Many industries have embraced total quality to achieve a competitive edge in the international marketplace. What is not always understood in the beginning, however, is that implementing a total quality program introduces considerable and often drastic cultural change into the organization. It would be beneficial for any company considering such change to look at a few case studies to anticipate what might happen over time, and avoid unintended consequences.

Implementing cultural change within an organization is always challenging, but in the case of quality, it should be a win-win proposition. Unfortunately, outcomes are not always as anticipated. In this real case study, critical mistakes in communication at the planning stage, and failure to foresee potential problem areas almost blocked the change before it could be fully implemented and did reduce its’ eventual effect. Process improvements, however, though modest by original intent, have been well worth the efforts. Lessons learned from this case should be helpful to others considering or planning a major cultural change. For this qualitative research all data were obtained through direct observation in the plant and through confidential conversations with both hourly (union) and salaried (management) personnel at regular intervals over the period of the study. Observations and conversations were recorded in writing after each visit was concluded. Full confidentiality was observed, and no individual was directly identified, nor was any data vetted by union or management. All descriptions are real, but locations and identities have been carefully obscured.