Quality exploitation versus quality exploration: measurement, antecedents, and performance implications.

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Quality exploitation versus quality exploration: measurement, antecedents, and performance implications.

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Quality management (QM) practices and the benefits related to these practices have been addressed in many studies. Although these practices are touted as "universal remedies," there are mixed results and high-profile failures in their implementation. The necessity of customization of the practices has been proposed in some studies. However, research on how to customize and what factors should be considered is still scant. This dissertation research makes an effort to address this customization issue. Specifically, the dissertation is organized into three essays. Essay 1 differentiates and examines two different aspects of QM practices that have different objectives: quality exploitation (QEI) and quality exploration (QER). QEI includes the QM practices that aim to control the known problems and processes. The objective of QEI is to ensure the consistency and efficiency of outcomes. QER includes the QM practices that aim to explore the unknown and to identify and pursue novel solutions. QER keeps organizations open and flexible to new ideas. Essay 1 develops a reliable and valid set of measures for QEI and QER and empirically shows that these measures can discriminate QEI and QER as two separate constructs. It provides a solid foundation for further research on customization of QM practices. Essay 2 examines performance associated with QEI and QER under different organizational structures and different levels of environmental uncertainty. The results of essay 2 provide possible ways to customize the QM practices. Two types of models are used in the study to understand organizational structure: mechanistic and organic. Organizations with a mechanistic structure are structured hierarchically and are centrally controlled by an authority. In contrast, organic structure settings present more flexible and open-type internal arrangements of an organization. In an organization with a mechanistic structure, QEI is proposed to be more effective than QER. In contrast, QER should be more effective than QEI in an organization with an organic structure. The focus on QEI or QER also needs to be adjusted according to the environmental uncertainty the organization faces in order to attain high performance benefits. Organizations facing high environmental uncertainty should focus on QER to gain more performance benefits. In contrast, organizations facing low environmental uncertainty should get more benefits from QEI. Essay 2 provides empirical evidence that supports the above relationships between QEI, QER, and performance under different contextual conditions. Essay 3 investigates the theoretical motivation for the adoption and implementation of QEI and QER. Two different theoretical views are identified and empirically tested: the institutional view and the rational view. Institutional perspectives generally emphasize the role of social factors rather than economic or efficiency factors in driving organizational actions. The rational view suggests that goals and objectives may be a motivational factor that influences the organization's implementation of QEI or QER. Based on the different aims of QEI and QER, their implementation might be driven by different goals of an organization. Empirical results show certain support for both the institution view and the rational view to explain the implementation of QEI and QER.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2009. Major: Business Administration. Advisors: Dr. Kevin Linderman and Dr. Roger G. Schroeder. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 119 pages, appendices.

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Zhang, Dongli. (2009). Quality exploitation versus quality exploration: measurement, antecedents, and performance implications.. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/54996.

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