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An organizational learning model for vocational education in the context of TQM culture October 5, 2009

Posted by Bima Hermastho in Culture Domain.

M.Y. Lam, Gary K.K. Poon, K.S. Chin. The International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management. Bradford: 2008. Vol. 25, Iss. 3; pg. 238

Abstract (Summary)

The purpose of this paper is to try to establish a relationship between organizational learning capability (OLC) and TQM culture (TC) based on a case study of a leading vocational education institution of Hong Kong, and to develop an organizational learning transformation model for vocational education in the context of TQM culture. The linkage between OLC and TC constructs is established and confirmed statistically by a structured questionnaire survey. Key TC constructs are then identified and prioritized using analytic hierarchy process (AHP) based interview, focus group, and ethnographic study to formulate an empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model for vocational education. Finally, the validity and effectiveness of the model is verified through an actual implementation case. Strong positive correlation is found between the OLC and TC constructs, while shared vision, long-term focus, and teacher involvement are identified to be the key TC constructs that can have significant impact on OLC in vocational education. It also confirms that rules orientation prohibits the creation of TQM culture, while innovative leadership does nurture its formation. An empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model for vocational education is formulated and subsequently tested through an implementation case. The result confirms that the model can effectively facilitate a transition of a traditional vocational education institution towards a learning organization for organizational excellence.

1. Introduction

Vocational education has been protected from external threats and isolated from the dictates of consumers in the past. Unfortunately this situation has changed, the Hong Kong vocation education is currently facing increased competitions, reduced funding, numerous education reforms, and coupled with greater demands for accountability from government and other stakeholders. Following the universal trends, many local vocational education institutions have already started applying TQM principles in one or more forms so as to improve their organizational effectiveness and to provide a quality education. On facing the recent rapid changes and numerous educational reforms, vocational education has come to realize the importance of flexibility, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Since organizational learning (OL) focuses on the need for organizations to adapt to changing environments, learn from the past, anticipate and respond to threats, and continuously improve and innovate to a build a desirable future, it begins to permeate into the local vocational education.

The evolutionary development and theory supports for TQM and OL are distinct but they appear to have more in common than they have in distinctiveness. However, there is little synergy developed so far between these two fields both in academic research and industrial applications. It is possibly due to the fact that both academia and industry are taking a limiting polarized view of TQM and OL, and hence not getting the benefits of linking the two ([29] McAdam et al. , 1998). Relationship between TQM and OL has been discussed in recent literatures. [13] Garvin (1991) reports that the OL concepts appear to address similar categories of the MBNQA. [7] Dervitsiotis (1998) has similar findings for the EFQM award. [26] Luthans et al. (1995) argue that TQM is tended to focus on internal processes rather than external issues, and is more reactive and adaptive than anticipative. OL envisions changes and commits to generating and transferring new knowledge and innovation. Facing uncertain and turbulent environment, it is time for organizations to go beyond TQM and to understand the nature and application of OL. TQM should be embedded in OL, but TQM is only the first step or wave in transforming and creating organizations, which continuously expand their abilities to change and shape their futures. [44] Terziovski et al. (2000) state that TQM and OL are mutually dependent. Organizations need to recognize that the continuous improvement activities as part of the TQM philosophy help creating the learning organization (LO). [27] Macher (1992) recognizes that TQM can provide an environment for OL. [14] Garvin (1993) states if TQM is practiced as a philosophy (i.e. continuous improvement) as well as a set of learning techniques (i.e. plan-do-check-act) then it can be an enabler for OL at both individual and group levels. Similarly, [31] Morrison and Terziovski (1998) recommend that TQM can be used as an enabler for creating LO. [25] Love et al. (2000) recommend that TQM is an enabler to cultivate continuous change and OL. [43] Sohal and Morrison (1995) point out that OL principles like experimentation with new approaches, knowledge transfer etc. are best realized by grounding them on TQM principles and culture. For process improvement to occur, the process of learning should take place in a series of stages with quality acting as an enabler for change ([3] Buckler, 1996). [33] Pool (2000) concludes that TQM principles in a supportive culture (i.e. a TQM culture) will enhance OL.

