throughout the world, but has also led quality researchers to produce vast amounts of work, describing, developing, and testing conceptual theories as well as analytical research intended to describe and explain events as they occurred and to develop a broader understanding of these phenomena.

While this level of research activity has led to many books, research papers, and other output, it may also have resulted in some confusion, given the complexity, duration, and magnitude of the situation. In response to this condition, this paper presents a framework or taxonomy that explains the various phenomena associated with the quality movement from six different perspectives: a global trend, a national mandate, an industry trend, an organizational strategy, an operational strategy, and a personal commitment. Each of these categories represents a different view of the quality movement with its own understanding of the characteristics associated with the movement as well as the historical context and future implications.

Consistent with the scale of this movement, the business literature (both general and industry-specific) has grown to be replete with quality books and articles, prescribing how quality should be managed and describing how quality has been managed in individual organizations (Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, 1991; Garvin, 1988; Deming, 1986; Gitlow and Gitlow, 1987; Juran, 1978a, b, 1981a, b; Nair, 2006; Sila, 2007; Wayhan and Balderson, 2007; Chauhan, 2016; Dahlgaard-Park and Dahlgaard, 2007; Naslund, 2008; Ward and Zhou, 2006).

One negative consequence of this level of activity over many decades is the potential for a considerable amount of confusion for readers of these articles as the many authors seek to make different points in different contexts (Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, 1991; Garvin, 1988; Deming, 1986; Gitlow and Gitlow, 1987; Juran, 1978a, b, 1981a, b; Crosby, 1979; Feigenbaum, 1983; Saad and Siha, 2000). The motives behind these authors’ varied viewpoints are understandable as they seek to differentiate themselves from others in their efforts to make unique contributions to the literature. Thus, there is a need to offset this tendency toward diversity and confusion by putting forward models that seek to organize the various viewpoints of the quality movement into a coherent framework.

A framework that provides a quality focused taxonomy model can function as an organizing tool, not only for the benefit of individuals to understand and organize the research, but also for the benefit of managers and researchers. Managers can benefit from a clearer understanding of the issues they face in managing their organizations more effectively according to the concepts associated with the quality movement. Researchers can use the framework as a basis for further theory and model development that will better focus on the various issues of relevance from each perspective in the framework. It will also serve to organize developments from a historical standpoint and help guide an understanding of what might be expected in the future.

A perspective-oriented view of the quality movement

The various viewpoints within the quality movement found in the last several decades of research may be ascribed to various perspectives. One perspective could be a global trend which views the quality movement as a phenomenon that originated with the implementation of a new paradigm in Japan that led to adoption in the established industrialized countries in the 1980s and was later adopted by developing industrialized economies throughout the world. A second perspective would focus on the quality movement as a national mandate whereby governments who wished to compete successfully in the global marketplace must establish mechanisms to encourage firms to adopt those techniques. A third perspective would see the quality movement as an industry trend that views adoption of quality practices originating with organizations within a specific industry and later spread to other industries, first in manufacturing and later services, government, and education. The quality movement, once accepted within an industry becomes a standard sin qua non for doing business within the industry. A fourth perspective would focus on quality management as an organizational strategy for a specific organization. This strategy focuses on how the firm positions itself externally in terms of its customers and its competitors. A fifth perspective focuses on quality management as an operational strategy for a specific organization and it deals with how quality is managed within the organization. A sixth perspective focuses on quality management at the level of the personal philosophy of each individual within the organization toward quality management. It is key and can be very different depending on the individual’s function within an organization. Viewing quality management from these different perspectives may be helpful in developing and organizing an understanding of the quality movement. The quality movement is an area that covers a wide range of topics, each of which is fundamentally affected by the perspective of the individual.

As examples of these perspectives, from a global perspective one description of the quality movement might be that it was a response to competition from businesses for industrialized nations across the world. This description might mention the strength of US businesses in the world market through the 1970s was because their infrastructure survived the Second World War intact unlike the rest of the industrialized world. It might continue to describe how the manufacturers from Japan recovered from the Second World War by employing mass production techniques from the USA, and that initially goods were manufactured inexpensively but at low quality. By adopting the principles of early quality champions like W. Edwards Deming, the Japanese developed a major transformation of national proportions, which produced products of superior quality at significantly lower costs. When faced with the reality of inadequacies in competing against Japan globally, the national mandate perspective describes how each country had to take steps to radically change existing practices and adopt those consistent with quality management theory. The magnitude of this paradigm shift in quality and cost impacted worldwide markets to such an extent that leaders of each industrialized country responded as if a crisis of national proportions were threatening their way of life. Such a perspective portrayed the quality movement as a focused effort to transform national industries into entities that could compete globally with other nations by providing high quality products and services as efficiently as possible (Jacobs et al., 2009; Dobyns and Crawford-Mason, 1991).

