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CONTENTS1. Introduction 22. Philosophical Streams in Management Research 33. Past Researches on QCs in the Service Sector and their Limitations 44. Problems in Initiating and Sustaining QCs in the Service Sector 65. Social Constructionism as Research Philosophy 86. Research Methodology and Methods 87. Value of Ethnography and Participant Observation in the study ofteams 108. Summary 11References 12

质量圈(QCS)是小团体的志愿者做类似或相关的工作,定期召开会议,识别,分析和解决产品质量和生产问题,并改善整体的操作(Munchus,1983)。御用的支持者认为这种参与技术用于广泛的积极成果,无论是在制造或服务行业。然而,实证研究指出,在服务部门的质控质控点出现,那些在制造(寺戴尔,1989年Beaumont等,1996; Solis等人,1998年;·阿卜杜勒 – 阿齐兹等人面对更多的困难。 2000年ABO血型Alhol等,2005)。在本文中,它的目的是研究的因素是负责服务部门的御用问题的实施和研究方法等因素,价值观,信仰,社会交往会影响他们的实现和性能。此外,它的目的是探讨不同的意见,QC成员御用的目的和宗旨,在服务行业的御用实施的影响。为了研究这个问题,本研究论文提出了一个解释途径。在解释选择这个特别的方法的原因,重要的是要提供的一般看法不同的哲学立场和基本的研究方法和设计管理研究。在组织学定义广泛的领域中,一些不同的方法来探索和研究的证据。根据Burrel)和摩根士丹利(Morgan(1979)的社会科学家们的工作方式通过显式或隐式的假设,社会世界和自然的方式,它可能是调查他们的主题。现实的性质不同的假设,价值观和信仰,什么是有效的知识倾斜的社会科学家对不同的研究方法和研究工具。关于如何最好地进行研究,在过去的几十年里,一直从事科学和方法论的哲学家,在长期辩论。两种方法,实证主义和诠释学传统的学术研究中心。这些方法反映了两种根本不同的思想流派,被广泛采用作为管理科学的认识论立场。因此,每个需要被理解为科学家们开展的业务和管理方面的研究(卡拉米等人,2006年,桑德斯等人,2007)。接下来,将说明这两种方法的基波分量。

1. Introduction

Quality circles (QCs) are small groups of volunteers doing similar or related work, which meet regularly to identify, analyse, and solve product-quality and production problems, and to improve general operations (Munchus, 1983). QCs proponents suggest a wide array of positive results when this participation technique is used, either in manufacturing or in service sector. However, empirical research on QCs points out that QCs in the service sector appear to face additional difficulties to those in manufacturing (Temple & Dale, 1989; Beaumont et al., 1996; Solis et al., 1998; Abdul-Aziz et al., 2000; Abo- Alhol et al., 2005). In this paper, it is intended to examine the factors that are responsible for the problematic implementation of QCs in service sector and study the ways that factors such as, values, beliefs, social interaction affect their implementation and performance. Moreover, it is intended to investigate the different views of QC members about the purpose and aim of QCs, and their impact on the implementation of QCs in the service sector. This research paper adopts an interpretive approach in order to investigate the subject. Before explaining the reasons for choosing this particular approach it is important to provide a general view of the different philosophical positions and underlying research methods and designs in management research. the broadly defined field of organisational science, a number of different approaches to inquiry and research are in evidence. According to Burrel and Morgan (1979) social scientists approach their subject via explicit or implicit assumptions about the nature of the social world and the way in which it may be investigated. Different assumptions, values and beliefs about the nature of reality and what constitutes valid knowledge incline social scientists towards different research methodologies and research tools. During the last decades, philosophers of science and methodologists have been engaged in long standing debates about how best to conduct research. Traditional academic research has centred on two approaches, positivism and interpretivism. These approaches reflect two fundamentally different schools of thought and are widely adopted as epistemological positions in management sciences. Thus, each needs to be understood for scientists to undertake business and management research (Karami et al., 2006, Saunders et al., 2007). Following, the fundamental component of these two approaches will be illustrated.