This study is carried out at a leading vocational education organization of Hong Kong, the Vocational Training Council (VTC), hereafter named “the Organization”, which is the largest provider of vocational education and training in Hong Kong. The Organization provides job related training and education to about 140,000 people annually, and over 340 courses at various levels from higher diploma to craft certificate are provided. In response to numerous changes and challenges, the Organization has started implementing the TQM as early as in 1998 so as to establish an organization-wide platform for quality vocational education. In the recent strategic plan ([45] VTC, 2003), the VTC has further recognized that the current organization is not flexible, adaptive, effective and efficient enough to face the recent challenges and the numerous educational reforms, and the Organization should become more entrepreneurial, adaptive and client-focused. Similar challenges are indeed experienced by other vocational education organizations, a proven OL model for building a learning organization is of imminent importance to the vocational education sector. This explains the context and rationale of conducting the present study.

2. Literature review

[16] Goetsch and Davis (2000) define TQM culture as an organizational value system that results in an environment that is conducive to the establishment and continual improvement of quality. It consists of values, traditions, procedures, and expectations that promote quality. Many literatures confirm that quality culture for TQM or TQM culture (TC) determines the effectiveness of TQM implementation and organizational performance ([36] Powell, 1995; [20] Irani et al. , 2004; [6] Chin and Pun, 2002). Recent literatures ([40] Schein, 1990; [35] Popper and Lipshitz, 2000) suggest that organizational learning (OL) mechanisms are likely to yield productive learning if they are embedded in an appropriate organizational culture or the TQM culture (TC). [12] Garavan (1997) emphasizes that enabling culture and learning structures are two essential ingredients to create LO. [5] Caudron (1993) and [41] Schein (1993) state that a supportive organizational culture is essential in nurturing LO. [33] Pool (2000) reports that there exists a significant and positive relationship between a supportive culture and TQM principles in a LO. TQM culture reinforces a set of management practices and behaviors that will exemplify and reinforce OL and TQM principles. [8] Detert et al. (2003) conduct a detailed study and have identified nine TQM culture constructs (TCCs) for the education sector, namely:

Shared vision : a shared vision and shared goals among staff members are critical for college success.

Customer focus : educational needs should be determined primarily by relevant stakeholders rather than by educational experts alone.

Long-term focus : improving education requires a long-term commitment and fulfillment of long term goals.

Continuous improvement : college should strive to make continuous changes to improve education.

Teacher involvement : teachers should be active in improving the overall college operation.

Collaboration : collaboration among different departments/units is necessary for an effective college.

Data based decision-making : decision-making should rely on factual information.

Systems/ownership focus : quality problems are primarily caused by poor systems and processes, not by teachers; emphasis on process ownership.

Quality at same cost : quality can be improved with the existing resources.

A LO has to promote and nurture its capability to learn for improvement and innovation. Recent studies ([39] Santos-Vijande et al. , 2005; [37] Robinson and Cousins, 2004) show that organizational learning capability (OLC) is an indirect but very useful measure of OL. OLC can be defined as the ability of an organization to implement the appropriate management practices, structures and procedures that facilitate and encourage learning ([34] Popper and Lipshitz, 1998; [17] Goh, 1998). The more prevalent these practices are found in an organization, the stronger the OLC has been developed in the organization. [18] Goh and Richards (1997) propose that OLC can be determined by measuring its essential organizational characteristics and management practices that promote organizational learning, and an organizational learning survey instrument has been developed to measure the OLC. On conducting further research, [21] Jerez-Gomez et al. (2005) have identified four OLC dimensions/constructs, namely:

Management commitment : management support and commitment to shared vision, organizational learning and developing culture for knowledge acquisition, creation and transfer; involved and facilitative leadership.

Systems perspective : building a shared vision; system thinking – viewing the organization as a whole system.

Openness and experimentation : a climate of openness for new ideas allowing individual knowledge to be constantly renewed, widened and improved; support experimentation in searching for innovative flexible solutions for problems.

Knowledge transfer and integration : team work and learning, mechanism for knowledge spreading at an individual level and integrated into the organization.

