Regulatory decoupling and the effectiveness of the ISO 9001 quality management system in the construction sector in the UK – a case study analysis

Tara Brooks, Joseph Gunning, John P. Spillane, John Cole

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Abstract

Construction quality defects are a widespread and recurrent industry problem; the ISO 9001 Quality Management System (QMS) has been proposed as a tool to improve construction quality. It is one of the most widely adopted management systems worldwide and is a prerequisite for many construction tenders. Institutional theory uses the concept of regulatory decoupling to probe “performative” implementation of a standard or regulation; this theory has not to date been applied to ISO 9001 QMS implementation in the construction industry. In this context, the aim of this research is to investigate the extent of regulatory decoupling and its impact on the effectiveness of implementation of the ISO 9001 QMS in 3 case study construction organizations. 34 interviews are undertaken across three case study organizations and analyzed using an abductive grounded theory approach. In all three case study organizations, regulatory decoupling between the operation of the companies and their ISO 9001 system is taking place. Disconnection of the QMS to quality “on the ground” is evident. A model showing factors that foster regulatory decoupling is produced. The picture of compliance is complex and continually evolving. The study concludes with recommendations for industry to reconnect QMS systems to site operation and management.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConstruction Management Economics
Early online date11 Oct 2021
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 11 Oct 2021

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