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The implementation and performance outcomes of ISO 9000 in service organisations: An empirical taxonomy

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Mgt

In ‘The implementation and performance outcomes of ISO 9000 in service organisations‘, (Lee, To, Yu 2009) ‘argue that although ISO 9000 has become a common knowledge in organisations and the standard is widely adopted in different industries and sectors, it can be a source of competitive advantage because ISO 9000 certified organisations can implement the standard in different ways’. This research aims to discover if different patterns of ISO 9000 produce different performance outcomes. This work focuses on the service sector.

The research was based on a survey conducted with 45 ISO certified service organisations in Macao.

The results of the survey discovered ‘two markedly different ISO 9000 implementation patterns among sample organisations’:.. ‘some organisations implement the principles of ISO 9000 just to the extents that the certification can be obtained, while others are highly committed to implementing the principles to levels beyond the standard requirements’. The report goes on to explain this further by adding… ‘regardless of the level of commitment towards ISO 9000, firms might follow the ISO guidelines to implement ISO 9000, but did not attempt to tailor-make their own ISO 9000 approaches by aligning the implementation patterns with their firms’ particular visions, needs or environments’.

The research took this deeper to understand if there existed an association between the patterns of implementation and the performance outcomes. ‘The results indicate that firms with a high level of adoption in the principles of ISO 9000 outperformed those with a relatively lower level of adoption. The results tend to support Deming’s (1982) quality chain reaction theory, which states that focus on quality will lead to outcomes such as employee and customer satisfaction, efficiency and profitability’. Most importantly, this research supports the view that’ With a well-developed ISO 9000 strategy, the implementation of the standard can be better aligned with environments of firms so as to accomplish competitive advantages and optimal performance’.

The report concludes two key points for organisations to optimise the benefits of ISO 9000 certification:

1. ‘In order to achieve superior performance, organisations should not consider the certification as a single, one-off project and the maintenance of the standard as routine processes. Instead, managers should commit to implementing the ISO 9000 principles and possibly adopt other quality initiatives such as TQM, benchmarking in order to sustain a high level of commitment towards quality in the long run’.

2. ‘ … firms can yield competitive advantages by tailor-making their own approaches in adopting the standard. More specifically, when formulating ISO 9000 implementation strategies, firms do not necessarily place the same level of emphasis on each principle of the standard. Rather, firms should scrutinize their particular internal and external environments and develop their own approaches in implementing the standard  If firms can align the ISO 9000 implementation strategies well with their environments, they are more likely to achieve competitive advantages and superior performance’.

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  • Lee, P.K.C., To, W.M., Yu, B.T.W (2009), ‘The implementation and performance outcomes of ISO 9000 in service organisations: An empirical taxonomy’, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 26, No. 7 pp 646-662
  • Deming, W.E (1982), Quality,Productivity and Competitive Position, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Lee), Macao Polytechnic Institute (to, Yu)