Organizational characteristics can be interpreted through their organizational artifacts and cultural assumptions ([22] Kekale, 1999). According to the organizational characteristics, [22] Kekale (1999) has classified organizations into three types namely, Rules Orientation, Relationships Orientation, and Innovative Leadership. Similarly, quality approaches can be classified as hard, mixed, and soft according the British Quality Association topology ([47] Wilkinson et al. , 1992). Hard methods are basically reactive, while soft methods are more proactive in nature. On studying the relationship between these three organizational types and TQM implementation strategy (in terms of quality tools/approaches used), [22] Kekale (1999) has proposed a Culture Match/Mismatch TQM Model. The model suggests that an organization is tolerating change better if change is happening within the “change acceptance zone”, i.e. a match between the type of organization and the TQM implementation strategy. If such a match is not observed, there will be little or no positive result unless huge amount of resources are allocated for the cultural change together with a suitable external threat.

Recent literatures reported that TQM and OL are mutually dependent and complement to each other. They are inextricably linked although the exact linking mechanism is unclear. Studies have attempted to link these two fields together in order to get the synergy. [20] Irani et al. (2004) has proposed a model integrating TQM and OL together for organizational excellence, and they stress that a strong culture for TQM is a key element of improving organizational competitiveness. The culture developed through TQM initiatives support OL for organizational excellence. [25] Love et al. (2000) derive a conceptual model for creating LO using TQM as an enabler for construction industry. [29] McAdam et al. (1998) propose a general OL transformation model. Under this general OL transformation model, total quality related initiatives succeed in partial organization transformation, and this change results in fertile ground for the more organic application of the OL principles to achieve further transformation. These models point to the fact that using TQM as an enabler for LO creation and development is a more promising approach for integrating the fields for organizational improvement and innovation. However, these conceptual models developed are neither supported by solid data nor designed specifically for vocational education.

3. Study objective and methodology

In the light of the above review and the imminent need of a practical OL transformation model for vocational education, the primary objective of the present study is three-fold:

– to understand of the empirical linkage between OL and TQM in an vocational education setting;

– to identify the current organization type and its impact on TQM culture; and

– to develop an OL transformation model for local vocational institutions in the context of TQM culture.

To achieve the above objectives, a variety of research instruments/methods have been used for this study and the key methods are summarized below.

3.1 Questionnaire survey

With references to the School Quality Management Culture Survey proposed by [8] Detert et al. (2003), and the Organizational Learning Capability Measurement Scale of [21] Jerez-Gomez et al. (2005), a measurement instrument in the form of a structured self-administrated questionnaire is developed for the present study. The questionnaire consists of 50 questions in three parts.

Part A addresses the personal particulars of the respondents including discipline, length of services, rank.

Part B measures the organizational learning capability.

Part C measures the cultural values or beliefs relevant to the TQM implementation.

Seven-point Likert scales are used with 1=”totally disagree” and 7=”totally agree”. Stratified sampling technique is employed for the selection of survey respondents. Stratified sampling ([2] Bluman, 2003) means subjects are selected by dividing up the population into groups (strata) and subjects within strata are randomly selected. The staff members of the Organization are divided into different strata according to their academic disciplines. The proportion of staff being selected from each stratum is about the same. For each stratum, it is again further divided into senior and operational staff. Within each stratum, staff members are then randomly selected with a proportion matching with the ratio of senior to operational staff in the Organization. This procedure ensures staff will have an equal chance of being selected. Respondents are requested to indicate their level of agreement with each question. Statistical analysis on the self-reported data of the questionnaires will be performed by means of the SPSS 12 for Windows. The validity and reliability of the test constructs for Parts B and C are measured by factor analysis and the Cronbach alpha respectively. The link between organizational learning capability (OLC) and TQM culture (TC) is then determined by means of correlation analysis and regression analysis.

