There is a striking disjunction between the views of many academics who believe the quality movement has sunk without a trace and practitioners who believe that they basically mastered the secrets of quality improvement. This article traces the path by which large American manufacturing firms came to terms with the Japanese quality challenge of the early 1980s. It explores both the barriers that delayed effective responses as well as the nature of the emergent infrastructure that eventually facilitated sustained quality improvement. The legacy of the quality movement is more than its detractors allow but less than its zealots proclaimed.
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