A second description could describe how the quality movement took hold as a trend across a wide range of industries, starting with manufacturing firms and spreading into service industries, as well as government and education. Following this it could be described within each industry as a new way of doing things that may have begun in a couple of firms that were especially innovative, and then as these firms showed success, began to spread to other organizations throughout the industry until the principles and practices associated with it became generally accepted within that industry. Although the principles and practices may have become generally accepted, this by no means should infer they became static. Organizations continued to refine quality practices through continuous process improvement and the use of Deming’s PDCA cycle adding new technologies and methodologies to industry practices (Dudin et al., 2017; Shafeek, 2014).

A third description of the quality movement could be as a means for one organization to gain advantage over its competition within a single market. By providing goods and services that better meet the customers’ needs and using processes that produce these goods and services at lower costs, a firm can gain a competitive advantage over its rivals in the short run. An organization may use continuous process improvement to become more customer focused, or emphasize the training and certification in Six Sigma, Lean manufacturing, or supply chain management (Chauhan, 2016; Heavey et al., 2014; Naslund, 2008). As time goes on and other firms in the industry recognize the need to change and compete using these new techniques, organizations will accept the principles and procedures associated with this movement in order to stay in the market. The focus on quality at this point becomes less of a means of gaining competitive advantage and becomes more of a survival requirement.

A fourth description could focus on the techniques used by organizations while managing according to the theories and methods associated with the quality movement. This description could discuss such wide ranging issues as the best methods for implementing these programs from an operational perspective using techniques like statistical process control, Six Sigma techniques, designing MIS systems to provide continuous feedback to employees, transforming the culture of the organization to enable all employees to contribute to the quality management process, and identifying ways to discover and respond to customer needs (Dahlgaard-Park and Dahlgaard, 2007; Veiga et al., 2016; Ward and Zhou, 2006). This focus has not been static and historically has changed between what to implement and how to implement best practices. During the 1990s the focus was on the customer, statistical quality control, and continuous improvement. In the 2000s, the focus has migrated to lean manufacturing, lean management, supply chain management, Six Sigma, and business/organizational excellence (Dahlgaard-Park and Dahlgaard, 2007).

Finally, a fifth description of the quality movement might be as a cultural transformation in which individuals come to believe in quality concepts and are empowered to improve performance. This perspective could arise from the cognitive processes associated with company CEOs, who decides to commit considerable resources to transform their organization according to the concepts associated with the quality movement. This intent is consistent with the philosophical framework that describes how employees come to accept the ideals of continuous improvement as a guiding and motivating principle upon which they perform their day-to-day activities (Senge, 1999).

While all of the descriptions and examples above refer to the same general topic, each represents a completely different frame of reference and the issues that are important to each are different. The development of an understanding of these various perspectives is critical for those interested in discernment of the quality movement as a whole. Managers who must make decisions related to implementing concepts associated with the quality movement will benefit from this greater range of understanding of quality perspectives as they better focus limited resources on their current needs. Researchers can benefit from this new framework because each of these perspectives represents a different construct with a diverse set of accompanying issues. These different constructs can be used to develop a wide range of models and theories that can be tested using empirical or qualitative approaches. As a result of this new framework, a better understanding of the quality movement as a whole can be obtained.

An organizing framework for the quality movement

Each perspective discussed previously can be used as a framework upon which to describe the quality movement. A model that presents each of these perspectives and the primary issues associated with it is presented in Table I.

The quality movement as a global trend

The quality movement as a global trend considers the emphasis on quality at a macro level not tied to any specific nation. Although the global trend has seen an evolution of names from quality movement to TQM to more modern manifestations such as organizational excellence, business excellence, Just in Time, Lean, Six Sigma, and supply chain management, the intended effect has been the same. Each evolution has emphasized continuous improvement focused on the customer by becoming more operationally efficient.

