Mechanistic or Organic Approaches to Quality Management: What Difference Does it Make?

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Management




Brown, A., & Moore, B. (2007). Mechanistic or Organic Approaches to Quality Management: What Difference Does it Make? In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on ISO9000 and TQM: Going For Gold.


Whilst quality management may be considered a management approach which consists Q/ a universal set of principles, the way in which it has been adopted by organisations is variable. What might explain this variation and what implications might it have for the outcomes of quality management? Using a framework proposed by Spencer (1994), this paper outlines research which examined the extent to which the adoption of quality management in organisations is influenced by mechanistic or organic perspectives on organisational design. The former is based on more rigid, formal and structured approaches while the latter is based more on participative, process approaches driven by a shared vision. Findings show that organisations might tend to have one or the other approaches, yet in some cases parts of the same organisation might adopt quality management from different perspectives. Explanations offered for these differences both between companies and within the same ones, include leadership styles, the history of the company and the nature of the customers which it serves. Does a mechanistic or organic approach make a difference in terms of sustainability of quality? Evidence suggests that the answer is probably yes where longer term cultural change is concerned with the organic approach being preferable. A strong mechanistic focus is likely to lead to over reliance on processes, policies and procedures which may become an obsession causing the organisation to lose focus on core business.

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