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Characteristics of TQM: Evidence from the RIT/USA Today Quality Cup Competition

  • Law


This paper reports the results of a field study examining the use of TQM at 15 firms. The sample is drawn from winners and finalists of the RIT/USA Today Quality Cup. The authors interviewed 75 employees (5 per firm) including 14 executives, 44 middle managers, and 17 front line workers. The interviews elicited information on the motives for adopting TQM, the role of leadership, the use of monitoring, the use of rhetoric, the extent and type of training, the basis for employee evaluation, compensation, and promotion, the use of teams, reallocation of authority, and the results of the TQM program. We use the data to provide a description of how TQM works in practice, including factors that determine patterns of use across firms. A major result is that team-based problem solving is used about twice as frequently as devolution of authority in our sample. We attribute this result to the higher costs of monitoring and corporate change associated with devolution relative to problem solving.

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