Good enough quality: Multiple quality cultures in a Swedish region
Paper in proceedings, 2020
Despite decades of efforts, the construction sector is still haunted by defects and impaired quality. The Swedish investments in buildings and infrastructure is impressive and counted in billions of euros these years. Yet the investment costs have not achieved concrete improvements and the quality of the realized infrastructure and buildings is at least controversial. The actors involved are despite their efforts unable to deliver an excellent quality, but merely a quality on an acceptable level. This paper aims at analysing the context which produces such a low-quality drawing on the concept of organisational culture inspired by Alvesson 's adaption of Geertz 's work. Organizational culture is here described as bearing multiple forms and occurring in complex constellations. As in construction, the projects and their interorganisational features are important, we cautiously choose to think of quality culture within a single urban region, assuming that projects and companies operate in the same shared environment. Out of the literature we have selected four major aspects of quality culture: The concept of quality, the formal legal quality control system, the relation between production and quality and the guiding micronarrative. The empirical material consists of 27 interviews of professionals of the sector and projects documents analysis. The results show that these four aspects unify and separate characteristics of quality cultures. Quality is assigned different meanings creating several quality cultures. Moreover, the formal quality control system is unable to bridge the major decalage between project and headquarters producing instead alternative set of quality cultures. The constellations of quality cultures in construction are thus in internal contradiction and continual instability. The resulting antagonistic dynamics resembles that of an orchestra of dissonances.