Pursuing organisational excellence as a key driver in achieving organizational learning

Mphuthi, Teboho Salmon (2012-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Volatility, globalisation, turbulence and constant change are some of the challenges facing the business environment today. Companies have proposed and tested many strategies to cope with the unpredictable world of business. In this thesis, a project by an anonymous South African company (The Company) to respond by improving organisational excellence is analysed and evaluated against its success in fostering organisational learning. The Company initiated a project in which Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma and Clear Leadership Engagement were combined in search of operational excellence. In Chapter 1, the context is set out. The research question is formulated as follows: to what extent does organisational learning depend on organisational excellence? Chapter 2 discusses and defines key process concepts. These are: Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma and Clear Leadership Engagement Models. The chapter also outlines the key practices and the shortcomings of each process. Chapter 3 discusses and defines the conceptual building blocks of the thesis. These are the notions of organisational learning and learning organisation. Tools used to diagnose whether an organisation is learning are introduced together with an Organisational Learning model to be used to assess the relationship between Organisational Learning and Operational Excellence. Chapter 4 focuses on the project of the Company – the Operational Excellence “journey”. How the journey was conceived, the players were involved and steps taken to drive it are described. In Chapter 5, the combination of Lean Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing and the engagement models that the Company used, is assessed. The chapter attempts to unravel the reasons behind this combination and determine how this combination worked in practice. It is through this chapter that an attempt is made to explain the logic of this unusual combination. Other businesses have implemented different forms of improvement in isolation, but it is rare to find a company that combines operational improvement methodologies with an engagement model. In Chapter 6, all the theories and empirical evidence come together. In this chapter, the relationship between Pursuing Operational Excellence (POE) and Organisational Learning is tested. The author uses the seven salient characteristics of learning organisations, distilled by the researcher, to prove the positive relationship between Organisational Learning and Operational Excellence. Through this chapter, the researcher answers the question whether a positive link exists between POE and Organisational Learning. It was clear from the research that there is indeed a positive link between POE and Organisational Learning. What the research could not determine is the degree or the rate of learning linked to POE, or what percentage of learning the organisation achieved over a period of time.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Volatiliteit, globalisering, turbulensie en konstante verandering is ‘n uitdaging waarmee die sake-omgewing deesdae te doen kry. Baie strategieë is voorgestel en getoets deur maatskappye ten einde by te bly in die onvoorspelbare sake-wêreld. In hierdie tesis word ‘n projek wat in ‘n anonieme Suid-Afrikaanse maatskappy (The Company) uitgevoer is om op die uitdagings te reageer, by wyse van ‘n dryf na operasionele uitnemendheid, geanaliseer en geëvalueer aan die hand van die mate waarin sodanige aksies organisatoriese leer bevorder het. The Company het ‘n projek geloods waarin Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma en Clear Leadership Engagement gekombineer is op soek na operasionele uitnemendheid. In Hoofstuk 1 word die konteks uiteengesit en die navorsingsvraag geformuleer as die vraag in watter mate organisatoriese leer deur operasionele uitnemendheid bepaal word. In Hoofstuk 2 word die kern prosesbegrippe bespreek en gedefinieer. Dit is: Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma en Clear Leadership Engagement models. Die hoofstuk gee ook ’n oorsig oor die hoofpraktyke en tekortkominge van elke model. Hoofstuk 3 bespreek die konseptuele basis van die navorsing. Dit is die konsepte: Organisatoriese Leer en Lerende Organisasie. Instrumente om te diagnoseer of ’n organisasie leer, word voorgestel, asook ’n model van Organisatoriese Leer wat gebruik sal word om die verband tussen Organisatoriese Leer en Operasionele Uitmuntendheid te bepaal. Hoofstuk 4 fokus op die projek wat The Company onderneem het. In hierdie hoofstuk word die “reis” na operasionele uitnemendheid beskryf; hoe dit ontstaan het, die rolspelers wat betrokke was en die stappe wat op die reis geneem is. In Hoofstuk 5 beoordeel die kombinasie van Lean Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing en die engagement modelle wat deur die Company gebruik is. Die hoofstuk probeer ontrafel wat die motivering vir hierdie kombinasie is en hoe dit in die praktyk uitgewerk het. In die hoofstuk word gepoog om die logika van hierdie ongewone kombinasie te peil. Ander ondernemings het verskillende vorms van verbetering in isolasie geïmplementeer, maar dit is selde dat ’n mens ’n maatskappy vind wat operasionele verbeteringsmetodologieë kombineer met ’n engagement model. In Hoofstuk 6 kom al die teorieë en empiriese gegewens bymekaar. Dit is in hierdie hoofstuk waar die verhouding tussen die nastrewing van Operasionele Uitnemendheid en Organisatoriese Leer getoets word. Die navorser gebruik die sewe kenmerke van Lerende Organisasies wat tevore geïdentifiseer is om ’n positiewe verband tussen Organisatoriese Leer en Operasionele Uitnemendheid aan te toon. Uit die navorsing was dit duidelik dat daar ’n positiewe verband is tussen die nastrewing van Operasionele Uitnemendheid en Organisatoriese Leer. Maar, wat die navorsing nie kon beantwoord nie, is die graad of spoed van leer wat met die nastrewing van Operasionele Uitnemendheid verbind kan word, of watter persentasie leer die organisasie oor ’n gegewe tydperk bereik het.

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