Re: PCP and group trainings

Robin Hill (bsrah@TWP.AC.NZ)
Tue, 1 Dec 1998 10:05:35 +1200


Your inquiry is one that I have dabbled with, particularly regarding
the construal of "quality."

In the organisational behaviour course that I teach, I often need to
make reference to the problem of meaning. I often recite the story
on pages 87 to 88 of Stewart & Stewart "Business Applications of
Repertory Grid." It tells the story of three different
interpretations and sets of language used in one company regarding

As a personal experience, I once worked in a firm introducing TQM
where the CEO got frustrated because it wasn't working as it should.
At senior management meetings, when arguments developed I would often
say "it all depends what you mean?" My comment would then be
discounted as "mere semantics - not reality." However, about two
weeks before I left that firm the CEO had a heart-to-heart chat with
me, and agreed that I had been correct. There were four key senior
managers and each had a different construal of quality and TQM. The
CEO recognised that:

The Sales manager construed quality in terms of reliability of
product. Product that did not break down once distibuted to
customers, and hence was not returned.

The Manufacturing Manager construed quality in terms of the
documentation in TQM. Policies and procedures he could use to
discipline anyone who made mistakes or sub-standard product.

The Financial Controller saw quality in terms of superior engineering
and economy. A quality product was one that out performed others on
various measures.

The CEO, himself viewed quality in terms of the gadgets on the
dashboard and the leather seats in his car. He had to concede that
his view of quality as luxury was well outside the view of the other
three, and not particularly useful in terms of the product we made.

These very stories, and some similar circumstances lead me to
consider the problem of meaning of constructs. At that time I was
reading Denis Hinkle's PhD dissertation and about page 17 stumbled
across the notion that a construct is defined by that which is both
superordinate and subordinate to it. Also the notion that
superordinacy and subordinacy can be derived from Hinkles laddering
technique. Hence for an individual, the term quality would be
defined by answering "why do we require quality in this context?"
and "How do we get quality in this context?" or "How do we recognise
quality in this context?" Try it for yourself and see what happens.

I have tried group PCP approaches, and sometimes wonder about its
validity. I see PCP as very much an ideographic approach. When you
work in groups, however, all the problems of group dynamics emerge.
Some people are outspoken and have their voice heard, some remain
silent and withdrawn etc. Hence it requires some skilled group
facilitation. One piece of literature I am aware of in this respect
which may be useful, is Eden, Jones & Sims (1983) book "Messing About
in Problems." Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Another possibility with larger numbers, is repertory test and
laddering by booklet. A former colleague and I have done this quite
successfully. We used booklets where some pages were cut in
half so that you could still see your previous responses while
working on the next set (eg. could see the list of elements written
on the inside back cover of the booklet, while working through a
series of half pages to elicit constructs. These days you may be
able to contrive an electronic booklet written in html that guides
your police officers through the process. (I just thought of that - I
might try it myself). That way you might distribute a disk to them,
which they complete and return to you.

Dr. Robin Hill

Principal Lecturer & Research Leader
Department of Business Studies
The Waikato Polytechnic
Private Bag 3036
Hamilton 2020
New Zealand

Fax. NZ (07) 834-8802