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  • I

    Continuous improvement: Critical

    success factors in the Saudi public

    service sector

    Abdullah Mohammad Alhaqbani

    The thesis is submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of

    the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Portsmouth

    Portsmouth Business School

    Operations and Systems Management

    University of Portsmouth

    January 2017

  • I

    Abstract

    Continuous improvement (CI) is a never-ending effort to improve an organisation’s activities

    that requires management and employee commitment. Although CI is considered a competitive

    strategy for business firms to improve their performance and deliver better services and quality

    products, unfortunately, it is still a choice for many public sector organisations. However,

    successful implementation of CI in the public service sector has received little attention and

    there is a lack of research. Arab businesses and governments have apparently also not received

    attention in relation to CI implementation. Furthermore, successful factors for implementing

    CI are undefined in the context of public services in developing countries. Therefore, this

    research was conducted to explore the perceptions of managers and employees at Saudi

    Arabian public service organisations in order to determine the critical successful factors (CSFs)

    of CI implementation that can help public service organisations to review and measure their

    performance, and deliver better services. This exploration process clearly reflects a high level

    strategic activity and is not exploring practical experience. The research examined the

    differences of CSFs of CI between organisations of one sector (public service), the differences

    of improvement factors across management levels and determined the obstacles that face

    improvement activities.

    This work was designed using a sequence process of research design and analysis. An empirical

    research studying CI in eight organisations within the Saudi Arabian public service sector was

    conducted in order to determine successful practices of CI and facilitate the implementation

    process. A mixed-method design was employed to collect qualitative and quantitative data. The

    research data was collected using several techniques including literature analysis, interviews,

    survey (closed and open questions) and focus groups.

    This research reviewed 103 papers that focus on the CI concept and CSFs. These papers

    included studies in the public, private and manufacturing sectors in developed and developing

    countries. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 15 managers of Saudi Arabian

    public services organisations who work in particular positions in relation to CI. The survey of

    1,198 employees from the eight organisations achieved a 54.09 % response rate representing

    the total population. Moreover, there are 32 participants involved in four focus groups and 11

    interviews to discuss the findings of the questionnaire.

    The findings of this research indicated that there are differences between organisations of one

    sector (public service) in determining the CSFs of CI. Moreover, there are differences across

    management levels regarding required enablers for CI. However, the analysis showed that 12

  • II

    common factors for successful CI found across participating organisations. These factors can

    be set as core CSFs of CI in Saudi Arabian public service sector. Moreover, the study

    investigated the key obstacles that restricted CI in Saudi Arabian public services environment.

    This work is considered the first empirical research to investigate the differences between

    organisations of one sector (public service) in determining CSFs of CI. Moreover, this work

    investigated the differences between management levels of the public service structure in

    determining CSFs of CI. The study determined CSFs of CI in the Saudi public service

    environment and addressed the lack of studies that focus on CI in the public service sector,

    Saudi context and developing nations. The research developed “Room for Improvement

    Framework” to help management and improvement teams in their efforts to facilitate CI

    implementation. Finally, this work has developed recommendations for Saudi public service

    organisations to implement CI and offers suggestions for further work.

  • III

    Publications

    Journal Article

     Alhaqbani, A., Reed, D.M., Savage, B. M., & Ries, J. (2016). The impact of middle management commitment on improvement initiatives in public organisations. Business

    Process Management Journal, 22 (5), 924 - 938. doi: 10.1108/BPMJ-01-2016-0018

    Conference Papers

     Alhaqbani, A. (2016). Practical Procedures for Improving Quality Management Systems at Public Service Organisations. Paper presented at the 22nd APQO Conference

    2016, Rotorua, New Zealand, 20-23 November 2016.

     Alhaqbani, A., Reed, D.M., Savage, B. M., & Ries, J. (2015). The impact of middle management commitment on improvement initiatives in public organisations. Paper

    presented at the 7th Canadian Quality Congress, Canada, Edmonton 28-29 September

    2015.

     Alhaqbani, A., Reed, D.M., Savage, B. M., & Ries, J. (2016). Required enablers for successful CI initiatives across management levels. Paper presented at the 60th EOQ

    Quality Conference. Helsinki -Finland / 1-2 June 2016.

     Alhaqbani. A. (2016). The core obstacles of Continuous Improvement Implementation in the Public Sector: Some key findings from health and education sectors. Paper presented at the 18th International Conference on Quality in Higher Education, Zurich,

    Switzerland, 12-13 January 2016.

     Alhaqbani. A. (2014). The Impact of the Relationship between Public Organisations and their Commitment toward Service Improvement. Paper presented at the 18th

    Conference of the International Academy of Management and Business, TRE

    University, Rome, Italy, 17-19 September 2014.

     Alhaqbani. A. (2014). An Overview of the Continuous Improvement Culture in the Saudi Public Sector. Paper presented at the 7th Saudi Students Conference in the UK -

    University of Edinburgh, 1-2 February 2014

     Alhaqbani. A. (2015). Examining the readiness of organisations’ leaders towards the implementation of improvement programmes: Some key findings. Paper presented at

    the 8th Saudi Students Conference. London, Imperial College, Queen Elizabeth II

    Conference Center, 31st January- 1st February 2015.

  • IV

    Acknowledgements

    First and foremost, my deepest thanks and gratitude go to Allah for providing me the ability

    to complete this research. Without His will and generosity, none of this or any other

    accomplishment would have been possible.

    I hereby express my sincere appreciation to my first supervisor Dr. Debbie Reed and the

    members of the supervision team - Dr. Barbara Savage and Dr. Jana Ries for their support,

    patience, valued comments, advice, and motivation. Without their encouragement and valuable

    support, this thesis would not have been possible.

    I want to express my thanks and appreciation to the academic staff and administrative

    employees in the University of Portsmouth.

    I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all managers and employees at Saudi

    Arabian public service organisations who volunteered to participate in this research.

    My deepest thanks go to my parents, who were always supporting and encouraging me with

    their pray and best wishes. Special thanks go to my wife, my son Mohammad and my daughters

    Wareef and Diem.

    I am deeply grateful to my brothers and sisters for their encouragement and constant emotional

    support along the way.

  • V

    Continuous improvement: Critical success factors in the

    Saudi public service sector

    Doctor of Philosophy of the University of Portsmouth

    Declaration

    Whilst registered as a candidate for the above degree, I have not been registered for any other

    research award. The results and conclusions embodied in this thesis are the work of the named

    candidate and have not been submitted for any other academic award.

    Word count: 85,865

    Abdullah Mohammad Alhaqbani

  • VI

    Table of Contents

    Abstract ...................................................................................................................................... I

    Publications .............................................................................................................................. III

    Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................. IV

    Declaration ................................................................................................................................ V

    Table of Contents .................................................................................................................... VI