This paper aims to make a contribution to existing knowledge regarding how service-based organisations establish and sustain incremental performance improvement. Alongside a review of existing continuous improvement (CI) evolution theory, the longitudinal study draws a comparison between two units of analysis within a leading UK financial service provider.
Adopting an interpretive philosophy and inductive nature, the study uses a multi-qualitative methodological design. The multi-embedded case study, conducted over a three-year period, allows for an intensive review and in-depth exploration. The longitudinal time horizon makes use of a narrative enquiry, reflecting upon behaviour and allowing the researcher to gain access to deeper organisational realities. A thematic analysis of empirical data offers insight into the evolution of CI over almost a decade of activity.
The findings establish that there are numerous obstacles faced and a wide variety of methods, tools and techniques that may be blended together under the auspices of a formalised CI programme. The challenge is in sustaining, embedding and associating value from CI within the everyday life of the infinitely complex structures and prevailing cultures of organisations; ideally involving all staff, emphasising on CI in all things, at all levels, all the time, forever.
Evidenced through a thematic narrative, the paper answers the call for existing frameworks of CI evolution to be tested within the private and service sectors. The research offers an application and reflection upon the Bessant et al.’s (2001) maturity model against the CI evolution in a real world scenario.
Milner, C.D. and Savage, B.M. (2016), "Modeling continuous improvement evolution in the service sector: A comparative case study", International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 438-460. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJQSS-07-2016-0052
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