As decision makers become more involved in implementing Total Quality Management, questions are raised about which management practices should be emphasized. In this exploratory investigation of the relationship of specific quality management practices to quality performance, a framework was constructed. It focuses on both core quality management practices and on the infrastructure that creates an environment supportive of their use. In addition, it incorporates two measures of quality performance and their role in establishing and sustaining a competitive advantage.
Path analysis was used to test the proposed model, with multiple regression analysis determining the path coefficients, which were decomposed into their various effects. Weak linkages were eliminated. The trimmed model indicated that perceived quality market outcomes were primarily related to statistical control/feedback and the product design process, while the internal measure of percent that passed final inspection without requiring rework was strongly related to process flow management and to statistical control/feedback, to a lesser extent. Both measures of quality performance were related to competitive advantage. Important infrastructure components included top management support and workforce management. Supplier relationships and work attitudes were also related to some of the core quality practices and quality performance measures.
The results were interpreted in light of Hill's concept of order winners and order qualifiers and Garvin's eight dimensions of quality. They indicate that different core quality management practices lead to success in different dimensions of quality, and that those dimensions function differently as order winners and order qualifiers.