Purpose - The aim of this paper is to show how a university-industry partnership can be used in two key ways. First, to contribute to academia through the development of new research methodology and improved understanding of the subject area (total quality management (TQM)). Second, to add to organisational learning by developing critical reflection and reflexivity in employees and managers involved in the partnership and the development of TQM in the organisation. Design/methodology/approach - The paper critiques the partnership between the author's university and a large utility organisation over a four-year period. The development of academic and organisational learning over this period is discussed, with particular emphasis on the need for developing appropriate research methodologies in this type of environment. Findings - The paper has shown that partnerships between universities and organisations often experience difficulties due to apparently differing and incommensurate desired outcomes. Any partnership activity must involve deep learning transfer and practitioner reflection and reflexivity as opposed to training. The overall method of working, which included the research methodology, was that of critical action learning. The emphasis on criticality involving this cycling process enabled practitioners to critically reflect and to carry out reflexive change actions. This approach ensured that grounded TQM models were produced which represented the complexity and dynamics of TQM implementation within the organisation. Once again, the practitioner's reflection and reflexivity added to the richness of the findings and developments. Overall, the partnership produced a range of successful outcomes. Practical implications - Overall, the partnership produced a range of successful outcomes for the organisation and the university over the four-year period. However, it should be noted that these methods of working and research methodologies for the partnership involve considerable time in comparison to more conventional approaches. Furthermore, the partnership required the commitment and understanding of the organisation in relation to long-term learning transfer Originality/value - This study puts forward an original approach to university-industry partnership and indeed highlights some of the positive aspects of the approach for both the university and the industry partner.
- Total quality management