Naturalizing Quality Management: A problem of organizing in processes of change

Abstract: Various studies have investigated success factors, the effects of organizational contexts, key issues for sustainability, and the financial impact of the quality management (QM) trend in industry. However, few studies of QM in practice build on experiences and data collected as an employee, as well as data collected through interviews after leaving the company. This thesis is grounded in three persons? complementary experiences from taking part in the development at Fagersta Stainless AB (FSAB) between 1984 and 2000: the quality and development manager between 1984 and 2000, an associate professor facilitating the TQM development between 1994 and 2000, and myself as an employed project manager and change leader between 1997 and 2000. During our investigations, one problem intrigued us, concerning the understanding of why principles, practices and techniques become or do not become part of people?s natural ways of working. This thesis terms it ?the problem of naturalizing quality management?. The purpose of this thesis is to develop an understanding of the problem of naturalizing quality management. Four complementary papers contribute in fulfilling this purpose. The purpose of paper 1 is to describe the evolution of QM at FSAB between 1984 and 2000, in order to gain a longitudinal view of the development and the context of interrelated changes. The purpose of paper 2 is to examine the development of QM in the perspective of ongoing company development processes. The purpose of paper 3 is to elaborate on the problem of naturalizing QM. Finally, the purpose of paper 4 is to develop an understanding of the problem of naturalizing QM. Quality management is defined as a matter of constantly orientating and taking actions to fulfil, and preferably exceed, customer needs and expectations, by developing, applying and adapting value-adding principles, practices and techniques. This thesis suggests that by recognizing the variation in how people are orientating and taking actions, we can develop a shared view that can facilitate the development, application and adaptation of value-adding principles, practices and techniques. Fourteen modes of organizing ? specializing and integrating, ?ideal state? and emergence, conformity and learning, exploration and exploitation, stability and flexibility, procedure and process, ?in theory? and ?in action?? are suggested to be important in understanding the variation in the ways that people are orientating and taking actions in their work. Through these modes, people are addressing new ideas, problems or opportunities in a variety of ways and this creates tensions that may be beneficial or problematic. This thesis proposes that managers and consultants can get better results from an investment and its facilitation if they recognize and act on patterns in the ways that people are orientating and taking actions. A question is how to do so, which is one interesting topic for future research.

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