paradigms for improvement in
Shannon Flumerfelt and Michael Banachowski
Pawley Lean Institute, Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, USA
Purpose – This research article is based on the Baldrige National Quality Program Education
Criteria for Performance Excellence’s conceptualization of improvement as a dual cycle/three element
initiative of examining and bettering inputs, processes, and outputs as driven by measurement,
analysis and knowledge management work. This study isolates a portion of one input element of
leadership, higher education leadership paradigms of concern. These paradigms are analyzed and
presented as points of improvement related to lean training for higher education.
Design/methodology/approach – This quantitative study utilized an online survey, prior to lean
training, to identify leadership paradigms of concern by rank, and by signiﬁcant paired association,
using chi-square tests and the Yates’ correction for several higher education institutions.
Findings – The study identiﬁes six highly ranked, and seven highly associated leadership
paradigms of concern. The one paradigm that was most highly ranked and most highly associated is
confronting ambiguity. The ﬁndings highlight that improving leadership paradigms is important.
Research limitations/implications – The study’s implications are limited to the higher education
respondents’ organizations. However, the results of the study provide some insight into the impact of
leadership paradigms on improvement work in these higher education settings, where an average of
5.6 paradigms of concern and 114 paired associations were selected.
Originality/value – Much has been written about the explicit elements of the improvement cycle,
the processes and outputs of organizational systems. While the improvement elements of inputs are
more tacit and harder to deﬁne, examining them via force ﬁeld analysis can be extremely helpful in
total quality management work and leadership development.
Keywords Leadership, Continuous improvement, Higher education, Total quality management,
Baldrige Award, United States of America
Paper type Research paper
Improvement work in higher education hinges upon some notion of total quality
management (TQM), and the subsequent need for organizational development to
overcome gaps from dysfunction. Although there is debate as to how embroiled higher
education should be in a market driven model of TQM, on a continuum of customer as
student (Eagle and Brennan, 2007) to a blended version of customer as
student/institution to customer as institution, higher education is clearly concerned
about quality and continues to examine ways to improve it. Hence, the TQM debate for
higher education is not about its usefulness, but about the scope, focus and viewpoint
of TQM that should prevail to drive improvement. For example, the relevance of TQM
in higher education is explored by Aly and Akpovi (2001, p. 127) and they state, “In the
past ten years, US institutions have become either partially or totally involved in TQM
implementation”, based on a study with surprising results as to the extent of interest
that TQM implementation holds for higher education in the state of California, USA.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received February 2011
Accepted May 2011
Quality Assurance in Education
Vol. 19 No. 3, 2011
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited