Introduction

  • Adrian Wilkinson
  • Tom Redman
  • Ed Snape
  • Mick Marchington
Chapter
Part of the Management, Work and Organisations book series (MWO)

Abstract

Developments in product markets, technology and legislation have led employers to search for new strategies and structures. The saturation of mass markets, increasingly discerning and demanding customers, privatisation, deregulation and the rise of new competition, not least in East Asia, have combined to transform the competitive environment in recent years. In response, many companies are now focusing their products on niche markets, rather than selling standard mass produced goods. Product and service quality are high on the agenda for both private and public sector organisations, with quality certification and total quality management emerging as key concerns (Wilkinson, 1996). Some commentators interpret such developments as signalling the end of mass production and the rise of a new production paradigm based on ‘flexible specialisation’ (Piore and Sabel, 1984) or ‘lean production’ (Womack et al., 1990). Under these conditions, enhanced product quality and greater responsiveness to customers are no longer merely options for management, but are essential if market share is to be retained, let alone developed. Peters and Waterman pointed to the importance of quality in In Search of Excellence:

We usually think of principal barriers to entry as concrete and metal — the investment cost of building the bellwether plant capacity addition. We have come to think, on the basis of the excellent companies data, however, that that’s usually dead wrong. The real barriers to entry are the 75 year investment in getting hundreds of thousands to live service, quality, and customer problem solving at IBM, or the 150-year investment in quality at P&G. These are the truly insuperable ‘barriers to entry’, based on people capital tied up in ironclad traditions of service, reliability and quality. (1982: 182)

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Copyright information

© Adrian Wilkinson, Tom Redman, Ed Snape, Mick Marchington 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Wilkinson
  • Tom Redman
  • Ed Snape
  • Mick Marchington

There are no affiliations available

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