Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Business Honours


School of Business


Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Advisor

Alan Brown


Total Quality Management (TQM) is examined in five organisations 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) and a qualitative methodology suggested by Miles and Huberman (1994), the perceptions of a cross section of organisational members in five organisations are used to establish the nature of applied TQM in terms of mechanistic and organismic 'mental models' of organisation and the degree to which applied TQM varies from the basic doctrine. It is argued that both .models influence the way in which TQM is applied in organisations, and the research aims to identify the strength and direction of the influence exerted towards a more mechanistic or a more organismic implementation. Further, this research is intended to make a positive contribution to the presently limited amount of empirical evidence on the implementation of TQM upon which theory building in the literature is based. The results of the research indicate that TQM in three of the organisations studied is being implemented in generally organismic ways although in two organisations, strong influences by the mechanistic model were detected. Further, major differences between the basic doctrine of TQM, as identified in the literature, and the practical experience of TQM as applied in organisations were identified. These differences relate to organisational goal orientation, conceptions of quality and, to a lesser extent, the direction and pattern of organisational communication. Several possible explanations for these results are put forward, especially in the light of themes emerging from the evidence collected, although this exploratory research does not attempt to develop theory or propose explanatory relationships between possible variables. It is argued that these results have significant implications, and recommendations for further research on a number of key themes indicated by this research are made. In particular, longitudinal research using the same or similar organisations is called for, as the application of TQM is an ongoing process and its full evolutionary nature can only be captured over time.