Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Strategic Management and Total Quality Management: Challenges and Choices

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Strategic Management and Total Quality Management: Challenges and Choices

Article excerpt


Strategic management and Total Quality Management (TQM) have become the watchwords of public administration in the 1990s. Over the past decade, public administrators have been encouraged to be "effective strategists if their organizations are to fulfill their missions and satisfy their constituents" (Bryson, 1988:xi). At the same time, they have been given the charge of "emphasiz[ing] the totality of the organization as well as the integrated totality of the theories of public administration under the mantle of TQM" (Stupak and Garrity (1993:409). They have been asked to, in fact, "improve government performance through strategic and quality management" (Gore, 1993:160, emphasis added).

Despite the importance of these developments, the relationship between these approaches from an implementation and ongoing operational standpoint is unclear. What is the relationship between strategic management and TQM? How do the approaches differ? What aspects of strategic management models complement or conflict with total quality management approaches? What are the factors which may affect implementation, singly and together?

This article draws from existing research and theory with regard to TQM and strategic management to develop preliminary answers to these questions. Based on what is known about the implementation of management systems as well as organizational culture and change, this analysis attempts to weave together a picture of how strategic management approaches in concert with the tools of TQM may be employed to help public managers face the challenges of the 1990s and beyond.

First, the background, purposes, and components of strategic management and TQM are summarized. Public sector applications are then described. Consistencies and inconsistencies between the two management systems/approaches are highlighted. Finally, based on what is known about organizational change and culture, factors which may affect implementation of the systems are identified.


Strategic management is a comprehensive approach to managing organizations that has evolved over a number of years and draws on many different areas of organization and management theory. Since the 1970s, strategic management has been regularly used in the private sector as a way of coping with environmental uncertainty.

While strategic planning is a central component of strategic management, strategic planning and strategic management are not the same thing. Strategic management is a process carried out at the top of the organization which provides guidance, direction, and boundaries for all aspects of operational management. Strategic planning, on the other hand, places more emphasis on strategy than operations and can be thought of as a process that constitutes the backbone of strategic management.

Strategic management exists when organizations move beyond planning to develop mechanisms for the implementation of strategies. Steiss (1985:1), for example, defines strategic management as the "process whereby goals and objectives are identified, policies are formulated, and strategies are selected in order to achieve the overall purposes or mission of an organization." He describes the process in systemic terms consisting of three component processes:

1. Strategic planning to determine organizational objectives and strategies;

2. Resource management to configure and allocate resources among units within an organization to implement the plans; and

3. Control and evaluation to ensure the implementation of strategies.

An important facet of strategic management is its emphasis on organizational adaptation to environmental demands and opportunities. It assumes a dynamic and complex interaction between the behavioral aspects of the organization, e.g., culture, power, and leadership, with rational, analytical processes like strategic planning and budgeting. …

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