Are TQM principles conducive to continuous innovation?
Paper in proceedings, 2012
Total Quality Management (TQM) is recognized for emphasizing customer needs and contributing to organizations’ efficiency and effectiveness through process orientation and continuous improvement. Previous research has highlighted the risk that TQM might impede firms’ ability to innovate and quickly adapt to changes, especially in rapidly changing environments. The purpose of this paper is to compare Organizational Characteristics for Continuous Innovation (OCCI) in rapidly changing industries with key TQM Principles in order to discuss the relationship between TQM and continuous innovation. The OCCI used for the comparison have been generated through an empirical study of Google Inc. in combination with a literature review of research on continuous innovation in fast-changing environments. A comparison with the OCCI reveals that there are many similarities with TQM principles but also some distinct differences. While TQM has become closely related to process orientation, OCCI are more related to semi-structure and ambidexterity. The conclusion is that TQM needs to change in order to also support continuous innovation. In order for TQM to contribute both to continuous improvement and continuous innovations, a partly new management paradigm is needed. This paper highlights areas in which the present TQM paradigm might impede continuous innovation and hence provides direction concerning possible improvement areas. The analysis is based on a comparison between empirically identified characteristics both for innovativeness in fast-changing environments and for TQM.