Do TQM principles need to change? Learning from a comparison to Google Inc.
Journal article, 2013
Total Quality Management (TQM) is recognised for emphasising customer needs and contributing to organisations’ 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. However, other researchers have concluded that
some of the best practices of innovation management could be recognised as TQM elements. A recurring issue concerns the conceptualisation of TQM that is contributing to ambiguity, as there are various definitions. The question of whether
TQM supports innovation or not is, therefore, unsettled. The purpose of this paper was to compare Organisational 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 in combination with a literature review of research on continuous innovation in fastchanging environments. A comparison with the OCCI reveals that there are many
similarities with TQM principles but also some distinct differences, for example, in terms of orientation towards innovation. 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. However, even if TQM is changed, the brand ‘TQM’ is still associated with ‘quality’ and ‘continuous improvement’. A re-branding strategy might, therefore, be necessary.