Quality Management Competencies-in-use : exploring competence and practice perspectives on quality management work

Abstract: Quality management is an established, widespread and well-researched management concept. Yet, surprisingly little research can be found on understanding the potential for action that is required in order to perform quality management work. The field of quality management has a strong emphasis not only on a customer and supplier focus (external), but also on a process focus (internal). This creates a constant challenge in the way in which quality management is conceived and realised. Another challenge is reflected in current research that describes the need for conceptual change in quality management due to extensive ongoing changes in society and the business environment. The nature and pace of technological development, coupled with changes in social behaviour, continuously bring out new customer needs and new ways for customers to interact with the producers of goods and services. This requires adaptive and innovative approaches for organisations, in order to stay competitive and relevant.This thesis uses competence-based and practice-based perspectives to better understand the requirements placed on quality management in meeting these challenges. It investigates what quality management work is and what properties must exist, in terms of competence and practice, in order to make quality management work possible. The purpose of this thesis is, therefore, to explore how the theoretical perspectives of competence and practice can contribute to an increased understanding of what is required to perform quality management work. Three research questions are posed and answered. The first research question concerns the nature of quality management work and how its key factors may be characterised; the second research question deals with competencies of quality management and how these are interrelated with quality management work; the third research question concerns how the interplay between quality management competencies can be understood. The research questions are answered by interpreting the findings of five papers included in the thesis, using a conceptual framework.The results of the thesis suggest two main directions of quality management work: expansive and adaptive quality management work. Expansive work is characterised by explorative practice, radical change to existing processes or the development of new processes, a logic of development, an orientation towards development and innovation, a striving to increase external efficiency and a striving to increase process variation. Adaptive work is characterised by exploitative practice, incremental change to existing processes, a logic of performance, an orientation towards goals and productivity, a striving towards internal efficiency and a striving to decrease process variation. Quality management competencies relate to quality management work in combining role dependency and discretion. Role dependency signifies the potential and capability to assume multiple role-responsibilities. Discretion is the ‘freedom of movement’ for quality practitioners to engage in practices and choose quality management work directions according to task and situation. The interplay between quality management competencies is understood as the combined effects of two competence antecedents: individual and/or collective dispositions to change and learning. This thesis extends research on quality management by increasing our knowledge and understanding of the requirements needed, not only to select and perform existing quality management practices, but also to adopt and engage in practices where emergence is accommodated by ambidexterity.

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