Towards a unifying theory of management standard implementation: The case of ISO 9001/ISO 14001

Albena Ivanova, John Gray, Kingshuk Sinha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Purpose-The purpose of this paper is to develop an integrated theoretical framework of the interrelation of the key success factors in the process of standards implementation. Design/methodology/approach-Extensive case study work was carried out in ten American plants that had adopted ISO 9001 and or ISO 14001. First, within-case analysis captures the uniqueness of the implementation processes at each plant and leads to construction of the causal maps. Next, crosscase comparison identifies the key factors and the relationship between them, resulting in the theoretical framework. Findings-The key factors affecting implementation effectiveness include focus on internal improvement, top management support, design of the system around existing processes, use of information technology, positive employees’ attitude, and employees’ usage of the system. The resulting framework suggests three alternative pathways to effective implementation of standards: (i) incentives pathway, i.e., by providing the right incentives; (ii) integration pathway, i.e., by designing the system around existing processes; and (iii) information technology pathway, i.e., by using information technology. Research limitations/implications-The key contribution of this research is the integrated theoretical framework. Practical implications-Practically, this framework provides managers a clear depiction of the key actions required at each stage of standard implementation. Originality/value-To the best of our knowledge, this is the first integrated framework of the factors affecting standard adoption. We believe this framework is applicable to other meta-standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1269-1306
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number10
StatePublished - Sep 30 2014


  • Case study
  • Quality management

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