Volume 8 • Number 1
An Empirical Study of the Posturing-Implementation
Gap in Quality Management
Existing studies show that top management commitment
to quality is a major factor in determining the success
of a companys quality management program. Many of
these studies measure the commitment and success of a companys
quality management programs using information from the companys
own managers. This raises an important research question:
Do managers make accurate statements about their commitment
to quality and the organizations emphasis on quality?
If not, then the conclusions drawn from existing studies
that relied on these statements will be inaccurate. The
aim of this study is to answer that research question using
the textual data in annual reports and external measures
of organizational emphasis on quality.
Annual reports are a key communication vehicle used
by senior managers to articulate important matters of the
firm, such as their commitment to quality and to its stakeholders.
In this study, the textual content of 100 randomly selected
annual reports of firms listed in Fortunes
1988 list of Americas Most Admired Corporations
was analyzed to measure their emphasis on quality. This
measure was then compared against external measures of each
organizations emphasis on quality. The strong positive
relationship between senior managements annual report
emphasis on quality and external measures indicates that
senior managements assertions about organizational
commitment to quality appear accurate.
Key words: annual reports, commitment to quality, content
analysis, emphasis on quality, implementation of quality
by Michael D. Michalisin, Southern Illinois University
at Carbondale, Gregory P. White, Southern Illinois University
Senior management teams, comprising managers with titles
of vice president or higher, are responsible for formulating
and implementing the firms strategies, including those
related to quality (Hitt, Ireland, and Hoskisson 1999; Homburg,
Krohmer, and Workman 1999). The power to control the direction
and performance of the firm probably makes senior management
teams the most important and influential ones in the firm
(Smith et al. 1994), and is a key reason why senior management
teams commitment to quality is considered critical to
the success of quality management programs (Powell 1995).
Anecdotal evidence (for example, Juran 1974), case studies
(Leonard and Sasser 1982), and survey research (for example,
Flynn, Schroeder, and Sakakibara 1995) tend to support the
importance of senior management teams commitment to
quality. The problem is that the data used to draw this conclusion
come from each sample firms own senior management teams.
In other words, the researchers asked senior management teams
both if the firm was committed to quality and if the firms
quality management program was successful. Clearly, firm managers
may be either biased or misinformed, and thus could make statements
about the organizations commitment to quality and its
quality performance that are more positive than real. Kolesar
(1995) provides compelling anecdotal evidence from high-profile
companies within the TQM movement to show this problem does,
in fact, exist, which he labels the posturing-implementation
gap (p. 199).
These allegations should raise serious concern among researchers
and practitioners. For researchers, the bulk of the quality
management research relies on data from company managers.
If managers are not knowledgeable about the firms quality
programs or if they feel compelled to present an image about
the firms quality that is more positive than real, then
the research conclusions drawn from those data will be inaccurate.
Practitioners relying on these inaccurate statements to design
their own quality management programs or to replicate (what
they believe to be) best industry practices will be misled
in their efforts.
The purpose of this study is to empirically test the posturing-implementation
gap, abbreviated as the PI gap. The authors content-analyzed
the annual report text (letter to the shareholders, company
report, and management discussion analysis sections) of 100
firms randomly selected from among those Fortune 500
and Service 500 firms that were listed in Fortunes
1988 list of Americas Most Admired Corporations.
There are three reasons why annual report text was used to
measure a senior management teams posturing
about the firms commitment to quality. First, annual
reports are a key public communication vehicle between a firms
senior management team and its stakeholders. Second, CEOs
are ultimately responsible for what is said in annual reports
and thus have final say as to their contents (DAveni
and MacMillan 1990). Third, annual report text information
is outside the scope of the independent auditors main
responsibilities (Konrath 1999; Whittington and Pany 1998),
which gives senior management teams significant freedom in
making assertions about the firms commitment to quality.
In sum, given (1) the high public visibility of annual report
text, (2) its use as a public communication vehicle, and (3)
senior management teams freedom to determine annual
report text content, annual report text is a useful data source
for examining senior management teams posturing about
the companys commitment to quality. Then, the results
of the posturing analysis were regressed against well-known
external measures of the companys emphasis on quality
to determine the direction and significance of the PI relationship,
in the presence of potent control variables. The next section
discusses the theory and empirical findings of the importance
of top management commitment to quality management program
success, as a prelude to why the PI gap may exist.