Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Total Quality Management: Its Relationship to Administrative Theory and Organizational Behavior in the Public Sector

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Total Quality Management: Its Relationship to Administrative Theory and Organizational Behavior in the Public Sector

Article excerpt


New frontiers are opening for Organizational Development (OD) practitioners as experience in both the public and private sectors demonstrates the enormous potential of Total Quality Management (TQM) to meet today's organizational challenges. This emerging evidence suggests that a new thrust of TQM encompasses and integrates many elements of organizational development and change theory. In short, TQM and OD reinforce one another. When implemented together, they are a powerful approach for dealing with the organizational challenges facing today's public sector managers.

This article identifies, summarizes, and evaluates research regarding theories and principles applicable to the implementation of the Total Quality Management philosophy. The analysis considers change theories, culture, leadership, design, organizational structure, systems theory, strategic planning, and the principles of TQM. It addresses in greater detail those elements that relate organizational change and TOM. It discusses the evolution of TQM relative to administrative theory and organizational behavior, culminating in how the implementation of TQM can be made a reality in the changing context of the pubic sector in the United States.


The idea of providing quality goods and services based on customer needs and expectations is not new to the late twentieth century. Centuries ago, when early communications and transportation systems created the village marketplace, products became available to a wide range of customers. Each customer personally inspected the product for quality before purchase. Later, as craftsmen developed and refined their expertise and modified their products and processes, they became responsive to customer feedback on an individual basis. When the Industrial Revolution made independent craftsmen obsolete, many took their skills to the factory where specialization and standardization were the norm. In that era, quality was measured against the factory standards established by management rather than by customer feedback; emphasis was on high volume and consistency to factory standards and production goals.

SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT EMERGES FROM CLASSICAL ORGANIZATION THEORY. In the early twentieth century, the concept of "scientific management" championed by Frederick Taylor (1916) sought to increase productivity by analyzing and then standardizing each step of the production process. While workers were consulted in designing the standard or most efficient work processes, management was responsible for productivity and quality. Juran (1988), an expert on TQM planning and leadership, suggested that Taylor's system separated execution from planning and emphasized productivity at the expense of quality.

At about the same time, Henri Fayol (1916) developed the first comprehensive theory of management. It was intended to be universally applicable to all organizations, although it required some modification when used in the public sector which Fayol called "enterprises having no monetary objectives." While he made no mention of quality or customer expectations, Fayol did recognize the importance of a planning process that includes worker participation.

THE HUMAN ELEMENT. The human behaviorist movement, which started with the Hawthorne studies in the 1920s, increased awareness regarding the importance of individual values and the potential payoff of worker involvement in planning and execution. While many of the human behavior concepts are common to TQM--empowerment, constancy of purpose, emphasis on training, and elimination of organizational barriers--its initial emphasis was on the worker rather than on the customer, quality or teamwork.

QUALITY IN AMERICAN AND FOREIGN COMPETITION. According to Juran (1988), American manufacturing had developed some quality departments during the postwar period but the primary focus was on inspecting output and rejecting bad products. …

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