2. Philosophical Streams in Management Research

Positivism, is the “epistemological position that advocates working with an observable social reality” (Saunders et al., 2007). Positivists believe that there is certain objectivity about reality which is quantifiable, independent of the researcher and as Bassey (1990:19) suggests, exists "irrespective of people". There are two assumptions; an ontological assumption, that reality is external and objective (naïve realism); and second, an epistemological assumption, that knowledge is only of significance if it based on observation of this external reality (Easterby-Smith et al., 2002). Moreover, positivism holds that an accurate and value-free knowledge of things is possible (Fisher, 2004) and according to theorists (Giedymin, 1975) positivism in the “strict” sense means that social sciences have basically the same aims and methods as the natural sciences. As a result, the collected data tend to be numerical and are open to interpretation by use of statistics and mathematical analysis. Typically within organisations such data are gathered through surveys, questionnaires and tests (Skinner et al., 2000). Another important component of the positivist approach to research is the reduction of science to statements about directly observable facts and the elimination as meaningless of any sentence that is neither analytic nor empirical (Morgan & Smirchich, 1980). In other words, phenomena are better understood if they are reduced into the simplest possible elements. Furthermore, positivism uses quantitative and experimental methods to test hypothetical deductive generalizations (Burrell and Morgan, 1993; Remenyi et al, 1998). Credible data are data that you can observe and are produced by using existing theory to develop and test hypotheses. The hypotheses will be tested and confirmed, in whole or part, or refuted, leading to the further development of theory and general laws which may then be tested by further research (Saunders et al., 2007). In research terminology, positivist research is said to be generalisable, which means that a finding in one situation can be predicted to recur in another given the same set of variables and conditions. Thus, it is necessary to select samples of sufficient size, from which inferences may be drawn about the wider population (Easterby-Smith et al., 2002). In addition, because of the reliability of the data positivists utilize them to predict what will happen in the future (Allan, 1998).

On the other hand, interpretivism is an epistemology that advocates that it is necessary for the researcher to understand differences between humans in their role as social actors (Saunders et al., 2007). Interpretivist researchers perceive multiple realities since reality is perceived as a construct of the human mind. In a world open to different interpretations of what is real no one reality exists irrespective of individuals (Allan, 1998). Moreover, interpretivist research is perceived as a process of describing, interpreting and seeking understanding and possibilities, in order to reach a shared meaning, and not as a search for causal relationships, external causes or fundamental laws (Amaratunga et al, 2002). The nature of the approach and the data collected by interpretivists preclude predictions being made on the basis of the research undertaken. Interpretivist research tends to centre on singularities, an account of particular events or a specific business or location, although they will categorise and label the processes for dealing with particulars. A feature of interpretivist research is that it is difficult to understand how others make sense of things unless you have an insightful knowledge of your own values and thinking processes. In research terms, this knowledge is known as reflexivity (Fisher, 2004; Mantzaris, 2004). Interpretivist research is therefore not generalisable to other situations in the same way as positivist research. However, the findings can be said to be 'relatable' and to have a wider resonance (Mason, 1996), such that they can shape the work of others in situations where there are sufficient similarities to the original research. Such research may involve prolonged contact with people and groups in their everyday situations. The data can be collected by using interviews, focus groups or observation and may be in the form of spoken or written words (Fisher, 2004).

3. Past Researches on QCs in the Service Sector and their Limitations

Both epistemological positions and the methods they include are important in management sciences and research. However, according to Hoskisson et al (1999), although, case study based approaches and the use of qualitative methods had dominated the early history of management, the dominance of questionnaires as data collection tools suggests a leaning towards positivism, and quantification in knowledge construction in management. This tendency is also apparent in studies and researches concerning QCs in both service and industry sector. As a result, most of the empirical researches on this quality management practice adopt a positivist approach and use quantitative methods to analyse their data. There are several studies that examine and investigate the use of QMP (Quality Management Practices) and QCs in the service sector (Badri et al., 1995; Sillince et al., 1996; Solis et al., 1998). The majority of them use questionnaires or factor analysis in order to identify and analyse a predetermined number of factors or dimensions of quality management practices that contribute to their efficient implementation. The purpose of these studies is to track down and validate a set of measures of success of QCs that can be also used and applied to other QCs, and so their employment can contribute to their efficient implementation. Similarly, other studies are concentrated on the development of models of the relationships between QMP and performance by using statistical and factor analysis (Flynn et al., 1995; Sureshchandar et al., 2001). The application of these models it is argued to contribute to the measurement of QCs performance and aim to identify areas for improvement. In addition, other researchers conducted surveys on the operating characteristics of service sector circle programmes to determine the factors that are critical in their successful introduction in service organizations (Eisen et al., 1991, Abo-Alhol, 2005). Other studies that relied on quantitative questionnaire data examined the nature and extent of employee involvement in QM through teamworking and described the methods which management used to encourage teamworking in order to enhance its performance (Rees, 1999). These researches offer useful and significant information about several characteristics of QCs and the factors that may affect their performance. Also, the positivist paradigm1 and quantitative methods are important in quality management as they can provide a wide coverage of a range of situations (Scandura & Williams, 2000). However, this information tends to be rather inflexible and artificial. Quality circles are not just a quality management practice or an employee participation technique that confront with quality problems in the workplace. They are groups of people that cooperate, communicate, exchange ideas and beliefs and consequently, a nexus of relationships is created. Data provided from quantitative tools, such as questionnaires, are superficial and do not offer adequate information about the nature of social interactions within the circles (Earterby-Smith et al., 2002). Issues of ideology, participants’ behaviour, values and beliefs, as well as employees’ view of the purpose and use of QCs are difficult to evaluate, but are critical and determinant for the successful implementation of these quality programmes. The efficient and successful implementation of QCs cannot be determined by a particular number of factors. It is also difficult to categorize and identify those factors, since social interactions, attitudes and individuals’ perception about the use of QCs, are far too complex to be investigated and analysed using quantitative data. Moreover, statistical models and instruments are unable to interpret human feelings and to provide a holistic view, through the participants’ own words and perceptions, of how they understand, account for and act within QCs. Thus, in a social environment with no concrete structure where human beings actively contribute to its creation, quantitative methods become increasingly unsatisfactory and inappropriate (Morgan & Smirchich,1980). While research into resources and processes is predominantly of a positivist nature, enquiry into leadership, teamwork, people management and policy is located within the interpretivist epistemology (Allan, 1998). In order to further analyse the adopted epistemological approach and to explain the reasons for considering it to be more appropriate than the positivist approach, it is important to indicate some of the problems that QCs in the service sector face. Getting an insight into these problems will give a better understanding of their real nature and will support our view that the interpretivist approach is more appropriate for investigating the implementation of QCs and for tracking down the sources of these problems.#p#分页标题#e#

4. Problems in Initiating and Sustaining QCs in the Service Sector

Some of the problems in initiating and sustaining QCs in service sector are closely related to the nature of the white collar work. White collar work is less routine than manual work and so, it is less easy to build service QCs into the everyday working pattern. Moreover, service QC members find difficulties in identifying projects which would involve every circle member and often there is a tendency to tackle over-ambitious projects. It is also more difficult to organise meetings and there can be problems if there are not sufficient staff to man the work area whilst circle meetings are held (Temple & Dale, 1989). Apart from the problems related to the nature of the work, the main deficiencies are located in members’ attitude towards QCs and its concept. White collar workers can be very sceptical about the concept and believe it is only appropriate to blue collar workers. There is sometimes a lack of management support for the concept as the projects chosen by service quality circles are often less tangible and quantifiable than projects tackled by manufacturing quality circles. Therefore, service QC members find the title "quality circles" confusing, because they do not see quality as something to which they can contribute. In addition, white collar workers are often more used to working alone and as a result they have to be trained in working in groups. Moreover, even if the training requirements in service QCs are similar to those for manufacturing QCs and the need to understand basic circle techniques is the same, service QC members often show impatience with those techniques which they regard as beneath them. Employees in service sector see themselves as better educated, more self directed and expected to make independent contribution to the problem- solving process in the organisation. Another important characteristic of service QCs is that the role of the facilitator2 is more crucial in comparison to manufacturing ones, as they are likely to have to do far more to motivate the members and to co-ordinate their activities. So, the members of service QCs often need more attention from the facilitator (Lees & Dale, 1988). Taking into account the aforementioned problems some interesting questions arise. For example, since the products in the service sector are intangible how do participants perceive quality and how do different interpretations affect the performance of the circle? Is there a lack of proper training or is it members’ attitude towards QCs that make their implementation problematic? How do they feel as members of this group and what is the purpose of their participation? Do they, because of their better education and their tendency to independently contribute to problem solving, react negatively and create competitive relationships between them and the facilitator? Moreover, service organisations are, by nature, labour-intensive and as such have more potential for circles than do more capital-intensive manufacturing environments but still why they face problems? In what ways does social interaction within the circles affect its efficient implementation? Of course, these are only some of the many issues that emerge regarding the problems that service QCs face. The nature of these issues dictates another approach to the subject since positivism and quantitative methods are inadequate and failed to give satisfactory answers to these kinds of questions. Therefore, in order to address these issues and to further analyse the subject, the appropriate epistemological approach is interpretivism. In particular, this paper will adopt a research philosophy that follows from the interpretivist position, social constructionism.

