Process management and sustainable development in a quality perspective : implementation and measurement related to small and medium sized enterprises

Abstract: This thesis aims at contributing to increased knowledge regarding sustainable competitive performance of small and medium sized enterprises in harmony with nature and society. The overall purpose has been specified in the following three parts: to explore implementation of statistically designed experiments, to describe experiences of introducing process management, and to contribute to the development of a conceptual framework for integration of business excellence and sustainable development, all with a focus on small and medium sized enterprises. During the last few decades the interest and industrial use of systems, tools and methodologies related to quality has grown considerably. Some of these were originally developed with the large company in mind, but today many small and medium sized organisations also try to implement them. However, management strategies developed for large organisations do not generally translate well into small and medium sized organisations. The research presented in this thesis has been divided into three research projects. An initial longitudinal study of two case companies within the industry of high performance ceramics resulted in a three step model for implementing statistical techniques, especially design of experiments. The approach adopted for the second project was a quantitative-qualitative research design divided into three parts: a mail survey of 1,500 enterprises, followed by telephone interviews with representatives of 62 of these enterprises, and finally case studies of seven selected firms. The results indicate that the proportion of small and medium sized enterprises in Sweden that has introduced process management is in the region of 10 percent of the total population. The findings were that, in general, the studied companies had not changed directly from a functional orientated organisation to a process orientated organisation. Instead many were still in, or had recently passed through, an intermediate state characterised by a team and project based organisation where focus was shifted towards internal efficiency and shorter lead times. The transitions described have been summarized schematically in a model with three different stages: starting with functions, continuing via teams and projects, and ending with processes. As a result of the third research project, suggestions are presented regarding how the requirements of critical global processes could be translated to areas of organisational concern. A conceptual business excellence model, including measurements of sustainable development, has been developed. The triple bottom line of economy, environment and ethics (3E) are proposed as main dimensions for measuring sustainable organisational performance.