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Title: First-line management : the critical link between goal perception and performance : a multicultural study of Canadian and Japanese first-line managers
Author: Mestre, Michel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2713 1481
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2003
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The need to be and stay competitive has corporations reassessing their organisation and management processes. Productivity, performance management and motivation include goals as one of their basic building blocks. These concepts, when operationalised, highlight the role and effectiveness of fîrst-line managers, who directly control the majority of human resources. Changes in organisational design such as leaner and flatter management structure, combined with employee empowerment, further underscore the pivotal role of first-line managers. They represent a key link in the management chain. Yet, it is evident that the focus or nature of goals, specifically at the first-line management level, is left largely untouched in the literature. Many disciplines explore the topic of goals. The number of variables that affect the outcome explodes as each field conveys its own perspective. Existing research either investigates goals in a controlled environment, anecdotal by relating corporate practices or case studies of a general nature, or posits a paradigm from the perspective of the author's discipline. Some research addresses the features of goals whilst others concentrate on the factors affecting outcome. This situation has raised the question as to the nature and focus of goals: the 'end' or the 'means'? It is acknowledged that there is a lack of research dealing with the 'actual' focus of goals. The objective of this thesis is to fill this gap in the literature with respect to the first-line manager's perception of goals. This study aims to ascertain the nature of goals as perceived by first-line managers. A survey conducted in Canada and Japan contrasts first-line managers' responses as well as provides a valuable insight on the effect that different management practices have on the nature of goals. It is evident that much has been written about Japanese practices at the corporate level as a whole, but little information is available on individual performance orientation, particularly at the first-line management level. The data collected in this research furnishes a deeper insight on goals and some factors that affect performance, as perceived by first-line managers. Goals can take a variety of forms and focus. As such, it was deemed imperative not to bias responses by producing pre-selected categories but to employ open-ended questions. The use of phenomenological mapping is not intended to test a particular hypothesis but aims to understand the situation by allowing the data to speak for itself. The results supply a first-hand understanding as to the actual focus of first-line managers, unadulterated by theories and speculations. A number of fmdings have evolved. The choice between 'end' or 'means' goals is related to basic management philosophies which are characteristic of the two populations. The general conclusion is that the values of the organisation are reflected in the type of goals being pursued. The same values are also reflected in the training received - or absence of it - and, eventually, are evident in the nature of goals being set. This duality of perspective is also found in the literature. On one hand, goal or outcome oriented employees willing to make tough decisions are key managerial characteristics to be displayed by individuals who want to progress within the organisation. On the other hand, many preach the basic philosophy that employees are a key resource which should be developed to achieve better results. These two concepts are expounded independently of each other in the literature. The general fïeld of research does not provide any criteria to measure the superiority of one System over the other; their mutual exclusivity is usually implied. It suffices to say that output goals are necessary under both Systems but not suffïcient to assure adequate attention to the human side of the equation. The research does widen the existing literature in a number of areas. Firstly, it illustrates how corporate managerial practices and values influence the outlook of first-line managers; while such a phenomenon has been postulated in the past. The results of the survey demonstrate it categorically. Secondly, it demonstrates how two viable perspectives of goals, the 'end' or the 'means', are as present in the academic thinking as, they are in the work environment. Thirdly, the goal perspective of first-line managers, indicates that a different focus may be necessary to be commensurate with their respective roles and responsibilities as compared to the rest of the organisation. The apparent dichotomy in the literature, between 'end' goals and 'means' goals, is also found between the responses of the two populations. The results clearly show that there is a need to rethink corporate practices in the area of human development, especially at the first-line management level. In addition to providing insights on goals, adequacy and recognition, this research implicitly raises the issue of the role which corporations should play in moulding human behaviour, and more specifically that of first-line managers. Conversely, there is the question of the degree to which individuality and personal responsibility for skill development should be left to the individual to decide. Better understanding of the nature of goals in the mind of first-line managers should enable organisations to effectively address the practice of goal setting and the management process entailed. There are some limitations within the research. The qualitative nature of the research, due to the use of open-ended questions, requires interpretative analysis of responses. The choice of categories, while free-flowing from the data, could also be considered as subjective. However, external audit of the tabulation, through the independent evaluation performed by an interrater, proved the process to be consistent. Through triangulation between existing published practices, plant visits and interviews as well as the internal consistency between the responses to different questions, the results of the tabulation exhibit congruity. The thesis comprises fifteen chapters, organised into four major sections. Part I contains the theoretical content of the research. It provides the backdrop for the importance of goals and the relationship with productivity, the different paradigms being put forth, a detailed discussion on the nature of goals and the key role of first-line managers. Part II describes the design of the survey and the analytical procedures employed. Part III presents the actual tabulation of the data with observations related to the results. Part IV analyses and discusses the major findings in context with the theories expounded and as well, provides conclusions and recommendations for future research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available