The Quality Virus: Inter-Organizational Contagion in the Adoption of Total Quality Management

  • Juan C. Pastor
  • James Meindl
  • Raymond Hunt


Total Quality Management (TQM) has become a major phenomenon in today’s business environment. Quality is often referred to as the key strategy for improving performance (Buzell and Gale, 1987; Garvin, 1988b; Wruck and Jensen, 1994), and still others call it the ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ (Deming, 1986). In a survey of the Fortune 1000 companies, Lawler, Morham and Ledford (1992) found that 77 per cent of the companies had an average of 41 per cent of their employees covered by total quality programmes. If we think of quality as a virus, the spread of quality programmes during the last decade has reached epidemic proportions. The virus was engineered in the USA in the 1930s and 1950s (Shewhart, 1931; Deming, 1951; Juran, 1951), and found the perfect host environment in the post-Second World War Japanese business climate, where highly fluent organizational networks spread it very quickly. During the 1980s, weakened by a widespread economic crisis, American manufacturers who visited Japan rapidly became infected and reintroduced the virus into the American business environment. Since then, the quality virus has spread like many other epidemics. It started slowly, affecting predominantly manufacturing companies. Then it moved into the high technology sector, and from there it reached the service industries, and finally it spread into the general business and non-business populations.


Chief Executive Officer Institutional Theory Strategic Alliance Organizational Practice Total Quality Management 
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© Juan-Carlos Pastor, James Meindl, Raymond Hunt 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juan C. Pastor
  • James Meindl
  • Raymond Hunt

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