Structure, action and the interpretive flexibility of quality control circle : an analysis of quality control circle systems and practice in Singapore firms
This thesis is an inquiry into the promotion and implementation of Japanese QCC in Singapore. The thesis aims to develop a better understanding of the QCC phenomenon and of its applicability outside Japan. The QCC as a small group activity used in promoting quality improvement among workers is examined through several theoretical frameworks: structuration theory, critical systems thinking and the notion of QCC as social technology. A historical analysis of the Japanese QCC provides an understanding of the socio-historical context in which the QCC as a small group activity evolved. The Japanese QCC system is examined, appraised and critiqued in terms of its key processes and role in quality management using Habermas's theory of knowledge and human interests and critical systems thinking. An analysis of the promotion of QCC in Singapore and of the general state of QCC activities provides a socio-historical context for five case studies of QCC implementation by Singapore firms. Using Olikowski's structuration model of technology, the thesis discusses the influence of the interactions between institutional properties and human agency on the outcomes of these firms' QCC implementation strategies. With technology viewed as a system metaphor comprising technical, social, economic and political sub-systems, the interpretive flexibility of the QCC as a social technology is underlined. QCC implementations outside Japan are viewed as incidents of technology transfer, with local inventions, which takes into account the systemic and socially constituted nature of QCC activity, essential for successful transfer. A conceptual map regarding the transfer of QCC is presented. The map incorporates the three theoretical frameworks used in this thesis. This is an attempt at modelling the processes essential for successful social technology transfer.