In contrast to a micro level of analysis where the quality movement was more of a deepening, or vertical movement within a specific organization (Dahlgaard-Park, 1999), the global trend portrays a horizontal expansion that began in Japan before spreading to western nations and beyond. Additionally, whereas quality management initially focused on the manufacturing sector and its processes, the horizontal expansion has infused quality globally in all aspects of business and elsewhere to seemingly disparate fields such as health care, banking, and education. The global trend of quality management has actually been a unifying theme among nations as the education of the movement has spread.

Characteristics related to the quality movement as a global trend

The quality movement as a global trend began with the adoption of Deming’s 14 points and emphasized continuous improvement through a focus on customers, empowerment of employees, teamwork, and using statistical tools and charts. This movement spread among most industrialized nations and the characteristics evolved as it spread around the globe. One unifying organization was the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 2017) that developed ISO 9000 standards. ISO 9000 became an international standard for accrediting organizations on quality programs. To be ISO 9000 certified meant those organizations would be considered over non-certified firms for many contracts on both a national and an international scale. The quality movement has continued to evolve with global trends centered on Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, business/organizational excellence, supply chain management, industry 4.0, and exponential technologies (Brown, 2013; Dahlgaard-Park, 1999; Magruk, 2016; Rometty, 2016).

Important issues for the quality movement as a global trend

If one accepts the assumption that industrialized nations must continue to focus on the quality movement in order to stay competitive with other established national economies, many issues can be seen to be very important beyond national boundaries. How does this concept of quality play out in the global emerging economies? What changes must be made to the concept of quality in different cultures? How does this effect global organizations in multi-cultural environments? How far should the quality movement be measured when firms have suppliers and outsourced functions around the globe (Brown, 2013)?

Also, artificial intelligence as a global trend may play a significant role in the future as on-line vendors who know no national boundaries must survive in a world with very low start-up costs and where reputations are based on number of web clicks, anonymous reviewers, speed and cost of delivery, and ease of return policies.

The quality movement as a national mandate

The quality movement as a national mandate examines the question: what is happening with the quality movement at the national level? A consistent trend can be found in the literature that discusses how Japan, a country with few natural resources, was able over 30 years to become an economic power. This was due largely to its ability to develop new production techniques that allowed its businesses to produce high quality goods at lower costs. Because of this phenomenon, some economies such as the USA found themselves with declining market shares and a high level of doubtfulness as to their ability to successfully compete (Sink, 1985). In response to this issue of quality competitiveness at a national level, a number of phenomena have been recognized. Some of them are associated with bringing individuals together from a wide range of industries to discuss and share knowledge about quality issues. This can occur with specific meetings, conferences, or seminars, or with more permanent manifestations such as institutes and organizations (Cummins, 1991; Prybutok et al., 1991). Others have occurred through a change of philosophy such as the advent of centers for excellence and an emphasis on supply chain management.

Characteristics related to the quality movement as a national mandate

A trend in the quality movement at a national level has been the involvement of national governments in emphasizing quality. For example, the US Government has established the Malcolm T. Baldrige Award, and such entities as the National Institute of Standards and Techniques and the Federal Quality Institute have represented efforts by the US Government to encourage interest and reward outstanding achievement by organizations across a wide range of industries (Jacobs et al., 2009; Hamson, 1990). Other nations developed similar organizations and awards such as the European Foundation for Quality Management and the Australian Quality Award. This shift in approach by national governments toward assisting or directing, and rewarding businesses, is patterned after the Japanese Government’s approach and can be seen as another sign of the quality movement on a national scope. It can be contrasted with the laissez-faire (at best) or adversarial (at worse) relationship in some countries that has traditionally existed between business and government.

Important issues for the quality movement as a national mandate

The first issue relates to what must be done on a national scope to encourage the quality movement and to get businesses to change. While phenomena such as the Baldrige Award and the Australian Quality Award and the various quality institutes are important from a symbolic standpoint, it is also necessary to learn what the impact of such actions has been and what else needs to be done.

Education and training of enhanced skills are clearly critical concerns for the work force if countries are to compete with workers from other industrialized countries. Research, which seeks to develop a clearer understanding of the underlying phenomena surrounding the quality movement, needs to be encouraged by direction and funding from national governments and businesses. National leadership, which provides direction not only to the quality movement, but also to the relative positioning of a nations businesses vis-à-vis new industries that will develop in the next century, will also be an important consideration in terms of the national mandate perspective of the quality movement.

