Process improvement in humanitarian operations: an organizational theory perspective

Paul D. Larson, Cyril Foropon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Contingency theory suggests the best way to organise and lead an organisation, or to make decisions, depends upon internal and external situational factors, e.g. organisational size, operational scope and environmental uncertainty. Humanitarian organisations use various process management tools, including codes of conduct and standards. Large non-governmental organisations (NGOs) seem especially attracted to standards. The purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of process improvement techniques, with a focus on standards, in use by humanitarian NGOs. Content analysis is the method employed in this study. A sample of humanitarian NGO annual reports and web pages is studied to describe the NGOs and determine their approaches to process improvement. The sample contains a mix of NGOs based on their location (France or Canada), organisational size and scope of operations (development aid, disaster relief, etc.). Contingency theory is useful in linking contingency factors to process improvement approaches. NGO size, operational scope and organisational culture factors are linked to use of standards. This is one of the first (if not the first study) to adopt contingency theory in an investigation of process improvement approaches among humanitarian NGOs. It focuses on a managerial issue of great relevance – process improvement in humanitarian operations.
Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalInternational Journal of Production Research
Issue number21
Pages (from-to)6828-6841
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 19.01.2018
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • 999 Others
  • Contingency Theory
  • Process Improvement
  • Humanitarian Operations
  • Standards
  • Content Analysis


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