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Total Quality Management: Is It a Fad, Fashion, or Fit?

Summary: [This abstract is based on the authors' abstract. A longer abstract is available on the journal's website]

The fad, fashion, and fit theory is examined using the case of total quality management (TQM). Research studies beginning in the late 1980s are used. Researchers identified three stages in the evolution by which fads can become fits with normal management practice. Stage I involves the clear definition and measurability of the fad. In regard to TQM, the clarification was the ISO 9000 series and quality award models. The second stage is the move to fashion, which occurs when there are major pressures toward the widespread adoption of the fad. In the study, there was pressure from major customers on suppliers to achieve ISO 9000 certification, which cause the ISO 9000 series to become a rapidly spreading fashion. Stage 3 is a move from either fad to fit or from fashion to fit. Fitting into normal management practice means that the original fad affects the normal method of working in an entire organization and not just a small part, as would occur when a mere fashion is adopted. Fieldwork indicates that such a change will occur only when there is a strong internal motivation and an emotional involvement for implementing TQM. Fieldwork also suggested that if a move from fad or fashion to fit should occur, it is likely that organizational performance will be perceived to have been impacted in a positive way as well.

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