Quality Frameworks and their role in Competitive Advantage

Adoption of quality frameworks like Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and Baldridge has ensured that companies derive a source of competitive advantage in the way in which they produce superior products with minimal loss of quality. Though these frameworks have been adopted in the manufacturing sector much earlier, the services sector has not lagged behind in their embrace of these quality frameworks. The quality frameworks under discussion are those that need rigorous application of standards and a commitment to excellence that goes beyond the norm. These frameworks, once adopted, lead to a change in the mind-set of the companies implementing them and hence they usher in a new perspective to the issue of quality.

Ever since the quality movement started, companies all over the world have been engaged in a “race to the top” in terms of perfection achieved in the quality of their products. Though the frameworks being studied had the early adopters from among the manufacturing sector, in recent years, the service sector has embraced these frameworks in an enthusiastic manner. It is testament to the standards of these frameworks that out of the possible contenders for quality excellence, only those companies that maintain the quality standards retain their position in the pantheon of companies that achieve the “truly good” status.

This report investigates the quality frameworks mentioned above from a critical perspective that covers the implementation, leadership practices and the way in which these frameworks apply to manufacturing as well as service industries. The point of reference is to investigate the Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and Baldridge quality frameworks from the perspective of case studies of organizations that have adopted these frameworks as well as analyze the leadership practices and “best practices” from the companies that are being studied. Though the report covers all the three theoretical frameworks as far as analysis of generic strategies are concerned, the specific examples that the report highlights are to do with the Six Sigma implementations. This is because of the abundance of literature and case studies on the Six Sigma framework and this does not imply that one framework is superior to the other.

In the uber competitive business environment of the present times, it is incumbent upon the companies in the market to find innovative and out-of-the-box solutions to their business challenges. It becomes imperative for them to adopt strategies that give them an edge over their competitors. In this context, many companies are focusing on quality management as a source of business advantage. Though quality control and quality management have been part of the business landscape ever since Fredrick Taylor and the other gurus of management began to propound the virtues of quality as a measure of excellence, in recent times, the accent on embracing quality management measures like Six Sigma, ISO 9000 and Baldridge has meant that there has been a “paradigm shift” in the mindset of companies in the way in which they view quality as a way of life as opposed to quality as yet another function.

With this background of what it means for companies to adopt quality frameworks, it is worthwhile to examine the context in which companies set themselves the task of adopting these frameworks. The runaway success of the Japanese automotive and digital product manufacturers in the 1980’s led to a rethink among the companies in the manufacturing sector in the West as to whether they should follow a similar trajectory of emphasis on quality like their Japanese counterparts and ensure that their products compete on a level footing with the ones from the East.


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