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

posted on 2023-05-27, 22:19 authored by Holland, P
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.


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

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