5. Social Constructionism as Research Philosophy

Social constructionism stems from the view that the social world is socially constructed (Saunders et al., 2007) and it is focused on the ways that people understand the world especially through sharing their experience with others via the medium of language. The reality is determined by people rather than by objective factors. Hence the purpose of the social scientist is not to gather facts and measure them or measure how often certain patterns occur, but to appreciate the different constructions and meanings that people place upon their experience (Easterby-Smith et al., 2002). Therefore, research is perceived as a process of studying individuals' attitudes, perceptions, behaviour, feelings and the impact of specific situations on the way they act as well as the meaning that people place upon their experience (Amaratunga et al., 2002; Easterby-Smith, 2002; Karami et al., 2006). Thus, in social constructionism it is necessary to explore the subjective meanings motivating the actions of social actors in order for the researcher to be able to understand these actions (Saunders et al., 2007). This paper aims to evaluate the impact of changes in quality circle members’ behaviour on results of their participation in the circles, to explore the different constructions and meanings that people place upon their experience as service QC members and to investigate the factors that drive members of service QCs to act in a particular way. Thus, social constructionism is in our opinion the appropriate position and which will enable us to get insight into the mechanisms of QCs and the impact of the human factor on them.

6. Research Methodology and Methods

The adopted methodology in this study is ethnography and participant observation, while semi-structured interviews will be used as method of gathering our data and in order to supplement the information provided by the observation.Ethnography is a research strategy that focuses upon describing and interpreting the social world through first-hand field study. The purpose of ethnography is to describe and explain the social world the research subjects inhabit in the way on which they describe and explain it. Although not a dominant research strategy in business, ethnography is very appropriate if the researcher wishes to gain insights about a particular context and better understand and interpret it from the perspective of those involved (Saunders et al., 2007). Researchers into management and organisations become ethnographers by working for a time in the business and the organisations they study and as a result, they become participant observers (Fisher, 2007). In participant observation the researcher attempts to participate fully in the lives and activities of subjects under study in order to understand the meaning and significances that people put upon the behaviour of themselves and others (Wisker, 2001). We will adopt the role of ‘’participant as observer” which means that our identity as researchers would be clear to all concerned and the subjects will be aware of the fact that this is a field study (Saunders et al., 2007). This will enable us to enter in the setting, in this case in a service QC, become part of the group and capture what people actually do, rather than what they say they do. Our objective is to fully involve and take part in order to see what people are doing, and why and this will enable the registration of experiences and behaviours at first hand in a detailed way, from the “inside” (Evered & Reis-Luis, 1981). In addition, adopting this role allows the data to be gathered in a way that we are not covert and we will be benefited by determining from the members of the circle “what the problem really is”. Taking the time and effort to listen to the people doing the job can lead to valuable insight and deep understanding of the situation and their attitude towards QCs. It is our opinion that this methodology can provide us with all the appropriate qualitative information and data in order to investigate QCs in an efficient way. Finally, the semi- structured interviews will provide us with further detailed information and will supplement the data gathered by the observation. Members of QCs as well as facilitators will be interviewed in order to describe their experience as members and it will give us the opportunity to examine their personal views about the concept and purpose of QCs. Moreover, interviews will provide us feedback in order to compare our understanding and analysis of the situation with the views of members, since the conclusions of our observation will be discussed.#p#分页标题#e#

