In the early 1980s, a new concept entered managerial discourse: Total Quality Management (TQM). TQM was heralded by governments, major corporations and the business media as the most effective and elegant way out of the economic crisis and into the global market.
TQM claimed not to be a set of techniques but a philosophy of management (Sashkin and Kiser, 1993). Some commentators have argued that TQM is little more than an attempt to enhance management's control over labour (Delbridge et al., 1992; Sewell and Wilkinson, 1992; Parker and Slaughter, 1993; Boje and Winsor, 1993; McArdle et al., 1995).
Thus, on one hand we have the 'gurus' who argued that TQM is an effective method for improving organizational performance and on the other hand, we have its 'critics' consisting of academics who spend time questioning current and emerging management theories.
TQM also earned its share of detractors who accused it of being merely a fad.
Several authors pointed out that while total quality approaches have met with considerable success, their failures, though less publicized, have been even greater (Achire, 1996; Dreyfuss, 1988; Hammonds, 1991; Krishnan et al., 1993; Roberts and Corcoran-Nantes, 1995; Schaffer, 1993; Sherwood and Hoylman, 1993; Spitzer, 1993). Others questioned TQM's conceptual soundness, its applicability and its ideological basis (Schaffer and Thomson, 1992; Dean and Bowen, 1994; Hill, 1995; Tuckman, 1995; Wilkinson et al., 1991).
Several authors have also described the confusion created by the existence of distinct definitions of, and perspectives on, quality management (Chatterjee and Yilmaz, 1993; Dean and Bowen, 1994; Wilkinson and Willmott, 1995). For example, Dean and Bowen
concluded, "Despite thousands of articles in the business and trade press, total quality remains a hazy, ambiguous concept. The difference among frameworks proposed by writers such as Deming, Juran and Crosby have no doubt contributed to...