Another issue of this perspective concerns the similarities and differences between industries and how they might affect the quality movement’s progress throughout all businesses. The extent to which quality is similar across a number of industries allows for a considerable level of efficiency as theories and methods are shared and progress is made. Important differences relating to quality issues between industries and organizations need to be identified quickly so that new approaches can be developed which will allow successful progress of the quality movement throughout all businesses.

A final issue deals with the direction the quality movement is heading in the future. Once quality becomes a standard by which all organizations function (rather than merely a competitive advantage), what new methods will be required to enable organizations to seize an advantage over their competitors? Mistakes of the past, based on the flawed assumption that what works today will be effective in the future, should be avoided. The quality movement in a nation must not have such a limited vision that it fails to seek new innovations, or it will be forced to continue to merely play the “catch up” game throughout future years. On a national basis, the aggregate failure of businesses to compete globally may affect the standard of living of everyone in the nation.

The quality movement as an industry trend

The quality movement as an industry trend looks at the question: what is happening with the quality movement in a single industry? While commitment to the quality management process takes place at the level of the individual organization, it is a phenomenon that is influenced by the context of the specific industry. The quality movement comes to the attention of organizations within different industries at different times. For example, considering that the overall quality movement began in response to competition from Japanese manufacturers, it is not surprising that organizations and industries which were losing market share to Japanese competition (such as automobile manufacturers), were the first to become involved in the quality movement (Garvin, 1988). Organizations within industries having little or no foreign competition (such as hospitals) have been much slower to participate in the quality movement.

While the time frame as well as the motives behind involvement in the quality movement will vary from industry to industry, the process by which it spreads throughout an industry can have many similarities. An understanding of the quality movement can be enhanced by viewing it from the context of specific industries. Examples of the influence of the quality movement can be found in studies from a wide range of industries including both manufacturing (Ahire and O’Shaughnessy, 1998; Chaudhry, 1997; Curkovic et al., 2000; Forker and Hershauer, 2000; Jawaharnesan and Price, 1997; Jha and Iyer, 2006; Parzinger and Ravinder, 2000) and services (Al-Marsumi, 2007; Alexander et al., 2006; Askey and Malcolm, 1997; Bayraktar et al., 2008; Breiter and Bloomquist, 1998; Camison, 1996; Chesteen et al., 2005; Harrington and Akehurst, 1996; Kozak et al., 2007; Kunst and Lemmink, 2000; Partlow, 1996; Soriano, 1999).

Characteristics related to the quality movement as an industry trend

The most recognizable feature of the quality movement at the level of the individual industry is the way that it is presented in the literature. Most of these works can be divided into two areas: theoretical discussions of how organizations could benefit from adopting the new quality philosophy and methods (the earliest examples include: Bader, 1992; Berwick, 1989; Berwick et al., 1990; Gaucher and Coffey, 1990; Laffel and Blumenthal, 1989; McLaughlin and Kaluzny, 1990; Merry, 1990; Siler and Garland, 1991), and case studies illustrating how specific organizations are dealing with the implementation process (e.g. Frist, 1992; Smith, 1992; Weber, 1991). It is also interesting to note that with this increased interest, negative comments can be found in the literature which appears to represent resistance to change. As these problems are manifest throughout the industry, more articles are written which react against the movement and its applicability to that industry (Atchison, 1992; Chorn, 1991; McConnell, 1992).

Another characteristic of the quality movement at the industry level is the development of consortia whereby representatives from several organizations in a single industry meet on a regular basis and share information about how quality is being managed as well as what they feel the industry needs will be to support the quality management process in the future (Bemowski, 1991; Freilich, 1991).

A related characteristic is the process of benchmarking by which most organizations involved in the quality movement compare the level of achievement of their firm with others in the industry (Jacobs et al., 2009). The specific items of comparison can vary widely, depending on the particular needs of the organization and its quality management processes, but the underlying focus is to determine how much improvement can be expected. If the organization discovers it is the best performer in one category, it will need to develop its own means to continue to improve; however, if it is not the leader, perhaps it can learn from the methods employed by other organizations.

