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The role of control charts in promoting organisational learning: New perspectives from a food industry study

Nigel Grigg (Institute of Technology and Engineering, College of Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand)
Lesley Walls (Department of Management Science, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

The TQM Magazine

ISSN: 0954-478X

Article publication date: 16 January 2007



The purpose of this paper is to examine the theoretical interface between statistical thinking, the statistical method of the control chart, and contemporary theories of organisational learning in regard to processes and their improvement.


Theoretical discussion results in an integrated model showing how statistical thinking and methods relate to organisational learning. This is supported by findings from a food industry research project following a design of: exploration (stage 1); theory development (stage 2); and theory testing/refinement (stage 3) incorporating surveys, case studies and key informant interviews.


Empirical evidence shows that statistical techniques such as the control chart can be of benefit to organisations for creating process improvement and organisational learning, providing the charts are utilised to actively convert the data they contain into information and knowledge about the process. Four distinct categories of use of control charts were observed which impacted on the effectiveness with which the charts were able to achieve this.

Research limitations/implications

The findings have come from a study conducted only on the food industry. The implications are generalisable, however, to the wider industry context.

Practical implications

Findings illustrate problems with control chart application and the vital role of statistical thinking in ensuring that maximum benefit is derived from the charts. We argue that statistical thinking is a fundamental prerequisite to achieving effective double loop learning when using control charts as a basis for process monitoring and improvement


Statistical thinking and knowledge management are both growing areas of interest within the quality management and process improvement literature. The paper examines their interrelationship.



Grigg, N. and Walls, L. (2007), "The role of control charts in promoting organisational learning: New perspectives from a food industry study", The TQM Magazine, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 37-49.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited