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Developing and maintaining organisational competitiveness through new patterns of work : a study of the Williamstown Naval Dockyard


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Holland, P 2002 , 'Developing and maintaining organisational competitiveness through new patterns of work : a study of the Williamstown Naval Dockyard', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The Williamstown Naval Dockyard was the Australian federal government's
premier naval dockyard. It had a long-standing reputation for poor productivity,
inefficient work practices and industrial unrest and had been described as the
Iron Lung of Australian Industry (Irving, 1993), and Australia's worst worksite
(White, 1983). After several failed attempts to restructure the dockyard, the
federal government demonstrated its willingness to employ commercial
measures by privatising this utility. On 1 January 1988, the dockyard was
transferred to the highly competitive private shipbuilding sector. As the first
public utility sold by an Australian federal government it provides an
opportunity to examine the restructuring of the dockyard to compete within an
international market.
It has been argued since the economic crises of the 1970s that competitive
advantage will increasingly be derived from an organisation's human resources,
in particular how they are organised and managed (Piore & Sabel, 1984;
Mathews, 1989; Wood, 1989). The micro-economic reform of the Australian
labour market since the 1980s has been an important contextual factor in
providing the opportunity for the development of innovative work patterns and
practices. In line with these emerging themes of work organisation, this thesis
examines the development of new patterns of work as a way of enhancing
resource utilisation and performance through the framework of the flexible firm
or core-periphery model (Atkinson, 1984). This organisational framework was
developed as a response to increasingly dynamic and volatile market conditions.
The development of the model infers an increasingly planned rather than reactive
approach to the development of the organisation's human resources to enhance
the organisation's capabilities and therefore competitiveness.
The broad theme of this thesis is the analysis of the organisation of work. First,
the analysis of work organisation involves investigation of contextual factors.
Second, the extent to which the flexible firm model has been replicated. Third,
this thesis aims to extend the theoretical advancement of work organisation
theory. Employing a qualitative methodology, the case study used the QSR
NUD*IST software package to analyse interview transcripts and documents
and provide categories of subject matter for analysis. Careful attention was
given to the contextual and historical background in keeping with the
contextual approach to this investigation.
The findings indicate that an integrative approach to work patterns and practices
combined with a high level of management commitment through investment in
training and development, are central factors in increased human resource
utilisation. This holds a number of implications for organisations operating in
dynamic environments with regard to the organisation of work.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Holland, P
Keywords: Williamstown Naval Dockyard, Industrial management, Navy-yards and naval stations, Industrial organization
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2001 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2002. Includes bibliographical references

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