The Role of the Board of Directors in Sustaining Organizational Change Programs: An empirical analysis of TQM, TPS and Lean change programs
Paper i proceeding, 2009

The importance of top management commitment for the success of major change initiatives such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean Production (LP) has been emphasized in literature, while the role of boards, has been in less focus. The purpose of this paper is to analyze how the board of directors affects the long-term sustainability of major organizational change programs. This study is based on three case studies of the diffusion of complex organizational innovations such as TQM, TPS and LP. The first case is from the health care industry in the public sector, the second from the steel industry and the third from the automotive industry. Findings from these case studies were then compared to literature on success and failures of major change programs. A TQM/TPS/LP transformation is a long-term process requiring a fundamental shift in management practice and culture. In the best of all worlds, a committed high quality management can contribute to sustain such change processes. In our case studies, top management commitment was key for the adoption, implementation and sustainability of complex organizational innovations such as TQM, TPS and LP. However, a committed top management does not “last forever” – in the ‘world of organisations’ leaders are replaced and the very units that are in focus are being restructured, merged or sold, which deeply affect the long term change processes. One of the cases studied have been able to keep stability in leadership and has successfully developed their organization to best practice in the world. The other two cases, however, have ceased to exist the way they “used to be” when they started their implementation of TQM. This pattern is however not unique and the issue of sustaining change long term falls back on the governance structure – on boards and owners. If they don’t understand the essence and complexity of organisational changes such as TQM, TPS and LP, (all ‘organisational innovations’ consisting of essentially the same ideas and practices) – then the risk is that committed leaders are replaced with new ambitious leaders who are given new directions by boards, which basically leads to the destruction of ambitious change processes before their full potential benefits have been realized. This study focuses on the role of the Boards in sustaining major organizational change programs. As the importance of the board has not been emphasized in literature about organizational change, this study provides additional insights into the conditions for long- term sustainability of organizational change.

long-term sustainability of organizational change

Top management commitment

organisational innovation


Toyota Production System

Lean Production

Scania Production System

diffusion of innovation



Sverker Alänge

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation, Industriell kvalitetsutveckling

Annika Steiber

Chalmers, Teknikens ekonomi och organisation

Proceedings from the 12the International QMOD Conference in Verona, 27-29 August 2009


Produktionsteknik, arbetsvetenskap och ergonomi

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