Total quality management as competitive advantage: A review and empirical study

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Abstract

Total Quality Management (TQM) has become, according to one source, ‘as pervasive a part of business thinking as quarterly financial results,’ and yet TQM's role as a strategic resource remains virtually unexamined in strategic management research. Drawing on the resource approach and other theoretical perspectives, this article examines TQM as a potential source of sustainable competitive advantage, reviews existing empirical evidence, and reports findings from a new empirical study of TQM's performance consequences. The findings suggest that most features generally associated with TQM—such as quality training, process improvement, and benchmarking—do not generally produce advantage, but that certain tacit, behavioral, imperfectly imitable features—such as open culture, employee empowerment, and executive commitment—can produce advantage. The author concludes that these tacit resources, and not TQM tools and techniques, drive TQM success, and that organizations that acquire them can outperform competitors with or without the accompanying TQM ideology.

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