3.2 AHP based interview

The method of Analytic Hierarchy Process ([38] Saaty, 1980) is applied to the determination of the relative importance among the TQM culture constructs (TCCs) in relation to organization learning (OL). AHP procedures involve pair wise comparison judgments among the criteria using Saaty 1-9 preferences scales. As the interview involves a number of experts, the geometric means are used to aggregate the individual paired judgments according to the recommendation from [1] Aczel and Saaty (1983). The consistency of the judgments is measured by the consistency ratio (CR). A consistency ratio of 0.10 or less is considered acceptable ([38] Saaty, 1980).

3.3 Focus group

Focus group research method is a focused group discussion, based on a chosen topic (“The influence of organizational characteristics on TQM culture constructs, TCCs” for this study). Focus group is first and foremost a method for gathering data ([30] Morgan, 1998). Whereas individual interviews may provide an individual’s thinking about a specified topic, the interaction of focus group participations as they compare their perspective, opinions, and experiences, provides the researchers with a broader view than that obtained though individual interviews. Focus group is a way of listening to and learning from people, a way of gathering data about the “meanings” of an issue to a particular group ([46] Whitney, 2005). It is especially useful when a research needs more generalized, group data rather than an individual account.

3.4 Ethnographic study

The ethnographic study aims to determine the current organizational characteristics of the Organization. Ethnographic research essentially involves descriptive data collection as the basis of interpretation and is particularly relevant in evaluating cultural contexts in schools, hospitals, etc. ([4] Burns, 2000). [9] Erickson (1979) defines ethnography as a way of systematically learning reality from the point of view of the participants. Ethnographers (or called fieldworkers) often live among the people they are studying, or at least spend a considerable amount of time with them. Ethnographers seek to gain the “native’s points of view” without imposing their own conceptual framework. Through participant observation methods, ethnographer records detailed field notes, conducts interviews and gathers whatever site documents may be available in the setting as data ([19] Hall, 1999). In order to improve the objectivity and enhance the reliability of the ethnographic study, a variety of information gathering tools are being used including:

– formal key informant interviews (open discussions);

– participant observations;

– written resources review; and

– structured questionnaire survey.

Triangulation will be employed to compare the information collected from the four sources to determine whether there is any corroboration among them or not. From the findings, an overall picture on the organizational characteristics of the Organization can then be developed.

4. Results and analysis

4.1 Questionnaire survey

A total of 55 valid questionnaires are received, which represents a return rate of about 22 per cent. Among the respondents, the ratio of senior staff to operational staff is fairly close to the actual ratio of the Organization that indicating the sample group is a fair representation of the staff distribution of the Organization. The findings of the survey are summarized in Tables I and II [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

Factor loadings of Tables I and II [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] are correlations of the variables with the factors. It is usual to regard factor loadings as high if they are greater than 0.6 and moderately high if they are above 0.3 ([23] Kline, 1999). As the factor loadings for all 13 constructs range from 0.527 to 0.888, the factor relationships for all the four organizational learning capability constructs (OLCCs) and the nine TQM culture constructs (TCCs) are therefore well established, i.e. they are all valid measurement scales for the intended measurement. On the other hand, the Cronbach alpha values for all constructs lie between 0.574-0.797. Normally, the alpha value should be greater than 0.7 for well established measures, but can be somewhat lower for measures that just being developed, in the 0.6 or 0.5 range ([32] Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994). As no alpha value in this survey study is less than 0.5, therefore the results are considered to be consistent and reliable. As a conclusion, the four OLCCs and the nine TCCs are shown to be valid and reliable measurement scales for measuring the organizational learning capability (OLC) and TQM culture (TC) for the Organization.

After confirming the validity and reliability of the measurements, the correlations between the OLCCs and TCCs are then determined with the SPSS 12 for Windows, as summarized in Table III [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

All correlations between the TCCs and OLCCs are found to be significant at 0.01 level, except the four highlighted with an asterisk (at 0.05 level) and the three statistically insignificant ones in Table III [Figure omitted. See Article Image.]. Besides, it seems that TCC9 (quality at same cost) is not much related to organizational learning capability. The overall correlation is found to be +0.889, or +0.894 after excluding TCC9. In either case, the correlation coefficient ( r >+0.85) reveals that a strong positive correlation exists between the OLC and the TQM culture (TC).

