Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Stephan Vachon

2nd Supervisor

Nicole Haggerty

Joint Supervisor


This dissertation explores the phenomenon of operational integrity (OI), defined here as the congruence between planned operational tasks and their execution by employees. I seek to answer the question of “how is OI achieved in human-reliant operational systems” on the premise that if the operational tasks are not executed as planned, the desired outcomes (e.g., service quality) are less likely to be realized resulting in the exposure of an organization to operational risks. To date, the literature pertaining to OI relies heavily on the notion of reliability particularly in manufacturing settings characterized by machine-based production systems. While few studies offer valuable insight into the execution of planned operational tasks in service operations, the understanding of OI within a system wherein the employees–as opposed to machines– are central to the value creation is rather underdeveloped.

To build a greater understanding of OI and provide rich descriptive analysis of how it is achieved, I embarked on an interpretive study to understand the phenomenon in a Canadian long-term care facility. During 48 episodes of visits, I spent nearly 280 hours in the field to collect data from over 45 key informants through interviews and meetings (seven sessions), shadowing and observation (41 sessions), and archival documents (100 pages). The findings revealed during the planning process, when planning the tasks that are thought to reflect strategic priorities, three challenges emerge: the challenges of cognitive barriers, insufficient resources, and interdependent decisions. These are dampened by the organizational counteractions of tackling cognitive barriers, offsetting insufficient resources, and coordinating the function of decision-makers. During the execution process, where employees act on planned tasks, there are challenges resulting from both behavioural characteristics and operational system characteristics, and the organization reduces the negative impact of challenges through compliance-stimulant mechanisms and completeness-restorative mechanisms.

As such, achieving OI is a multilayered, multifaceted, dynamic process in which both employees and management craft plans and attempt to fulfill those plans while faced with numerous barriers. This study expands the current understanding on executing planned operational tasks necessary for realizing critical desired outcomes and preventing operational risk, and opens up research avenues to scholarly efforts more attuned to everyday operational tasks. The research also offers key insights applicable beyond the context of study to achieving OI in human-reliant services.