The application of TQM: Organic or mechanistic?

Document Type

Journal Article


Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Faculty of Business and Law


School of Law and Justice




Moore, B., & Brown, A. (2006). The application of TQM: organic or mechanistic?. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 23(7), 721-742. Available here


Purpose ? This paper aims to examine the application of Total Quality Management (TQM) in five organizations in light of the assumption that its implementation is an ongoing negotiated order rather than an objective reality as often accepted by the literature. Guided by a theoretical framework identified by Spencer (1994), the perceptions of a cross-section of managers and employees in these organizations are used to establish the nature of applied TQM in terms of mechanistic and organic ?mental models? of organization. Design/methodology/approach ? The paper shows that research methodology is qualitative, and evidence was collected primarily through semi-structured in-depth interviews. A non-quantifying general analytic methodology was used to analyse the evidence collected via convenience sampling. Findings ? The findings in this paper indicate that, in three of the organizations, TQM is being applied in generally organic ways. In the other two organizations, strong influences of the mechanistic model were detected. In many cases, elements of both mechanistic and organic approaches can be found in the same organization. Research limitations/implications ? The research in this paper is qualitative and exploratory in nature and, as such, does not attempt to investigate the implementation of TQM across a large number of organizations nor generalize the findings. Originality/value ? The research in this paper has significant originality as there is little research, to date, evident on the alternative view, of the implementation of TQM, espoused by Spencer (1994). The research contributes to the literature by demonstrating that the application of TQM can be both mechanistic and organic, encouraging the debate to focus on the nature of the variation of implementation as a subject of discussion in its own right.





Link to publisher version (DOI)