Legitimising quality principles through critical incidents in organisational development

Rodney McAdam, Shirley Ann Hazlett, Joan Henderson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    Purpose - The aim of this paper is to analyse how critical incidents or organisational crises can be used to check and legitimise quality management change efforts in relation to the fundamental principles of quality. Design/methodology/approach - Multiple case studies analyse critical incidents that demonstrate the importance of legitimisation, normative evaluation and conflict constructs in this process. A theoretical framework composed of these constructs is used to guide the analysis. Findings - The cases show that the critical incidents leading to the legitimisation of continuous improvement (CI) were diverse. However all resulted in the need for significant ongoing cost reduction to achieve or retain competitiveness. In addition, attempts at legitimising CI were coupled with attempts at destabilising the existing normative practice. This destabilisation process, in some cases, advocated supplementing the existing approaches and in others replacing them. In all cases, significant conflict arose in these legitimising and normative evaluation processes. Research limitations/implications - It is suggested that further research could involve a critical analysis of existing quality models, tools and techniques in relation to how they incorporate, and are built upon, fundamental quality management principles. Furthermore, such studies could probe the dangers of quality curriculum becoming divorced from business and market reality and thus creating a parallel existence. Practical implications - As demonstrated by the case studies, models, tools and techniques are not valued for their intrinsic value but rather for what they will contribute to addressing the business needs. Thus, in addition to being an opportunity for quality management, critical incidents present a challenge to the field. Quality management must be shown to make a contribution in these circumstances. Originality/value - This paper is of value to both academics and practitioners.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-41
    Number of pages15
    JournalInternational Journal of Quality and Reliability Management
    Issue number1 SPEC. ISS.
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2006

    Bibliographical note

    Copyright 2011 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


    • Organizational development
    • Quality management


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