Purpose: The great promise of continual quality improvement advocated by early quality gurus like Deming and Juran has not been fully realized. This paper explores the reasons for the limited success of implementation and institutionalization of continuous quality improvement.
Approach: About 100 quality professionals from diverse organizations answered questions related to this study. Additionally, the authors executed a wide-ranging literature search including the use of Google Scholar.
Findings: Nearly all quality professionals queried in this study agree that compliance to an external quality standard such as ISO is mandatory for their organizations. However, there is disagreement as to whether or not compliance with the continuous improvement proviso in most quality standards is actually implemented and functioning.
Research limitations/implications: The sample size is small and there is a need for a larger universe of quality professionals, registration/standards organizations, and academic researchers.
Practical implications: Many organizations from a broad array of economic sectors both public and private must comply with external quality standards. Most external quality standards contain a requirement for evidence of continuous improvement. However, the potential for improvement associated with compliance is frequently not realized.
Originality/value: Continuous quality improvement is central to many quality standards including ISO 9001. Unfortunately, many ISO compliant organizations are unable to operationalize and sustain the process of continual improvement. This paper provides a novel examination of this problem and suggests ways that organizations can leverage the potential for improvement via their existing quality systems.
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