A final characteristic relates to the quality standards or the minimally accepted levels of quality with regard to certain aspects of the products or services in the industry. As the quality movement becomes established in an industry, the methods and concepts associated with it are adopted into the standards by which every organization in the industry is evaluated (O’Leary, 1992).

Important issues for the quality movement as an industry trend

An industry-wide view of the quality movement will enable organizations within an industry to better focus their efforts on the quality management process. One way they can do this is by searching for similarities and differences between industries that are further along with the quality management process. By looking at the quality movement as it has manifested itself in other industries, an organization can benefit from patterning itself after organizations in similar industries. This comparison process can also identify those aspects of the quality management process that are unique to that particular industry, and thus give special attention to developing new techniques and methods to make progress.

Another important issue related to this level of the quality movement is the development of an understanding of how it progresses through an industry. The emphasis is on such issues as organizations that are early entrants, those who are successful and those who fail in continuing with the quality management process, as well as the speed of transition.

A last issue relates to the benchmarking concept. To some extent, an organization can obtain benefits from sharing information with other organizations within the industry to help expedite the quality management process. On the other hand, organizations are typically motivated to participate in the quality management process based on the desire to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals in the eyes of their customers. Organizations are concerned with participating in the information sharing process without giving away critical information and hurting their competitive position. The issue here is the nature, extent, and timing of information shared between organizations and should be given greater attention.

The quality movement as an organizational strategy

The quality movement as an organizational strategy deals with the question: Why does an organization become involved in the quality movement? At the organizational level, a decision from top management to make the new focus on quality can be seen as one of the major characteristics of a strategic plan. Decisions made at this level, generally focus on the outside of the organization especially concerning the needs of its customers and the position of its competitors. To a considerable extent, the quality movement is manifested at the point at which the organization commits to participating in the quality movement.

Characteristics related to the quality movement as an organizational strategy

One of the primary manifestations of the quality movement at this level is the decision to commit to the quality management process, including the justifications or motivations, as well as competitive expectations companies have when making this commitment. The focus at this point is often on taking market share away from competitors or in response to loss in market share. Developing an understanding of the needs of customers is a vital feature of this level of focus on the quality movement. Finally, in order to get the full benefit of the decision to use quality management as a strategic tool, mechanisms must be employed which inform customers about the new commitment to quality and the goal of “customer delight” (Gitlow and Gitlow, 1987).

Important issues for the quality movement as an organizational strategy

Issues that are important from this perspective relate to the reasons why an organization commits to this strategy. Organizations that commit to quality before their competitors and seek to expand market share will be interested in finding out how to best exploit this competitive advantage while they are ahead of their competition. Organizations that make the decision to commit to the quality movement with the intent of surviving a loss in market share will be more interested in learning how to recover for lost time and accelerate the process of moving toward the learning curve established by their competition.

Another important issue is overcoming what has been coined “analysis paralysis.” After all, one of the major characteristics of the quality movement is the gathering of data and statistical analysis. Fortunately, the increased use of technology in high speed computer platforms being used to process big data packets has provided the movement with incredibly powerful tools.

The quality movement as an operational strategy

The quality movement as an operational strategy examines the question: How does an organization effectively manage quality? This is a focus on the internal operations of the organization, seeking to apply the latest methods to ensure efficiency and productivity, and to produce high quality products and services.

Characteristics related to the quality movement as an operational strategy

Most of the literature in this area discusses the various prescriptions about how to succeed in making the quality management process work, thus it focuses on the quality movement as an operational strategy. This consists of the various tools associated with quality management (statistical process control and methods that enable the continuous feedback process), as well as other aspects that are often associated with creating an organizational environment or culture that will allow the concepts associated with the quality movement to flourish (such as driving out fear, employee empowerment, flattening organizations, training and education, the team approach, reward and recognition) (Deming, 1986; Gitlow and Gitlow, 1987). Another important outlook of the quality management process at the operational level is the way it is implemented in the organization. The implementation mechanism is particularly critical, since much of the focus of the quality management process is changing the organizational culture. Of course, the culture of an organization is often one of the most difficult aspects to change successfully. Failure at this point can lead to collapse of the quality management process for the entire organization.

Important issues for the quality movement as an operational strategy

Various methods for bringing the new focus on quality need to be examined in terms of effectiveness within multiple organizational contexts. The critical factors associated with quality management need to be identified as they affect quality performance in various organizational contexts and also need to be studied to help organizations in the process of successfully managing quality (Benson et al., 1991).

