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April 2003
Volume 10 • Number 2

Contents

Traditional Management, Quality Management, and Constraints Management: Perceptions of ASQ Members

by Mahesh Gupta, Arthur Adams, and Louis Raho, University of Louisville

In addition to traditional management (TM) approaches, newer management philosophies such as quality management (QM) and constraints management (CM) are playing a central role in many contemporary organizational activities. Based on a literature review, several characteristics appear to differentiate these philosophies. No empirical work has been reported, however, that simultaneously investigates what differentiates these three management philosophies. This study examines educators’ and practitioners’ perceptions of modern management approaches, especially CM and QM relative to TM approaches. The authors provide the structure, content, and method of conducting a survey of perceptions. They find that TM is viewed as dramatically different from both CM and QM, and that to a lesser degree CM and QM are viewed as different from each other. Further, on about half of the dimensions measured, educators’ perceptions are different from those of practitioners.

Key words: constraints management, educators and practitioners, management philosophies, quality management, total quality management

INTRODUCTION

Over the last two decades, the emphasis in strategic management thinking has shifted away from industry structure and competitive positioning and toward internal (Schonberger 1992), firm-specific (Powell 1995) process capabilities and improvements (Stalk and Hout 1990; Stalk, Evans, and Shulman 1992), decentralized/group decision-making (Welsh 1988; Coman 1996), and organizational learning/systems thinking (Garvin 1993; Senge 1990). Probably the most important factor influencing contemporary business management decision-making has been the rapid and ongoing changes in the environment (for example, corporate layoffs, ISO 9000:2000, technological advances). These changes, which are a hallmark of the current time period, have been occurring at an alarmingly increasing rate during the past 20 years. Then, by no coincidence, managers have also witnessed the remarkable spread of relatively new business practices, such as total quality management (TQM) (Hackman and Wageman 1995; Evans and Lindsay 1999), activity-based management (Kaplan and Cooper 1998), business process reengineering (Hammer 1990; Hammer and Champy 1993), and theory of constraints (Goldratt 1990; 1994; Goldratt and Cox 1992; Dettmer 1997; 1998; Schragenheim 1999). These business practices have played a central role in many contemporary organizational activities. Although each of these practices can be highly effective, a firm must first understand the nature of these practices, and then develop an overall management philosophy that is tailored to its individual organization.

In this article, three management philosophies are selected, and their respective attributes are identified from an extensive literature review. A survey instrument is developed to gather data from a sample of managers and educators about their perceptions of these management philosophies, and the results are discussed. While these management philosophies share the same underlying themes—a passion for process improvement with an ultimate objective of producing quality products/services to satisfy the customer—they are different enough in their approaches that it is difficult for managers to decide which approach to follow. It is common for scholars as well as managers to try to blend these philosophies (or approaches) and retain the ideas they believe contribute to flexibility and responsiveness in competing. It is also common for them to face a wall of opponents who perceive these practices as simply the latest management fads (Roehm, Klein, and Castellano 1995; Zbaracki 1998).

The purpose of this article is to examine educators’ and practitioners’ perceptions of modern management approaches relative to more traditional management approaches. The initial research question examined is, “Are traditional management, quality management, and constraints management perceived as being distinct from each other?” A second question of interest addresses “Do educators and practitioners have different perceptions of these approaches?” A third question investigates “If differences do exist, along what dimensions or characteristics are the approaches perceived to be different?”

In the following section, the authors provide a brief review of the pertinent literature, highlighting the evolutionary advancement of management approaches and identifying the characteristics differentiating the management approaches being investigated in this article. In addition, a conceptual research model is presented to develop some research hypotheses, and a research methodology is discussed to explain the survey distribution and data collection process. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of the results and some possible future research directions. Statistical analysis of the data can be found in the appendix.

 

The full text of this article may be found in the print journal. To subscibe go to /quality-press/display-item/index.html?item=SUBSCR_QMJ .

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