Date of Award

Winter 1994

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Management & Systems Engineering


Engineering Management and Systems Engineering

Committee Director

Frederick Steier

Committee Member

Resit Unal

Committee Member

Billie Reed

Committee Member

Claire Jacobs


A century-old disagreement in academia surrounds the question of whether individuals acting alone accomplish all work or whether workers can truly act in concert to meet management's production requirements. Total Quality Management (TQM) is a powerful force today in the industrial world, and the formation of teams to solve short-term problems is one of its fundamental techniques. This dissertation focuses on a particular TQM team with the purpose of understanding the processes it used to meet its goals. This ten-member team functioned for about one year and was assigned goals leading to improved accelerator reliability. The investigator was a member of this team.

Applicable theories and practices from the literature about teams in the workplace and about reliability engineering are discussed. The dissertation also includes a chronological account of the projects the team completed and a detailed analysis of nine of them. This analysis indicates that the resources used to start and finish a project are a function of many variables, including: the specific talents of the team members, their availability, the time-frame allowed, and project scope and complexity.

Analysis of the nine work processes showed that only one project required initial input from everyone, and none were completed by just one member. Most projects were accomplished by two, three, or four-person mini-teams. This correlates with a theory which postulates that the fewer people involved in a collective effort, the harder each person still involved will work. At the same time, the full team had its uses; it made decisions by consensus and was a talent pool for selecting members of the mini-teams. It also acted as a review panel; when a mini-team needed advice, a critique, or encouragement, it went to the full team for help and got it.

The processes that team members use to divide the labor and accomplish the work are as complex as human nature, but this team achieved economy of effort simply by using the members best fitted for each project and by using only the minimum number that could reasonably do the work.