The quality movement as a personal philosophy

The quality movement as an issue of personal commitment looks at the question of why an individual adopts the quality philosophy. To a considerable extent, the quality movement is one in which individuals come to believe that quality is important and this belief influences them in their personal activities in the workplace, as well as in their interactions with others. This perspective of quality is manifested in two ways in the quality literature: the perspectives of the CEO and of the employee.

Characteristics related to the quality movement as a personal philosophy

The first way that the personal philosophy focuses on quality can be seen in descriptions of how the quality management process is introduced to and developed in organizations. The traditional way that the new focus on quality comes to an organization is through an individual learning about the quality movement and communicating that message to others. The classic example is where the CEO attends a seminar or reads an article or book on quality and returns to the organization with the belief that this is what is needed to move the organization onto the path of quality management (Eubanks, 1992). The process can be described as one in which one person with influence in the organization decides that this is what the organization must have in order to be successful in the future. In the ideal case, after that individual “gets religion,” a series of activities follow until eventually everyone in the organization is converted to the new way of thinking.

The second way in which the personal philosophy focus on quality is manifested in the literature relates to the substance of that philosophy. Within the quality literature considerable attention is given to the idea of continuous improvement. This notion can be traced to the Japanese adaptation of western quality principles, which became known as company-wide quality control (Garvin, 1988). The Japanese term kaizen, or the elimination of waste/continuous improvement, is most relevant here. It represents the notion or philosophy that, while nothing is perfect, the goal of perfection is something that should be continually sought (Imai, 1986). Individual employees in the workplace should examine everything that occurs with a critical eye and improve upon whenever possible. The benefits achieved from a workforce that is genuinely motivated by this personal philosophy in terms of innovation, improvement, and superior performance is obvious. However, the means of obtaining genuine belief in these ideals is more problematic.

Important issues for the quality movement as a personal philosophy

Concerning the process by which the concepts associated with the quality movement are introduced to an organization, issues that are important relate to each step in the process. Such considerations that are important are: how the message is being introduced to organizations, what message best generates interest for these individuals, what are the motivations for and expectations of individuals when they buy in to the philosophy as well as how these will change later in the process.

Having introduced the topic to the organization, it is important to consider how it is to be translated to each level of the organization: other top managers, middle managers, supervisors, operative employees. Various issues of importance are: what message is most cognizant to various individuals, what are the stages they must go through to get to the point of “buying in,” how much personal acceptance is enough to produce successful results, at what point is genuine kaizen reached by the individual, and how can the organization encourage acceptance of this philosophy?

Implications for managers and researchers

An important benefit of this model, which views the quality movement from various perspectives or levels, is that it can provide better focus for managers in terms of their day-to-day activities and for researchers in terms of their efforts to study and explain these phenomena from the past in order to have a better understanding for the present, with a view toward the future. This organizing framework not only works to explain the quality management movement, but it can also explain other significant movements, such as lean operations, supply chain, and business analytics, helping to explain how they have impacted business in the past, are presently having an impact, and might also in the future. The implications for managers and researchers as explained below then not only fit for quality management but also for other such movements.

For managers who must make long term, strategic plans for their firm, the global perspective expands their focus beyond national and industry specifics toward a larger view and may lead to better, more objective, and more targeted long range planning. For managers who work for government and other academic institutions responsible for making decisions which will impact firms across all industries within a country, this national perspective allows for decisions which take into account various mechanisms for providing support to firms and education to individuals. For managers who work for trade associations, suppliers, and other firms which focus on influencing and supporting firms within specific industries, the industry perspective provides a focus which enhances decision making at the industry level. For executive managers of specific firms with responsibility for making decisions about how the firm is positioned competitively, as well as how it is structured and managed internally, the strategic perspective enhances their focus toward positioning the firm within the industry and providing an appropriate infrastructure to support quality management functions and performance. For operations managers who are responsible for the primary function of an individual firm, the operational strategy perspective outlines the specific tools and techniques which allow for effective management of quality functions within the firm and in turn the quality of the firm’s primary product or service. For executives with regard to their management team, for human resource managers with regard to hiring, training, and evaluation and compensation activities, and for managers with regard to their operations employees, the personal philosophy perspective provides a basis to focus efforts to achieve success in responses of individuals toward quality management as it impacts their day-to-day activities.

