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January 2002
Volume 9 • Number 1

Contents

The Strategic Dynamics of Total Quality Management: A Grounded Theory Research Study

by Denis Leonard, University of Wisconsin and Rodney McAdam, University of Ulster

The aim of this article is to describe the development of total quality management (TQM) models using a grounded theory research methodology where a key part of the methodology is a longitudinal study. The models seek to capture the development of quality within organizations over time and thus to contribute a dynamic perspective.

Much of existing literature on longitudinal TQM development in organizations is anecdotal and descriptive, without any obvious theoretical base. This article seeks to help fill the void by examining organizational practice with the view to develop underpinning theoretical models through grounded theory research.

The article describes five models, which can be combined to describe the effective development of TQM within an organization. The models include TQM environment, TQM life cycle, the key points of TQM application, the strategic application of TQM, and the strategic application of the business excellence model (BEM). The case study is used to illustrate the application of the models in a dynamic situation.

Key words: dynamics, grounded theory, operations, strategy, TQM models

INTRODUCTION

In the total quality management (TQM) literature there is a paucity of research on developing TQM models for organizational practice that are “grounded” in longitudinal research studies (Spencer et al. 1994). Many of the TQM models in use have been derived either from “best-practice” studies or deductive statistical-based research. The aim of this article is to describe the development of TQM models using a “grounded theory” research methodology where a key part of the methodology is a longitudinal study.

It is essential that any grounded research study is based firmly on managerial and organizational practice and rigorously applies grounded theory research principles (Strauss and Corbin 1990).

First, the article describes the research methodology. Second, the grounded TQM models derived from the research are explained, and third, the models are applied and developed in the context of a longitudinal case study. Finally, conclusions are drawn in regard to applying the models in practice.