Exploring Quality Management Implementation Factors: In-depth study at one smaller company
Paper in proceedings, 2010
Quality management (QM) is today well recognized and often, in some form or another, incorporated in the daily operations of larger companies. Since the fledgling start over decades ago, it is recognized a mature field (Sousa & Voss, 2002). However, this is mainly true for larger organizations since historically the main focus for research regarding QM has been on larger organizations (as stated by e.g. Beheshti & Lollar, 2003; Kuratko, Goodale, & Hornsby, 2001; Thomas & Webb, 2003; Yusof & Aspinwall, 1999). Many debaters argue that small organizations most often are anything but small counterparts of the larger ones (e.g. Bridge, O'Neill, & Cromie, 2003; Storey, 1994; Welsh & White, 1981), or as Welsh and White put it in the title of their paper from 1981: “A small business is not a little big business”. What this means is that small organizations have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, notably is for example the lack of financial muscles and the personalized management. The purpose of this paper is to provide insight into what is needed for the implementation of QM in a smaller company.
This paper uses findings from Assarlind and Gremyr’s literature review on critical implementation factors for QM in smaller companies (2009), which categorizes these factors into Involve external support, Involve employees, Implement gradually with realistic goals, Involve management, Track performance and benchmark, and Contextualize to the organization. Many of the practices identified by Assarlind and Gremyr can be identified in a typical QM framework (Bergman & Klefsjö, 2003; Dean & Bowen, 1994; Hackman & Wageman, 1995), although with slightly different emphasizes. What is not typical however is the focus on resources. Smaller companies have a harder time freeing resources (monetary as well as employee time). Smaller companies tend to lack the resources of larger companies (Jones, Knotts, & Brown, 2005).
This paper relates these critical implementation facotrs to the situation at the case company which is a small manufacturing characteristic company. Aligning with the arguments of Dyer and Wilkins (1991), the focus is on giving a rich description of relevant events, together with analysis, rather than providing absolute constructs. It is based on interviews with the owner-manager, production manager, operators and the company change leader.
Findings / Value of paper
The case describes a transformation of a fairly, in operational terms, undeveloped company. It points out that implementation of QM in smaller companies might be easier than in larger ones due to strong and influential owner-managers. However, actually reaching the owner-manager is identified as a critical and difficult issue, and this is area which is only scantly addressed in literature today. This paper applies conceptual literature to an empirical case. It relates strengths and weaknesses in these and suggests where more research focus should be aimed. The empirical description itself is valuable and further studies like this are needed in order to move the scientific area from its current conceptual phase to being more practical oriented.