Adopting a management innovation … without all the pain

Some organisations can implement a management innovation1 relatively quickly and smoothly – but other organisations, implementing the same innovation, experience much more difficulty. Why is that? And how might we make the process quicker and easier?

Vlerick Professor of Strategy and International Business, Carine Peeters, and two colleagues from other universities, have published a paper that identifies six types of practices to facilitate the successful adoption of a management innovation.

2 successes – one quick, the other slow

The authors conducted an in-depth comparative study of two large multinational US companies, leaders in their respective sectors. The management innovation the two companies implemented was global sourcing – that is, the reconfiguration of a company’s value chain through global sourcing of business services from offshore locations.

Both companies initiated global sourcing of business services in 2001 (when the practice was still in its infancy), and both companies succeeded in adopting the innovation. But adopting and adapting to fit the new practice to the organisation was relatively seamless and rapid for one company, while this was much longer and more painful for the other company.

Key findings for practitioners

  • The authors find that time to success in adopting a management innovation depends on a system of interdependent innovation adoption routines. This series of routines must be in place or developed rapidly; the routines must be tailored to the particular management innovation to be adopted; and they must mutually reinforce each other.

  • In turn, practicing the innovation adoption routines depends on: the managerial attention that adoption of the new practice receives, and the legitimacy the new practice enjoys within the organisation.

  • An internal change agent helps drive managerial attention and legitimacy. Moreover, the higher the internal change agent’s position in the organisation, the more visibility the new practice receives, and the better the chance of creating organisation-wide legitimacy for the new practice.

The authors’ paper presents the six innovation adoption routines in detail, supplemented with best practices.

1 The authors define a ‘management innovation’ as a new practice for the way work is delivered and/or managed in an organisation, which is adopted in order to improve performance. Some examples of management innovations are: the adoption of co-creation practices, e-learning, or teleworking.

Source: “Sources of Variation in the Efficiency of Adopting Management Innovation: The Role of Absorptive Capacity Routines, Managerial Attention and Organizational Legitimacy” by Carine Peeters, Silvia Massini (University of Manchester) and Arie Y. Lewin (Duke University). Published in Organization Studies, 35(9): 1343-1371 (2014)

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