On confirming the positive correlation between OLC and TC, multiple linear regression analysis is then performed on the survey data to identify the key TCCs that can exert significant impact on the OLC. The analysis results are shown in Table IV [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] and equation (1). Equation 1 [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] The significances for all regression coefficients are less than 0.05 that indicate all the coefficients are statistically significant. Both the R 2 and adjusted R 2 values are greater than 0.75 that mean the multiple linear regression is an acceptable model for the survey data. Since the possible values for all TCCs are from 1 to 7, hence the regression coefficients represent the relative weightings of the constructs towards the OLCC (overall). Through regression the OLCC (overall) is found to be specifically related to TCC3, TCC8, TCC5, TCC1, and TCC7 in the order of significance.

4.2 AHP based interviews

To verify the correctness of the empirical formula, equation (1), obtained from the multiple linear regression on the questionnaire survey data, AHP based interviews have been conducted for nine professionals, three of them are from the Organization, three from other local vocational education institutions, three from the industry. The findings are summarized in Table V [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

Both sets of results are found to be consistent as all the consistent ratios, CRs are less than 0.1. The top three TCCs obtained from regression and the AHP results of the two combinations of professionals are shown in Table VI [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

As reflected in Table VI [Figure omitted. See Article Image.], the empirical formula obtained by regression is basically in line with the professional judgments obtained both from within and outside the Organization. Although TCC8 is ranked within top three in the regression analysis but not in the interview, its performance is the best among the TCCs in the Organization in the previous questionnaire survey (as summarized in Table II [Figure omitted. See Article Image.] under the “performance” column). Therefore, TCC1, TCC3, and TCC5 are reckoned the key TQM cultural elements that need to be addressed in order to develop significant improvements on organizational learning (OL) in the Organization or the vocational education at large.

4.3 Focus group

A focus group meeting has been organized to discuss the influence of organizational characteristics (in terms of the three organizational types, namely Rules Orientation, Relationships Orientation, and Innovative Leadership categorized according to Kekale’s classifications which have been discussed previously in Section 2) on the three key TCCs identified in section 4.2. The focus group has six members including two academic professionals, two consultants, and two industrialists. All of them have strong expertise in both TQM and organizational development. The researcher himself serves as the facilitator during the focus group meeting. After thorough discussions, the finally agreed results are compiled. The compiled results are again further reviewed and checked for correctness by two academic professors in this field. The two academic professors indeed agree with the overall results arrived at the focus group meeting. The finalized results are summarized in Table VII [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

The results reveal that rules orientation supports TCC3 moderately but surely discourages TCC1 and TCC5, while relationships orientation does only nurture the three key TCCs moderately. For innovative leadership, the findings show that it can enhance all three key TCCs effectively. As a conclusion, it is confirmed that rules orientation cannot induce or develop the necessary TQM culture (TC); on the other hand innovative leadership helps nurturing the required TC, which in turn will enhance organizational learning (OL).

4.4 Ethnographic study

The ethnographic study aiming to determine the current organizational characteristics of the Organization has been conducted and lasted for about 6 months. A total of four information collection tools have been adopted, namely: key informant interviews, participant observations, review of written resources and structured questionnaire survey. Through triangulation, the information collected from the four sources is then compared to determine whether there is any corroboration existed among them or not. Hence, the accuracy of the findings can be ensured. Since data obtained from all four information sources are agreed with one another, the Organization is found currently to be highly inclined towards a bureaucratic and rules oriented organization. Literatures ([28] Martinez and Pepler, 2000; [42] Smith and Larimer, 2004) echo such finding and show that traditional vocational education institutions are commonly highly bureaucratic and rules orientation. As Section 4.3 has confirmed that rules orientation cannot induce or develop the necessary TQM culture (TC) for OL, hence it deems necessary to change the organizational characteristics from rules orientation towards innovative leadership in order to help developing the TC for OL.

5. Empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model for vocational education

Based on the above study findings, an empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model is formulated to facilitate a smooth transition of a traditional vocational education institution (commonly rules orientation) towards a learning organization (LO). The empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model for vocational education is described in Figure 1 [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

The proposed TQM Culture based OL Transformation Model is centered on the fact that TQM culture (TC) is the crucial link between OL and TQM and it functions as an enabler for OL. Improving TC will lead to an enhancement in the OLC. Once a strong OLC is built up, a LO for organization excellence can then be emerged naturally. On cultivating a TQM culture, appropriate TQM initiatives have to be implemented in the first place. During TQM implementation, the three key TCCs (namely shared vision, long term focus, and teacher involvement) have to be addressed considerably and necessary steps or mechanisms need to be formulated to aid the development of these three TQM cultural constructs. Besides, there is also a need to change the traditional vocational education institution from rules orientation to innovative leadership. Such change in organizational characteristics can further assist the formation of the necessary TC for OL.

6. Implementation case

In order to verify the applicability and effectiveness of the empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model, an Implementation Case has been conducted in the Organization for about eight months. Under the framework of the proposed TQM culture based OL transformation model, appropriate culture change programme is initiated to improve the three identified key TCCs (namely TCC1, TCC3, and TCC5) and facilitate a change from rules orientation toward innovative leadership. Leithwood ([24] Leithwood and Jantzi, 2000; [15] Geijsel et al. , 2003) recommends a useful change agenda for education setting on moving an institution towards innovative leadership. It includes:

– setting directions;

– developing people; and

– redesigning organization.

The causal relationship or mapping between the empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model and Leithwood’s change agenda is explained in Figure 2 [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

Setting direction is in fact dealing with TCC1 (shared vision) and TCC3 (long term focus). Developing people focuses on TCC5 (teacher involvement), and redesigning organization deals with changing the organizational characteristics from rules orientation towards innovative leadership. With reference to Leithwood’s change agenda and under the framework of the empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model, a change agenda for the TQM culture change programme is formulated and explained in Figure 3 [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

Under the Implementation Case, a TQM culture change programme is carried out simultaneously at two levels, namely Organization level and Operational Unit (OU) level. Details of the two-level TQM culture change programme are summarized as follows:

Organization level . Under the recent Organization’s strategic plan, a number of change actions and activities have been formulated and applied to the whole Organization. Many of them are indeed supporting the proposed TQM culture change agenda. Some typical examples include:

Setting directions . Setting up specific web site for information sharing and discussions; organizing regular staff communication forum by top management to disseminate information on new direction/mission/vision; frequent use of promotion materials and media; provision of resources on implementing new initiatives;

Developing people . Organizing a variety of courses on promoting staff participation and empowerment, teamwork; strengthening the roles of the supporting units on teaching and learning, staff development, and education quality; implementing new performance appraisal systems helps promoting delegation, process ownership, staff involvement and empowerment, staff development and training; establishing various award schemes to encourage staff to submit new and innovative ideas/proposals on organization’s strategic development and to encourage the sharing of good practices;

Redesigning organization . Restructuring current grade and rank; establishing mechanisms to promote collaboration of cross-functional operational units; expanding staff representation in the committees and boards; improving IT services to improve staff communication; and

Operational Unit (OU) level . In addition to those strategic change actions and activities applied across the whole Organization, a specific pilot OU culture change programme is implemented in one of the Operational Units (OUs) of the Organization with due consideration to the OU’s unique operational and cultural characteristics. It adopts a self-assessment approach based on the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) principle.

At the onset of the pilot culture change programme, an initial OU review has been conducted to identify the potential weaknesses in the OU that are not conducive to the culture change. On completion of the OU review, an implementation plan has been formulated and appropriate steering team and working groups are established. Under the implementation plan, the pilot change programme aims at:

– increasing staff’s understanding and acceptance to Organization’s new vision and mission;

– modifying the existing organization structure of the OU more in line with innovative leadership;

– enhancing staff participation, empowerment and self-learning; and

– improving internal communication of the OU.

