Purpose: The purpose of this study is to investigate the extent to which TQM has influenced the legal system in Australia, an area seldom investigated in the quality or legal literature. Design/methodology/approach: Documentary and policy analysis of legislation, rules and rulemaking documentation based on a partial application of historical-policy analysis (HPA). Textual analysis was based on Dean and Bowen's (1994) definition of TQM and Vinni's (2007) review of new public management and Swiss (1992) “reformed TQM” concepts. Findings: Australia's Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Act of 2011 and supporting legal documents such as Guidance Notes include language reflective of TQM principles, providing evidence that present-day administrative law schemes include TQM practices and tools to undergird procedures of regulatory expectations (sometimes in the form of standards), monitoring and general operations. Oftentimes, it is the supporting legal documentation where TQM practices are found and operationalized. Research limitations/implications: This is a proof-of-concept research study to determine the feasibility to identify TQM concepts within the existing language of legal statutes and supporting regulatory documentation. As such this study worked out the preliminary research challenges in performing this type of analysis. Practical implications: Understanding TQM's impact on legal systems expands the system's perspective of organizations that do not always factor in the influence government policy has on organizational behaviours and outlooks. More specifically, understanding TQM's influence sheds insight on regulatory requirements imposed on a sector and the normative aspects of regulatory compliance that impact the operations and strategic planning of organizations. Social implications: The article provides an example of how legal administrative rulemaking influences organizational operational and strategic activities to remain viable in the organization's business or industrial sector. Originality/value: There are few research papers or literature reviews pertaining to the subject of TQM concepts embedded in laws and regulations, most of which date from the 1980s through early 2000s.
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