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developing new understanding and approaches to complex service systems

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Through-Life Accountability

PhD Research by Chara Makri on Through-Life Accountability: Managing Complex Services

Through-Life Accountability: Managing Complex Services

Shift to Services

Manufacturers turning into service providers need to develop a whole new set of capabilities and adapt their organisational structures and processes so that they reflect the relationship-based nature of services. What is more, by taking over the customers’ operations, they have to deal with greater responsibilities than before, and for long periods of time. In particular, since they have to deliver ‘results’ rather than products they have to assume uncertainties that were previously the concern of the customer. 

Through-Life Accountability

As a result, manufacturers need to have a clear understanding of where accountability lies in the event of failure of a provided service through-life in order to reduce the risk of failures and hedge the organisation against liabilities. However, accountability has many forms and dimensions which are not independent. As a result, it is far from straightforward for organisations to understand and deal with their accountabilities, especially in the case of servitized manufacturers where the product may be provided by one organisation, and the support services by a large network of partners.

Research Scope

This research explores the complexities faced by organisations operating in service networks in the context of servitized manufacturers. 

Research Method

This is an exploratory study that aims to build theory and follows the Grounded Theory approach. Data was collected through a series of 68 in-depth interviews within different service providers both within the public and private sectors. 

Research Findings

The majority of the participants agreed that without the proper processes, operating in complex service environments can increase risks and potentially impact safety. Consequently, understanding the different elements of a service network is important for servitized manufacturers in order to be able to deal with any potential risks. 

This analysis led to the development of the CAGE framework that groups these complexities in four key categories: Competencies of the partners in the network, Attitudes of their employees, Governance, and Environment in which they operate in. When mismatches in these elements exist between the partners in the network, tensions arise that can lead to increased risks.

The results from the preliminary study about the sources of complexities of service networks, also revealed a recurring consciousness of how the involvement of multiple organisations can affect safety. The research, therefore, also focused on understanding how organisations operating in complex service networks can promote incident reporting across the whole network in order to improve (or maintain) safety. The results have been consolidated in the CAGE framework.

 

Since the review of the literature also revealed that there is currently no commonly accepted definition of safety and any proposed definitions are relative, this research proposed the following definition: 

Safety is the process of constantly driving towards zero incidents by managing both expected and unexpected hazards

Research Contributions

The main contribution of this research is the CAGE framework. The framework can assist servitized manufacturers identify the sources of complexities within their service networks. Dealing with these in a complex service network is a dynamic and multidimensional process. It requires a long-term and continuous approach both within and outside the organisation. It largely depends on the people involved in each process and highlights that the different dimensions should not be treated as stand-alone elements, but rather as a holistic framework that can help servitized manufacturers understand their accountabilities and deliver a safe service for everyone involved. 

Note: This thesis, titled:"A Grounded Theory Analysis of Complex Service Networks", was submitted in Feb 2019 and successfully defended in April 2019. 

Contact: Chara Makri

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