A case study of TQM program training decisions in higher education


Paul Roehrig

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Design, Development and Evaluation


Philip L. Doughty


Training, Total Quality Management, Organizational development, Decision-making, Higher education

Subject Categories

Business | Education


There has been limited inquiry into centralized quality improvement training within higher education, and questions emerge such as: Why and how do administrators decide to use training to improve performance? What data (or beliefs) are used to support these decisions? How is content decided upon? How and why are instructional development and training decisions made? This study addresses these questions as a way to inform organizational developers, instructional developers, and training practitioners about decisional processes related to quality improvement training. The study findings, along with the theory framework and methodology employed, also support future inquiry into complex decision-making processes.

A single large research university was the case site, and a single-case study design, using interview and documentary evidence, was employed. Use of a conceptual framework based on multiple theory domains--including systems theory, human performance improvement, university governance, and organizational decision-making--supported the inquiry into training decisions. A purposefully selected sample of administrators and other key personnel with extensive knowledge of quality improvement training decisions were interviewed about the rationale and processes surrounding influential decisions that shaped training employment. Four decisional processes emerged that were particularly influential on how quality improvement training was ultimately employed in this case. These include decisions associated with: (a) financing the training; (b) selection and adaptation of materials; (c) staffing decisions; and (d) selection of the training audience. Relevant themes and coding categories emerged from the data, and a theory of training decisions that describes the single significant and revelatory case is advanced.

Principle results of this study fall roughly into two categories: empirical validation of existing university governance and organizational decision-making model components; and suggestions for adaptation of these models based on empirical study data. Finally, the study data are interpreted through the 'lens' of the conceptual framework. Using a 'pinball machine' metaphor, a model is induced that describes the complex, human performance improvement processes investigated in this study.


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