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The Rhetoric and Reality of Total Quality Management

Mark J. Zbaracki
Administrative Science Quarterly
Vol. 43, No. 3 (Sep., 1998), pp. 602-636
DOI: 10.2307/2393677
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2393677
Page Count: 35
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The Rhetoric and Reality of Total Quality Management
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Abstract

This article induces a model of the evolving rhetoric and reality of total quality management (TQM) in five organizations to show how institutional forces can distort the technical reality of TQM. Using interviews, organizational documents, and observation, I follow the social construction of TQM in these organizations to trace the relationship between the technical practices and rhetoric of TQM. The model shows that managers consume a rhetoric of success about TQM, use that rhetoric to develop their TQM program, and then filter their experiences to present their own rhetoric of success. Consequently, the discourse on TQM develops an overly optimistic view of TQM. The models demonstrate how individual actions and discourse shape TQM and fuel institutional forces.

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