Will we recognize the TQM of the future? Factors which will reshape the body of knowledge

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 1 December 2004



(2004), "Will we recognize the TQM of the future? Factors which will reshape the body of knowledge", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 8 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/mbe.2004.26708dab.004



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Will we recognize the TQM of the future? Factors which will reshape the body of knowledge

Will we recognize the TQM of the future? Factors which will reshape the body of knowledge

Adapted from McAdam, R. and Henderson, J. (2004), "Influencing the future of TQM: internal and external driving factors", International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 51-71.

Challenge posed by rapid change

There is no shortage of views on the present state and usage of TQM tools and philosophy, and how they impact on organizations. The fact that so many take the time and effort to contribute to the debate about how to define TQM, how to use it, adopt it, adapt it, promote it and develop it is a tribute to its recognition as an important (some say essential) factor in ensuring an organization maintains its focus on customers' needs and expectations, and how to maintain the consistency of that focus.

During the 15 or so years that the theory and practice of what we call TQM has developed into what we recognize it as today, a key characteristic has been the positive effect it has had on organizational improvement in times of change in both markets and organizations. The body of knowledge we call TQM, while a relatively new phenomenon, already has an enviable history of success. But what of the future? How is it going to develop and change to keep at the forefront of the developing and changing conditions in which it is used? Will it be as relevant in the future as it undoubtedly is today?

The rapid rate of change in global and niche markets has increased pressure on organizations to become more competitive and TQM itself is not immune from such pressures to change. The challenge is to continually adapt its theory and practice in the face of the changing conditions which inevitably lie ahead.

Given that change will not be an option – it will have to happen – what will be the influencing/driving factors for the future of TQM?

Internal and external forces for change

It seems inevitable that forces for change will come from both within the TQM movement as well as externally. Internally, it is likely to include large-scale shifts compared with the present format, which will include redefinition of terminology, especially concerning the use of the word "quality."

External influences on change will include:

  • Technology. New developments in information system databases, and the huge growth of e-business, combine to help make technology a driver for change in its own right. The challenge is to determine how existing operations/marketing processes can be changed to maximize the effectiveness of this new technology and enable the creation of new market opportunities. Ultimately this challenge will inform the future development of TQM methodologies. Technology is likely to continue to be a key driver of TQM, shaping its future through e-business and IT.

  • Markets. The key tenet "customer satisfaction" of TQM must be protected and continued as improved communications and marketing opportunities lead to increased globalization. These changes provide the ability for organizations to reject the concept of working from a recognized "center" or headquarters, and to react to business needs more fluidly. TQM has a role to play in these changing dynamics. The TQM of the future must also address the issue of diversity for network organizations acting in fragmented markets. (Diversity referring to the different organizational forms of networks caused by local market conditions. For instance, flexible organizations allow employee groups in different geographic areas to choose their own approach to TQM based on their own specific customer and market needs.) The future of TQM as influenced by market changes is likely to result in less structured TQM approaches and more devolved, empowered, customer-facing TQM activity. While TQM exponents may argue that these elements have been in existence for some time, there is clearly a need for TQM to become more mobile and agile to meet such challenges. Possible resultant future developments in TQM initiatives may include empowered team approaches and coping with diversity. Further large-scale changes in TQM-based customer-supplier chain relationships are also likely.

  • Environmental. The increasing awareness of the need for socially responsible business practices and improved environmental performance is already reflected in TQM standards, which are associated with commitment to improvements and employee involvement. The challenge for the TQM of the future is to evolve to be at the forefront of environmental management issues, and be pro-active in setting responsible standards, and ensuring its practices make them achievable.

TQM will build on existing reputation

TQM will continue to play a central role in future organizational development. The changes to TQM will build on the existing academic and organizational reputation of TQM to meet the demands of large-scale market and organizational change.

Although the future for TQM is optimistic, McAdam and Henderson warn that: "TQM must remain focused on organizational practice and business goals, not only operational but also strategic. Furthermore, the TQM culture must be reinforced by supportive leadership, enabling organizations to reduce cost, increase flexibility, improve customer responsiveness and the adaptation of new technologies to achieve competitive advantage."


This review is based on "Influencing the future of TQM: internal and external driving factors" by Rodney McAdam and Joan Henderson of the School of Business, Organisation and Management at the University of Ulster, Belfast, UK. Their aim was to discover what the future holds for TQM in rapidly changing environments. Would the TQM of the future be unrecognizable from the current form or would there be a clear line of continual development? Using a panoptic literature review and a qualitative research study into 40 organizations which had developed TQM, the overall indication was that both the mechanistic and organismic aspects of TQM will continue, along with the continual representative development of initiatives to meet current and future organizational change. They also make the point that the subject of TQM will continue to be a challenging research area for both practitioners and academics.

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