Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: On the foundations of performance management
Author: MacDonald, Alasdair Donald James
ISNI:       0000 0004 2707 785X
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2010
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
This research attempts to establish a robust foundation and associated assumptions for performance measurement and management (PM&M). The purpose is to allow engineers to build richer and more reliable theories and approaches, facilitating a step forward in the effective management of performance. The greater availability of data, as well as significantly improved processing capability, presents engineers with the opportunity to better manage the performance of their organisations and projects. Further, a drive within the construction and engineering industry for continuous improvement and the growing importance of PM&M throughout almost every facet of life has converted this opportunity to a mandate. Although the field of PM&M is both broad and extremely diverse, many of its authors decry the lack of investigation into its philosophical assumptions; describing the research field as immature and unprofessional. In an attempt to address this challenge, the thesis presents a definition of effective PM&M for the construction and engineering industry and investigates the location within a defined problem space, of the predominant foundations and associated assumptions underlying the field of PM&M. Axes defining this problem space are developed from a literature investigation of the nature of PM&M, as well as an exploration of philosophical positions implied by the typical approaches in the field. An analysis of 140 papers from within the general and construction and engineering specific fields of PM&M is completed. This analysis strongly indicates that the predominant position underlying the literature is positivist. It is then argued that the assumptions embodied by this location are inadequate, most especially offering an impoverished view on human behaviour and social considerations, for example, intentionality, motivation and interaction. So as to provide a more adequate foundation, an alternative based on critical realism is offered, which embodies the strengths of the existing assumptions, while recognising the importance of social interaction and human behaviour. The greater adequacy of the alternative is tested in a highways engineering organisation. To complete this test, a new method of investigation is evolved from Grounded Theory. The method incorporates the assumptions inherent in a critical realist position providing a formula for the generation of theories (Context + Mechanism = Outcome). The method is employed to generate theories about the attitudes and actions towards the organisation's systems of PM&M. The increased richness of these theories and their implications for the organisation and field in general, reinforces the argument that Critical Realism provides a more robust foundation and associated assumptions for the field of PM&M than the currently predominant position of Positivism. Beyond the original contributions described above, the thesis also marks a rare foray of an engineer into the social science domain. Through the description of philosophical positions, the evolution of qualitative investigation methods and the investigation of the interaction between social and technological systems, the author has provided a number of sign posts to guide future forays into the social science domain by engineering researchers.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available