Evolution and implementation of quality management practices in the manufacturing sector in Eastern Europe after the end of communism: The case of Bulgaria

Svetoslav Georgiev*, Seiichi Ohtaki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to answer the following three questions: what influence has the centrally planned economy and Soviet-style manufacturing had on the evolution and implementation of quality management practices in Bulgaria’s manufacturing sector since the end of the communism; have Bulgaria and its businesses been able to embrace modern quality management philosophies such as TQM, which at times preach the exact opposite philosophies of the Soviet-style manufacturing; and if so, how advanced is the quality mindset of Bulgarian manufacturing businesses today – 24 years after the end of communism? Design/methodology/approach – The paper relies mainly on qualitative research methods. The authors have opted for exploratory approach. Besides an array of articles from scholarly journals, books, and conference proceedings, the authors have relied on five in-depth, semi-structured interviews and one case study in the form of plant visit and observations. The authors have used a framed analytical approach for interpreting the empirical data. Findings – The paper argues that the slow and painful transition from a centrally planned to market economy has impeded the evolution and implementation of QM practices in Bulgaria. More precisely, haphazard reforms in education, lack of highly qualified individuals due to the brain drain in the early 1990s, and the workers’ strong resistance to change have been among the main obstacles in the case of the quality movement. Research limitations/implications – The work presented in this paper is just the beginning of a series of studies on the quality management initiatives in Bulgaria. To go deeper into the topic, the authors realize that further research in a number of different directions is required. The first direction is related to the degree of relevance of Management Sovieticus in the twenty-first century, which somehow has been completely neglected as a research topic in the last decade. The second direction lies in the aspect of the attributes of Bulgarian managers and their perception toward the importance of the role of quality today. Practical implications – Countries with similar, political, economic, and social backgrounds – former Eastern Bloc members – can profit a great deal from the authors’ work. More than 20 years since the end of communism, both researchers and entrepreneurs, especially those from the West, have been neglecting the legacy of the centrally planned economy, which has been a major reason for the great number of business failures in the region. The authors’ work seeks to awaken those who still believe that two decades are sufficient to eradicate fully the unfortunate legacy of the command economy. Originality/value – Little, not to say incremental, research on the quality initiatives in Eastern Europe (*except for Russia) has been conducted so far. As to Bulgaria, the investigation reveals no significant studies on quality management, especially ones published in English. Hence, the authors’ work is the first international study on the evolution and implementation of QM practices in Bulgaria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-829
Number of pages26
JournalInternational Journal of Quality and Reliability Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bulgarian manufacturing sector
  • Evolution of quality management
  • Management Sovieticus
  • Quality management
  • Transition economies


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