Quality Management for Sustainable Health : Methodologies, Values and Practices taken from Swedish Organizations

University dissertation from Luleå : Universitetstryckeriet

Abstract: In many Western countries today, not least in Sweden, there are a lot of organizations that have great problems with sickness absence. The costs connected to the high rates of sickness absence have also risen to alarming levels. Healthy co-workers and healthy organizations are obvious goals for many leaders, but this is not always so easy to establish. Work practices and leadership that are beneficial to co-worker health are thus vital to identify.
Studies have shown relationships between company-wide implementation of quality programs and improved co-worker satisfaction along with low co-worker turn over; in other words, co-worker health along with improved customer satisfaction and financial results. Despite the great problems concerning sickness absence, there are organizations that have been awarded prizes for excellence in leadership, internal partnership, working environment, and profitability.
The overall purposes of the research described in this thesis are to examine and describe how management and leadership can establish sustainable health among the co-workers and examine how the leadership for sustainable health is related to Quality Management. The in-depth purpose is to examine which aspects within the values derived from the quality movement are those that primarily influence the co-workers' perceived health.
The results presented can be described in three parts and are results from four case studies carried out in five different organizations. Three of the organizations have received awards for establishing good working environment, good financial results, and low sick leaves among their co- workers; the fourth received an award for the successful implementation of quality programs. The first part consists of results from case studies in three different organizations and describes how organizations can work to achieve sustainable health among their co-workers, with practical examples. The results are methodologies, values and organizational structure, which it is considered possible for other organizations to adopt in their efforts to achieve good working conditions resulting in fewer sick leaves. The second part is an attempt to investigate if leadership for sustainable health is related to Quality Management. Methodologies, leadership values, organizational structure, and general values found in organizations which have achieved sustainable health are analyzed in the light of Deming's 14 points, and a correlation is indicated. There is also correlation found between the TQM values and the co-workers' perception of their health. The third part examines which of the aspects within the values grown from the quality movement are those that influence the co-workers perceived health. The results show significant correlation between the values and the co-workers' perception of their health. Aspects found within the value "Top management commitment" were named; Empathy, Presence and Communication, Integrity, and Continuity. Within the value "Let everybody be committed" the aspects; Development, Influence and Being informed were found. These aspects are described in more detail and also in one model per value.
The result implies that the TQM values; "Top management commitment", "Improve continuously" "Let everybody be Committed" and "Focus on customers" are important for achieving healthy organizations and sustainable health among co-workers.