Continuous improvement
: critical success factors in the Saudi public service sector

  • Abdullah Alhaqbani

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    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 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 services), 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 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-structures 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. More, 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 enablers for CI. However, the analysis showed that 12 common factors for 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.
    Date of AwardJan 2017
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Portsmouth
    SupervisorDebbie Reed (Supervisor), Barbara Savage (Supervisor) & Jana Ries (Supervisor)

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