7. Value of Ethnography and Participant Observation in the study of teams

In general, there is a lack of researches using ethnography and participant observation to study QCs and especially QCs in the service sector. However, this methodology is widely used in studying teams in organisations. (McAdam & Leonard, 1999; Hamde, 2002; Thamhain, 2003; Mei et al. 2004; McAdam & Galloway, 2005). The plethora of the existing research on teams that uses this methodology shows that the nature and characteristics of teams dictate the use of qualitative data in order to investigate the ways they operate and the patterns of relationships they include. These field studies attempted to determine the principle factors that influence performance of teams and identify specific barriers and drivers to efficient team performance. They also provided insight into the type of an organisational environment that is conducive to team performance. Furthermore, the purpose of these researches is to illuminate the complexities and challenges involved in managing teams towards specific results, and they indicate that factors that drive performance are derived from the human side. Effective communication among team members, good team spirit, mutual trust and respect, low interpersonal conflict seem to unify teams towards desirable results and enhances commitment towards organisations’ missions. QCs as quality improvement teams need to be studied from this point of view and it should be examined how these factors as well as individuals’ perception and interpretation of what is happening in the circles affects performance and their efficient implementation. The existing researches on teams in organisations as well as their findings suggest that participant observation is the appropriate methodology if the object of the research is to examine factors that influence performance on teams, since the major factor that drives performance is derived from the human side. However, interviews and participant observation is not an easy case. They need time to be conducted and intimacy with members of QCs may create observer bias and threaten the reliability and validity of the research conclusions (Hammersley & Atkinson, 1983). Moreover, it is important for researchers to realise that they may have very different view of the social interactions observed within the work groups which also affect the reliability of the findings. There is also the danger that changes of the nature of members’ behaviour may occur because of the fact that they are conscious of being observed (Keith & Manzi, 2000). Although these methodologies and methods have some limitations, they are the most appropriate for studies and investigation of teams organisation. According to Porter and Tanner (1996) the interpretivist approach is important in quality management, particularly where teamwork in a specific organization is the focus of a study. As a result, the study of QCs requires the adoption of the interprevist position and in particular social constructionism and the use of ethnography and participant observation, since existing researches on QCs based on positivism and quantitative methods have failed to explore social aspects, as relationships and individuals’ views that affect the implementation and performance of these circles. And finally, as Sondak (2002:1) critically mentions “to the extent that group researchers adopt a methodology of social science that assumes that human beings are reducible to observable qualities subject to external causes, we have not progressed much from Taylor’s time and motion times”.

8. Summary

This paper intends to examine the factors that are responsible for the problematic implementation of QCs in service sector and studies the ways that factors such as, values, beliefs, and social interaction affect their implementation and performance. Moreover, it is intended to investigate the different views of QC members about the purpose and aim of QCs, and their impact on the implementation of QCs in the service sector. The nature and the problems that service QCs face dictate the adoption of an interpretivist approach and specifically the social constructionism. The methodology that is used is ethnography and which is based on participant observation, while the method employed to supplement our data is semi-structured interviews to the members of the circle and the facilitators. Although positivist approaches are dominant in the research of quality circles, it is our opinion that this epistemological position and the data provided by the use of quantitative methods, are superficial and do not offer adequate information about the nature of social interactions within the circles and the way they influence QCs. While research into resources and processes is predominantly of a positivist nature, enquiry into leadership, people management and policy requires the adoption of the interpretivist and in this paper, the social constructionist approach. Past research on service QCs that was based in the positivist approach failed to explore aspects such as the impact of changes in quality circle members’ behaviour on results of their participation in the circles, or the different constructions and meanings that people place upon their experience as service QC members and the factors that drive members of service QCs to act in a particular way. All these factors have a major impact on the implementation and performance of QCs and this research paper will attempt to fill that void. Word Count: 3,963


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