Managing Quality: Managerial and Critical Perspectives


Mihaela Kelemen

  • Citations
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  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Part 1: Theoretical Perspectives on Quality

    Part 2: Practical Approaches to Quality

    Part 3: Consequences of Quality

    Part 4: Case Studies on Quality Management

  • Copyright

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    Figures and Table

    • 2.1 The PDCA cycle 26
    • 2.2 Pareto chart 31
    • 2.3 Cause-effect diagram 32
    • 2.4 Process flow chart 32
    • 2.5 Check sheet 33
    • 2.6 Histogram 33
    • 2.7 Scatter diagram 34
    • 2.8 Control chart 34
    • 3.1 The quadratic loss function 47
    • 4.1 The gap model 58
    • 5.1 The EFQM excellence model 70
    • 6.1 The relationship between quality costs 80
    • 6.2 Traditional model/optimum quality 81
    • 6.3 The ‘Zero Defects’ Cost Regime 82
    • 6.4 The ‘Continuous Improvement’ Cost Regime 83
    • 7.1 Model of Quality Control 88
    • 7.2 Shewhart's Concept of Statistical Control: (a) processes under control; (b) processes not under control 90
    • 8.1 The quality spiral 102
    • 9.1 The decision-making process in a UK service organization 114
    • 9.2 The customer feedback process in a UK service organization 115
    • 9.3 The internal communication process in a UK service organization 116
    • 9.4 The sales process in a UK service organization 117
    • 9.1 A comparison of BPR and TQM on key analytical dimensions emphasized in the literature 119


    The idea of writing this book came as I was teaching a group of MBA students three years ago: they asked me to recommend a book on quality management that is both prescriptive and critical of such prescriptions. As such a book did not exist, the students asked me to write it. So here I am, three years later completing this ambitious task: whether my students will find this book meets their expectations remains to be seen. This is what quality is about: it lies in the eyes of the beholder.

    I have been fascinated by the topic of quality since my undergraduate years. In my last year I wrote an undergraduate dissertation on product reliability, as part of the requirements for a BA in applied economics. Since then, my focus has shifted away from the technical and statistical aspects of quality to its softer and more controversial aspects. It was Keith Grint, at Oxford University, who initially introduced me to sociological debates within management. It is thanks to his erudite supervision and wealth of knowledge which he generously shared, that my horizons expanded away from a positivist framework to a more interpretative way of understanding organizations. If it were not for Keith, I would have probably not left my economics paradigm to venture into the dangerous waters of social constructivism.

    Having moved to Keele University in 1996, my understanding of organizational issues widened further to include among others, postmodernist and poststructuralist approaches, discourse analysis, feminism and actor-network-theory. I would like to thank my colleagues for providing such an inspiring and intellectually challenging work environment. In particular, I would like to thank Valerie Fournier for her friendship, moral support and stimulating ideas on theory, research and life in general. It has been immensely rewarding to be her friend and colleague over the past six years. Also, I would like to thank Martin Parker for reading virtually every single piece of work that I have written in the last five years. His careful and critical commentary and genuine belief in my abilities have meant a lot to me. Gordon Pearson deserves special thanks for the countless insightful discussions on organizations, ethics and life. His sense of humour and endless kindness have, on many occasions, brightened up my life. Thanks are also due to Rolland Munro who not only helped me to think through my positioning vis-à-vis poststructuralism with encouragement along the way, but also, as Head of Department, facilitated the timing of my sabbatical leave in such a way that I could match it with a visiting position at the Pennsylvania State University. Many other colleagues in the department deserve special thanks for giving me inspiration to entertain new ideas and explore new areas which proved essential to the completion of the book: Dirk Bunzel, Simon Lilley, Geoff Lightfoot, Peter Armstrong, Gavin Jack and Matthias Klaes must be thanked for such inspiration. Particular thanks are also due to John Hassard (now at UMIST) and Paul Forrester (now at Birmingham University) for their team spirit and encouragement to stay with the discipline of operations and quality management, in my early years at Keele.

    My PhD students, some of whom have already graduated, deserve special acknowledgement for challenging me intellectually and keeping me always alert to what is happening in other fields of research, in particular, Dr Rosmimah Mohd-Roslin, Dr Joanna Papasolomou-Doukakis, Colin Rigby and Andrew Christmas. Andrew Christmas was very kind to also help me with graphical support. My undergraduate and MBA students, too many to be acknowledged by name, have also played an important role as sounding boards for some of my most controversial ideas. Their feedback and suggestions have always been given most careful consideration and have helped me discern what is useful and important to them.

