Improving the service delivery of a department through physical role co-location restructuring : an action research approach

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Underlying Problem The management team (hereafter referred to as „management‟) of a leading international oil company identified significant problems within the transport scheduling department operation, extending from concerns related to fragmented roles, the physical location of roles and management isolation, to fragmented department processes and procedures. The resulting poor communication further exacerbated the department‟s inability to provide an effective service to both internal and external customers. Based on this, management decided to act and embark on an extensive restructuring process in an attempt to improve overall service delivery and ensure department sustainability into the future. This action then paved the way for an extensive restructuring process focussing on changes based on role co-location changes. This process began with the appointment of a new scheduling manager to head up the department and to design and oversee the project plan for restructuring. It was obvious to management that, if action was not taken soon, the department would continue to degrade, thus forcing management to decentralise the transport scheduling function within the company that would result in the disbanding of the department. In Part 1 the description of the problem is defined, beginning with a detailed account of the scheduling department restructure, thereby clearly defining the case study as a research topic. The restructuring account describes inter-role communication, co-location changes through cluster team implementation and the communication changes that were made with customers. It outlines how quality assurance and technological advancements were introduced during the restructuring process in an attempt to improve service delivery, together with the improvement of quality of department outputs that define the level of service to customers. After defining the research topic, the problem situation that must be addressed through this study is delineated. The problem situation defined in this study addresses two main areas of concern. Firstly, whether it is possible to achieve an improvement in service delivery of a department through physical role co-location changes. Secondly, whether it is possible to effect such changes without disrupting the motivation and performance levels of the staff necessary to ensure department sustainability into the future. It is hypothesised that restructuring success and staff motivation and performance are inseparable in ensuring the future of the scheduling department, because they are unified enablers for sustainability. The disruption caused by the restructuring process could have a negative impact on staff motivation and performance levels, without which improved service outputs by the department would not necessarily be achieved. Therefore, focusing on both of these factors throughout this research process is very important in order to satisfactorily address the research question and concern that has been raised. The description of the department restructure as a case study for research thus highlights a „problem situation‟. A concern is raised that requires urgent research: If improvements in the service delivery of the department have not been realised through the physical role co-location restructure, and, if staff motivation and performance levels have not been maintained during the restructuring process, then the restructure project will have been a costly waste of time, threatening the future sustainability of the department. This concern, therefore, defines the research question that must be answered by this research process, namely that of the level of service improvement and the „recipe‟ for maintaining staff motivation and performance levels. The answer to this question will be achieved by determining both the level of success of the role co-location restructure against pre-defined service improvement indicators, and the management approach required to ensure sustained levels of staff motivation and performance through the restructuring change process of the scheduling department. In order to complete this investigation, the researcher embarks on a rigorous methodological research process that adopts the main stages of the action research cycle.

Includes abstract.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 129-130).