Conditions for Effective Implementation of Quality Management Systems in Public Administration: A Literature Review

  • Lukas Baschung Haute école de gestion Arc//HES-SO University of Applied Sciences Western Switzerland
Keywords: Total Quality Management, Quality management systems, Common Assessment Framework, Implementation variables, International Organisation for Standardisation, European Foundation for Quality Management


After the introduction of quality management systems (QMS), such as ISO (International Organization for Standardization) and EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) in the private sector, they were also starting to be used in the public sector. However, the simple one-to-one transfer of QMS from the private to the public sector has been accompanied by criticism, mostly due to the specific nature of public administrations which would be incompatible with QMS concepts coming from the private sector. In addition, it turned out that circumstances of quality management systems implementation (QMS) are determinant for the success of QMS in public administrations. However, literature on relevant conditions for successful implementation is dispersed in qualitative case studies, country studies or one specific type of QMS. Therefore, this article gathers and synthesises relevant variables through a thematic literature review, which was carried out in internal databases of 21 leading public administration journals and three leading quality management journals, as well as in Google Scholar. Five variable categories, which are transversal to all analysed QMS could be detected in an inductive way: commitment and resources, structure and culture, attitude and skills, time, and measurement and communication. Given the high level of requirements related to the implementation of QMS and the limited pressure to adhere to quality management labels in the
public sector, it is suggested that public administration managers also examine alternative non-systemic quality management tools to improve their organizations’ performance. Public administrations could use simplified QMS or even only a series of quality management tools in order to improve their performance.
Research has shown that single quality management tools can have a positive impact on the performance of public administrations. Thus, there seems to be some potential for non-systemic quality management.