Customization or conformity? An institutional and network perspective on the content and consequences of TQM adoption

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Citation: James D. Westphal, Ranjay Gulati, Stephen M. Shortell (1997) Customization or conformity? An institutional and network perspective on the content and consequences of TQM adoption. Administrative Science Quarterly (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Customization or conformity? An institutional and network perspective on the content and consequences of TQM adoption
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) organization theory (RSS), institutionalism (RSS), TQM (RSS), total quality management (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

Westphal et al. frame their paper in terms of a linking or bringing together of work from institutional perspectives on the firm (e.g., Meyer and Rowan 1997 or DiMaggio and Powell 1983) and the literature on networks and diffusion.

The paper is about the diffusion of total quality management (TQM) which is a business strategy that firms used to limit errors and improve performance of a business. Westphal et al. argue that the traditional network literature has treated the effects of networks as fixed and invariant. They argue that these effects may be framed or modified by institutional pressures.

The paper uses data from 2,700 hospital on the adoption of TQM to offer a "horse race" style argument between the two theories and to measure the mediating effect of institutions on network-based effects. They use network data on both alliances with other hospitals and on membership with hospital systems. They broad measures of both efficiency and legitimacy.

Hypothesis 1: "The later the date of TQM adoption, the greater the level of conformity to the normative pattern of quality practices introduced by other adopting organizations." (Essentially a test of Tolbert and Zucker 1983's Institutional sources of change in the formal structure of organizations: The diffusion of civil service reform, 1880-1935).

Hypothesis 2: Time time of TQM adoption will interaction with adoption by alliance partners to predict conformity. (2a: For late adopters, more alliance partners adopting will mean higher conformity; 2b: For early adopters, more alliance partners adopting will mean lower conformity.)

Hypothesis 3: Time time of TQM adoption will interaction with adoption by system members to predict conformity. (3a: For late adopters, more system members adopting will mean higher conformity; 3b: For early adopters, more system members adopting will mean lower conformity.)

Hypothesis 4: More conformity will be associated with more legitimacy.

Hypothesis 5: More conformity will be associated with be associated with less organizational efficiency.

They find strong support for the posed theoretical framework and find evidence consistent with the story of network effects contingent on institutional pressures.