Total quality programmes within the large UK privatised organisations between 1983-1997

Basra, Prabhjot Kaur (2002) Total quality programmes within the large UK privatised organisations between 1983-1997. Doctoral thesis, London Guildhall University.


This dissertation takes the form of a case study review of Total Quality Programmes (TQPs) - defined as a suite of organisation wide change initiatives with a continuous improvement orientation - within seven large privatised (plus a candidate for privatisation) organisations in the UK between the period 1983-1997. Four of them operate in the service sector, four are manufacturing or production oriented. The smallest organisation employed between 7,500 and 8,000 staff, the largest between 125,000 and 240,000 staff over the period covered by the study. All of them experienced competition without governmental protection and seven of them were subjected to major downsizing. For the purposes of this research a privatised company is defined as having involved a transfer from Government ownership to private ownership since 1979, with many of the general public holding shares. Supported by a comprehensive theoretical and literature overview, the primary research focuses on identifying, comparing and contrasting the key features and drivers associated with these programmes. This was through a detailed review of company documentation and other available data covering the period in question, supplemented by the views of a small but informed cross-section of employees.

Employee perceptions of concepts and issues surrounding quality and TQPs within privatised UK companies were initially investigated through a survey. The sample comprised 200 questionnaires distributed to staff in 20 selected companies, 19 of which had been privatised since 1979, the other being a candidate for privatisation. The questionnaire consisted of 55 questions of a tick box format with an estimated completion time of 20 minutes. Opportunity was given to respondents to expand their response by way of written commentary. Underpinning the questionnaire design was a set of hunches about quality and TQPs in privatised organisations, based upon both the researcher's prior extensive experience as a participant in one of them and the theoretical overview. These hunches were composited into eight propositions and subjected to a critical scrutiny as part of the analysis of questionnaire responses. Eight of the organisations were then chosen for detailed case study analysis, none of which had been privatised before 1983. Further opinions were elicited by means of a small number of 1-1 interviews conducted with representative staff from. each of these. For each of the case study organisations the researcher conducted an audit trail, by means of company documentation and other sources, on quality in general and TQPs in particular. A chronological account was then undertaken of the history of TQPs in each organisation from 1983-1997.

The initial survey and the chronological accounts surfaced a number of common themes and approaches associated with TQPs as well as a mean average of25 TQ related programmes per organisation with over 200 different names being used. Key themes and key words across the programmes were isolated and looked at in tum to identify origins of, inspiration behind and objectives of TQPs. Of particular interest was the identification of persuasive terminology used to convey the quality message and persuade people of the need to change. The concept of change through continuous improvement, or associated technology, was common across each case study organisation.

Anderson et aI., (1994) carried out a Delphi study with a panel of seven members (both academe and industry) to elicit the concepts underlying the Deming Management Method. They developed a set of seven concepts defined as the building blocks of their proposed theory of quality management. They suggest that process management practices contribute to continuous improvement of processes, products and services, and employee fulfilment. Reed et aI., (1996) developed a framework for analysing the relationship between firm orientation and TQM content from a contingency perspective. Their model indicates that some organisations have a greater customer orientation focusing upon market advantage and increased revenue, whereas others have more of an operations orientation focusing upon process efficiency and reduced costs. They restrict it to the manufacturing sector but suggest that it could apply to firms in service industries.

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