Chapter 2 – Understanding Theory

“Theory development is really about discovering patterns, recognizing similarities in things that appear dissimilar to others, i.e., making unexpected connections.” – Henry Mintzberg

LOGO FINALQuality IS…a recipe for connecting patterns.

Why seek criteria that will lead to a coherent quality theory with explanatory power?

If the meaning of theory is understood then the meaning of quality will follow.


As a student I always dreaded any lecture that focused on theory. I thought that learning about theory was a waste of time and energy. The lectures always seemed to leave something out, some critical connection, order if you will.  However, reasoning eventually prevailed; an effectively explicated theory had just eluded me.  After completing research for this chapter I came to the conclusion that, perhaps, certain aspects of a theory are only spotlighted in some lectures and thus fail the student in providing the opportunity to achieve a level of understanding that only a comprehensively explained theory can provide. It would be like explaining how to drive a car to an alien and leave out the purpose of the steering wheel.

But, I can assure you that we don’t, in reality, understand the meaning of various aspects of the world unless we comprehend them from the purview of theory. Theory is inherently about connection, order and understanding of phenomenon.  If profound, meaningful understanding is the objective, then theory is the tool of preference by learned men and woman.

My objective in this chapter is to help the reader understand why I have structured the book as presented in the content section of this blog. All the chapters are necessary for developing the Theory of Quality presented in the final chapter. In my book, this chapter presents the subject of theory from six perspectives in thirty-two pages.

Perspective One: I will identify principles of theory development from the perspectives of five authorities on the subject.

Perspective Two: I will summarize an article written by Dr. David Whetten, editor, Academy of Management Review (AMR). The article is entitled, What Constitutes a Theoretical Contribution?

Perspective Three: We will examine an article published by the editors of AMR entitled, Editor’s Comments: Developing Novel Theoretical Insight from Reviews of Existing Theory and Research

Perspective Four: Comments will be considered, once again, made by the editors of AMR regarding; The Challenges of Building Theory by Combining Lenses.

Perspective Five: We will examine an article accepted by AMR as constituting a theoretical contribution.. The article was a collaboration written by Dr John C, Anderson, Dr. Manus Rungtusanatham, and Dr. Roger G. Schroeder. The article was titled, A Theory of Quality Management Underlying the Deming Management Method.

Perspective Six: We will look at theory development from the point of view of Dr. Henry Mintzberg.  Dr. Mintzberg was asked to contribute to Great Minds in Management, the Process of Theory Development, edited by Ken G. Smith and Michael A. Hitt, 2005. Mintzberg’s contribution was chapter seventeen, Developing Theory about Development of Theory.

In this blog, it will simply not be practical to present the entirety of all six perspectives. Instead I will answer the question, “What is Theory?” and provide a recipe for success based on the material in my book.


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