    The empirical research that underpins some of the chapters would not have been possible without the generous financial support from the Horia Georgescu Foundation and Citibank. Patricia Georgescu deserves special thanks for being such a wonderful individual who has done so much for the Romanian cause, in the memory of her husband, Horia, a Romanian diplomat and journalist. Ian Cormack and Malcolm Parker (ex-Citibankers) need special mention for taking an interest in my ideas and academic career. Most of this book was written during my sabbatical at the Pennsylvania State University. I have been fortunate to have had a most wonderful host there: Professor Martin Kilduff who not only orchestrated the mechanics of my sabbatical and ensured that my time at ‘Penn State’ was productive and intellectually stimulating but he and his wife, Conni Johnson, generously welcomed me in their home on so many occasions. To Martin, I owe my reconfigured understanding of post modernism and deconstruction as well as my renewed interest in philosophy.

    I have asked three collaborators to write their own case studies on quality management for this book and would like to take this opportunity to thank them: Dr Joanna Papasolomou-Doukakis whose area of expertise is service marketing, Duthika Perera whose MBA research focused on empowerment and customer satisfaction in the public sector and Joan Durose, an NHS expert and management consultant whose depth and breadth of knowledge on the management of change are hard to match. Joan is also a close friend who has been extremely supportive during past year, particularly as I was going through difficult times caused by illness and death in the family: her positive attitude towards life and generosity as a friend will not be forgotten.

    My closest friends, some of whom have opted for an academic career, while others have chosen the practical world of management, have also contributed immensely to this project. Dr Tima Bansal, from Ivey Business School in Canada has been a constant source of inspiration and moral support, since the time we were completing our doctoral dissertations at Oxford. She took the time to read this book and made insightful comments which sharpened my arguments and improved the logical flow of my thoughts. Marcus Scott deserves special thanks for keeping me in good spirits by constantly challenging some of my taken-for-granted beliefs and e-mailing useful materials for my lectures on feminism. I thank him for finding space in his very busy investment banking schedule to read and make comments on the book. Last, but not least, Dr Gregg Robins, a specialist in banking and Eastern European studies, has been of great help in sharpening my ideas about capitalist ideology, market economies and consumerism. For this and his friendship, I thank him.

    The most important people in making this project come alive are the ex-Sage editor, Rosemary Nixon who has been extremely interested in this book and was instrumental in helping me sign the contract; and Kiren Shoman, the current Sage editor, whom I thank for her enthusiasm, kindness, patience and practical help on getting the book through the publishing hurdles.

    My family: parents, brother, sister-in-law, mother-in-law and brother-in-law must also be thanked for their unconditional and everlasting love and moral support. Without them, I would not be who I am today: special thanks to my parents who have always believed in me and encouraged me to assert my independence of thought from a very early stage.

    This book is dedicated to my husband, Csaba Sinka, for being here, always and forever.

  • Final Remarks

    The cases presented above explore the processes by which quality is constructed, understood, expressed, managed, controlled and portrayed in various organizations by various organizational stakeholders. As such, the result is more messy and complex than the previous chapters might have suggested. Quality is not an objective phenomenon that can be instantly and remotely controlled: although the most powerful organizational members may attempt to do just that. It is a process influenced by and influencing existing power discourses and regimes of truth. As such, although the author is pro-quality, a stance that hopefully comes through clearly in the book, she cannot take quality at its face value and simply regurgitate what quality gurus have said for decades, namely, ‘that quality is good’. The questions that need asking are: ‘What is good?’, ‘Who decides what is good?’, ‘Good for whom?’, ‘Does good come at an easy cost?’, and so on.

    There are no easy answers, yet it is important that one asks these questions rather than simply embrace the missionary message of quality gurus. We live in a consumerist society but this does not automatically lead to better, more fulfilled lives for all of us: work intensification, the exploitation of third world countries, natural resource depletion and other environmental concerns are the price we pay for our daily conveniences. But this is all relative: if we compare standards of living now with standards of living 300 years ago, it is a fact that a much higher proportion of people have access to quality, convenience and value for money. The consumerist discourse could be seen to democratize rather than exploit the ‘masses’, for the ‘masses’ now could have a say in what is going on in the world. People can choose not to buy from companies that are perceived as socially irresponsible. Their voice could be given weight by legislation that protects their rights. Quality and consumerism could be positive forces shaping the society: yet, they could also be manipulated by multinational corporations, governments and powerful individuals. The challenge lies in being aware of and constantly assessing the dangers hidden behind the seductive face of quality.


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