Lies, Damned Lies And Quality Management Systems: A Pilot Case Study

Tara Brooks, John Spillane

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Citation (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


An externally accredited ISO 9001 Quality Management System is a prerequisite for tendering for many public-sector projects, leaving SMEs little choice but to implement a such a system. A link between the motivation behind implementation of a Quality Management System and its effectiveness has been found through quantitative analysis of survey results in recent studies. These studies have suggested that systems deployed for external reasons, such as marketing purposes or to access tendering opportunities, may lead to superficial implementation. However, no studies have examined the mechanisms behind the link between motivation for implementation and Quality Management System effectiveness, in detail and in context using case study analysis. This paper aims to fill this gap in knowledge.

The case study examines the effectiveness of implementation of a Quality Management System in a mid-sized Mechanical Electrical and Plumbing contractor in Northern Ireland. Five interviews with key individuals are undertaken and analysed using qualitative analysis software. The company’s Quality Management System documents are used for comparison with actual practice, with observations made of Quality Management System records at site and head office.

The findings indicate that, although they take great pride in the quality of their work, most interviewees perceive a disconnect between the Quality Management System and the delivery of quality ‘on the ground.’ The inclusion of irrelevant procedures fosters the perception of the system as a paperwork exercise required only to maintain accreditation. This leads to the situation where ‘stretching the truth,’ backdating documents and deception in ISO 9001 procedures become commonplace in the organisation. The desire to hold ISO 9001 accreditation for the ‘certificate on the wall’ creates a culture which undermines its implementation and gives tacit permission to take shortcuts to retain accreditation.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication33rd Annual Association of Researchers in Construction Management (ARCOM) Conference: Proceedings
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-9955463-1-8
Publication statusPublished - 05 Sept 2017


  • ISO 9001
  • deception
  • Quality Management Systems
  • Quality Control


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