From a research standpoint, each of the perspectives provides a very different level of focus for research efforts. Global perspective-focused research develops theoretical models and collects data examining the growth and industrialization of nations as well as the development of emerging technologies which have changed the world in the past and which will change the world in the future. Researchers with a focus on the national perspective can concentrate on the activities of the government and other organizations within a country which are not limited to specific industries. Various approaches by different countries can also be studied and compared, enhancing learning, which will improve efforts of nations in the future in supporting firms in terms of global competition. Researchers interested in specific industries can concentrate on firms within that industry, looking at practices and patterns, and collecting data, using this approach not only to describe that industry but also to compare the industry to other industries. Researchers focused at the organizational strategic level will observe, develop models, and collect data from executives across firms. Researchers looking at operational strategic perspectives will study specific quality management practices which firms employ. Researchers focusing on the personal philosophy perspective would develop theory and collect data from individuals, executives, managers, and operational employees in order to gain insight into individual motivations. The implications of these various focuses is that it enables researchers to enhance their research agendas by encouraging a wider range of research design, areas for data collection, and theoretical model development.


This paper has presented a new way to focus on the quality movement that is most important and very complex. While this brief paper has presented a limited sketch of a new framework, it is hoped that it can serve as a taxonomy that enhances a fuller understanding of the quality movement. While the framework presented is limited to six levels, a case may be made that other perspectives may be valid (such as the client or customer or perhaps technology) and should be added. Such considerations might be addressed in future studies. Also, additional work needs to be done to more fully delineate the characteristics and issues associated with each level of the framework. Attention should be devoted to a description of the benefits that quality managers can gain by an improved understanding of the perspectives of the movement. An agenda for future theory development and quality research needs to be developed in order to more effectively demonstrate the usefulness of the model, and to stimulate further an objective, scientific exploration of this field. This paper serves as a starting point in the exploration. In addition to serving a useful purpose to the field of quality management, this model may be applied to other phenomena such as lean, supply chain management, knowledge management, exponential technologies, and business analytics which are similarly impacting organizations across all industries and throughout the world.

An organizing framework for the quality movement

Focus/key question Characteristics Issues
Global trend
Where is the quality movement heading at the global level?
Quality conferences and seminars
International Standards
 ISO 9000
Global trends
 Six Sigma, Lean
 Business/organizational excellence
 Industry 4.0, exponential technologies
How do practices differ across countries/cultures?
How are practices handled in global organizations operating in multiple cultures?
How to avoid “analysis paralysis?”
What is the future role of artificial intelligence?
National mandate
What is happening with the quality movement at the national level?
Quality institutes and organizations
 The Federal Quality Institute
 European Foundation for Quality Management
Quality awards
 Malcolm T. Baldrige Award
 Australian Quality Award
What will it take to stimulate change?
What is needed (education, research, leadership)?
What are the differences between industries?
Is it possible for nations to catch up?
What will the next level of competitive advantage be?
Industry trend
What is happening with the quality movement in a single industry?
Attention in the literature
 Expression of need
 Case studies
 Reactions against
Quality standards
What are the issues unique to this industry?
What other industries are similar and can be patterned?
How is the movement progressing through the industry?
 Earliest entrants
 Successes and failures
 Speed of transition
What is the appropriate level of data to be shared?
Organizational strategy
Why does an organization become involved in the quality movement?
Organization’s decision to commit
Focus on market share
Determining customers’ needs
Quality management as a PR tool
Why does an organization commit: growth or survival?
How to make the most of a competitive advantage?
How to catch up to competitors?
Operational strategy
How does an organization effectively manage quality?
Various specific techniques
Changing the organizational culture
Implementation process
How should the process be started?
What are the critical factors of quality management?
What are the significant organizational contextual factors?
What specific methods work best in which situations?
 At the onset?
 To keep the process going?
Personal philosophy
Why does an individual adopt the quality philosophy?
CEO’s decision to commit
Commitment spreads throughout organization
Long-term goal: continuous improvement or Kaizen
How to best present to each level of the organization?
What are the motives behind the behaviors?
What are the ramifications of resistance?
How is commitment maintained and increased over time?


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Further reading

Juran, J.M. (1989), Juran on Leadership for Quality, The Free Press, New York, NY.

Corresponding author

William J. Miller can be contacted at: