The Workshop on Improving Theory and Research on Quality Enhancement in Organizations was convened by the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council at the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF). This report highlights the issues, problems, and major themes addressed at the workshop.
NSF's Transformations to Quality Organizations (TQO) Program is an ambitious new program to support research on quality management principles and approaches. It requires partnerships between academic researchers and researchers and practitioners in business and the public sector. It is intended to serve as a catalyst for multidisciplinary investigations aimed at helping organizations understand and implement quality improvements more rapidly and successfully.
However, the research funded by NSF in its TQO program involves a broad range of disciplines, with only modest depth in any given substantive area. Advisers have suggested that future research should forge stronger links between relevant social science theory and organizational quality principles and objectives. Larger scale and more systematic studies using comparable concepts and measures are required in order to understand what techniques are effective in achieving specified goals under varying conditions. A recent National Research Council report, Enhancing Organizational Performance (National Research Council, 1997), also discussed the need to bridge the gap between theory and practice in this area.
The workshop provided an opportunity to bring together researchers from a range of disciplinary perspectives—sociology, anthropology, psychology, management, engineering, economics, statistics, and operations research—to discuss several aspects of quality improvement and assessment in organizations. The topics included making explicit quality principles for organizations, developing connections to organizational theory, pursuing implications for organizational training, and conceptualizing and measuring organizational performance. The goal of the workshop was to build connections between research and theory to help expand and improve both theory and practice; to begin to develop a framework to guide