There is a basic ambiguity in TQM in that, while managers seek the commitment and co‐operation of their employees, increased control over the work process is a cornerstone of TQM. This ambiguity is reflected in the literature concerning TQM (Wilkinson et al, 1992). Its advocates see it as universally beneficial, improving competitive advantage and, at the same time, empowering the workforce as responsibility is delegated to those actually carrying out the task. Its critics, however, note the tighter managerial control involved in the drive to reduce variation (Parker and Slaughter, 1993) and the increased surveillance arising out of the quality measurement systems introduced (Delbridge et al, 1991; Sewell and Wilkinson, 1992). From the latter perspective, TQM is seen as another development in the capitalist labour process intended to push back the frontiers of control and intensify work.
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