To satisfy the aims stipulated in the implementation plan, a number of change actions/ activities have been initiated including:

Setting directions . Encouraging staff to attend the staff communication forum organized by top management; regularly disseminate information on the new direction/mission/vision to staff; setting up a local platform for sharing and discussions; organizing staff development day with organization’s vision/mission as agenda item;

Developing people . Encouraging senior staff of the OU to participate training courses on delegation, staff participation and empowerment; setting up a staff development committee to encourage staff training and development; encouraging staff to take up inter-college working groups and leading roles in teaching and learning/course administrative activities; organizing social functions and training courses for staff; and

Redesigning organization . Reviewing and redesigning work processes to minimize unnecessary administrative procedures; forming cross functional teams on quality, health and safety; applying “matrix organization” approach in the development of new academic programmes; improving internal communication.

7. Applicability of TQM culture based OL transformation model

To measure whether there is any significant improvement achieved in OLC, TC and organizational characteristics at the end of the Implementation Case, another survey questionnaire is designed for such purpose. The questionnaire consists of three parts:

Part A measures the organizational learning capability.

Part B measures the cultural values or beliefs relevant to the TQM implementation.

Part C measures the organizational characteristics in relation to rules orientation.

For Parts A and B, the questions are basically the same as those used in the previous survey except the three questions related to TCC9 have been deleted. For Part C, it includes a total of 12 questions to measure organizational characteristics, in which references to the works of [11] Foster and Jones (1978), and [10] Ferrell and Skinner (1988) have been made (Part C are identical to the structured questionnaire survey questions used in the ethnographic study discussed in Section 4.4). Questionnaires have been issued to all staff members of the particular Operational Unit implementing the pilot OU culture change programme (i.e. target for the whole population rather than sampling). In this survey, staff members are requested to indicate their level of agreement with each question twice. The first for perceptions or beliefs before the implementation of the TQM culture change programme, and the second addresses the beliefs after the completion of the change programme. The changes in the beliefs before and after the implementation of the TQM culture change programme are calculated. Paired t-tests are performed by means of SPSS 12 for Windows to verify whether the improvements in OLC, TC and organizational characteristics are statistically significant or not. The paired t-test results are summarized in Table VIII [Figure omitted. See Article Image.].

In Table VIII [Figure omitted. See Article Image.], all the p -values are smaller than 0.001 except TCC7 (< 0.01) and TCC8 (< 0.05) indicating that all the improvements in OLCCs and TCCs are statistically significant. Similarly, the decrease in the organizational characteristics score is also statistically significant reflecting that the Organization has become less rules orientation after the implementation of the change programme. As a conclusion, the paired t-tests confirm that the TQM culture change programme is effective in improving the OLC, TC and organizational characteristics of the Organization. Hence, the empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model is shown to be an applicable approach for local vocational education on LO creation and development.

8. Conclusion

As a conclusion, by linking the OL and TQM through TQM culture with reference to its organizational characteristics develops a synergy and facilitates the transformation of a traditional vocational education organization towards a LO for organizational excellence in facing the numerous educational reforms and challenges. TQM culture developing through TQM initiatives with due regard to the shared vision (TCC1), long term focus (TCC3) and teacher involvement (TCC5) serves as an enabler for OL. Changing from rules orientation towards innovative leadership can assist the formation of the necessary TC for OL. The TQM culture based OL transformation model developed is shown to be an effective and practicable solution for LO creation and development in the Hong Kong vocational education.


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Corresponding author

Gary K.K. Poon can be contacted at: megpoon@cityu.edu.hk

[Author Affiliation]

M.Y. Lam, Vocational Training Council, Hong Kong

Gary K.K. Poon, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

K.S. Chin, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong


Equation 1

Figure 1: An empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model for traditional vocational education organization

Figure 2: Mapping between the empirical TQM culture based OL transformation model and Leithwood’s change agenda

Figure 3: Change agenda for TQM culture change programme

Table I: Organizational learning capability survey (Questionnaire Part B)

Table II: TQM culture survey (Questionnaire Part C)

Table III: Correlation between organizational learning capability and TQM culture

Table IV: Results on regression analysis of survey data

Table V: AHP interview results on relative weightings of TCCs by the two combinations of professionals

Table VI: Top three TCCs from regression and AHP results of the two combinations of professionals

Table VII: Results of focus group on influence of organizational types on the three key TCCs

Table VIII: Paired t -test results on survey conducted after the completion of the TQM culture change programme



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