Developing a theory of total quality management - using the delphi technique

Gallear, David Nicholas (1999) Developing a theory of total quality management - using the delphi technique. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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Quality has become an important determinant of competitiveness, to the point that it is now widely considered to be the foundation upon which other factors that contribute to competitive advantage,
such as cost, speed of delivery, reliability of delivery and flexibility, must be built. Total Quality Management (TQM) has emerged as a prominent tool for organisations in pursuit of lasting improvements in quality, business performance and, for introducing change. A large and increasing number of organisations are starting to adopt TQM in recognition of its strategic importance. The importance of quality is also recognised by governments and industrialists throughout the developed world. The increasing number of awards expounding the value of TQM is a manifestation of the importance placed on the concept. All the signs indicate that the adoption
of TQM is unlikely to diminish.

Despite the interest, and the attention of many researchers and writers, TQM remains an imprecise subject. Examination of the large volume ofTQM related publications revealed that the literature
is dominated by prescription and anecdote and highlights a lack of empirical work. A number of broad areas can be identified where it would appear that the literature has remained irreconcilable or under-developed. Moreover, it appears that the domination of TQM's development by practitioners has resulted in the absence of a theoretical grounding for TQM. These findings pointed to the need for substantive research to extend the current knowledge and understanding of TQM and to support its future development.

The aim of this study was to address these broad areas and to fill an important gap in the existing knowledge and understanding ofTQM. More specifically, the aim was to develop an inductive
theory o/TQM based on the expert opinion o/practitioners in the leading organisations. For the purpose of this study "theory" is defined as comprising three components: concepts, relationships
and underlying logic.

The study achieves this aim through the explication of the views of a sample of best practice TQM organisations representing a wide range of industry sectors. The design of the research was
motivated by the distinctive shortfalls in the domain and strategy of previous TQM research. After evaluating the methodological options available, the Delphi method was identified as the most relevant and practical research technique. A modified Delphi survey comprising four planned rounds of postal questionnaires was used to collect the study's primary data. Conversion of this primary data into the proposed theory involved a profound process of interpretation and refinement which centred around explaining the logic underlying the salient TQM variables that were identified. Exploratory factor analysis was used to aid the interpretive processes. The salient variables were heuristically organised into a set ofTQM concepts and the interrelationship digraph technique was used to facilitate the extraction of the salient relationships between the concepts from the core body of underlying logic.

The study identifies nine key concepts of the TQM approach and puts forward seven key propositions that explain the important relationships between them. The three core concepts are
Customer Focus, Internal Collaboration and DynamiclEnergetic Leadership. The study corroborates the belief evident in the more recent TQM literature that TQM is a management philosophy. The idea that TQM is a "management fad" is refuted. The study provides strong evidence that TQM is universally applicable to 'for profit' organisations. It is also shown that the impact of TQM goes beyond management practice. TQM is undeniably concerned with the attitude, the values and the behaviour of all of the members of an organisation.

The primary data in this study came from a sample that comprised 'for profit' organisations only. The proposed theory has therefore been derived in this context. This represents the main boundary
to which generalisation can be taken. An objective of the study was to test the proposed concepts in order to refine the proposed theory. This objective was only partially met due to unexpected
diversity in some of the qualitative primary data.

This study has expanded understanding by contributing an inductively developed theory of TQM to the present knowledge. This interpretation of TQM, which identifies the logic underlying the
relevance of the important TQM variables, transcends a description of TQM which is specified purely in terms of the relevant variables. The study also contributes an understanding ofTQM that explicitly distinguishes its purpose from its mechanics. The core practical contribution of the study is that it can act as a conduit to improve practitioner understanding. Practitioners seeking to improve the performance of their organisation to a position of sustainable competitive advantage through the introduction of a TQM approach can have an understanding of TQM that is based on proven practice. The study also contributes a set ofTQM concepts and an interrelationship digraph that can act as a base-line from which existing TQM approaches may be critically examined. Furthermore, the study contributes a theory of TQM to the development of a sound theoretical framework that can systematically and appropriately guide future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: B. > Theses
Item ID: 13585
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 03 Oct 2014 12:01
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2021 16:46

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