The Determinants of Employee Responses to Total Quality Management: Six Case Studies
Organization Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, pp. 449-475, 1998
Posted: 25 Apr 2011
Date Written: April, 21 2011
Total quality management has been a central element in many efforts directed towards organizational change. Theories tend to fall into two extreme camps, which hold either that TQM transforms attitudes and behaviour or that it is nothing but a means to intensify work and tighten managerial control. More recent analysis is more balanced, but lacks quantitative data on employee responses and also neglects the varying contexts in which TQM exists. This study addresses these issues by taking six named organizations from different sectors of the UK economy and by blending qualitative interviewing with a survey of 280 employees. Findings show a wide acceptance of quality principles but (in contrast to the transformation view) little evidence of substantial empowerment of workers. Compared with the intensification view, growing work effort was not widely disliked, and, crucially, favourable views of quality were strongest, not weakest, where the monitoring of workers was most intense. Multivariate analysis supports the 'disciplined worker' thesis, that quality is most accepted where there is a controlled work environment. Case material indicates that the conditions for success in quality programmes are notably high job security and a co-operative relationship with trade unions.
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