Towards a Conceptual Framework of Adoption of Management Ideas: Findings from Three Empirical Studies
Licentiate thesis, 2005
Management ideas are an important aspect within every organizations institutional environment. These ideas affect how organizations are managed by shaping managers understandings of what organizations can, may, or must do. Consequently, the diffusion and adoption of management ideas is an important aspect in understanding why organizations take certain actions at certain points in time. The objective of this thesis is to contribute to the understanding of affecting factors during the process when a management idea meets reality in an organizational context.
The empirical contribution of the thesis is three papers based on three separate studies. The first study investigated managers perceptions of improvement work within the Swedish health care system. The second study investigated the introduction of a new working hours model in a Swedish production plant. The third study investigates the adoption of process management within one of Swedens largest purchasing organizations in the public sector.
The results draw special attention to the tacit nature of management ideas and the conceptual ambiguity that makes it difficult to pinpoint their exact meaning. Thus, different interpretations are possible and one idea can be given various meanings according to the subjective perceptions of the members of an organization.
The thesis further suggests that the adoption of management ideas can be seen as a dialectic relationship between the idea that is being adopted to make a change and preserving forces within the organization. The tension that is constituted by the very relationship of these forces is manifested in various ways in the papers. This is described as a process of considerable disequilibrium since elements of power and politics in the organization are manifested. Hence, it is suggested that adoption of management ideas is better seen as being negotiated into the organizations rather than being implemented according to plan. Since these negotiations determine what meaning the implemented idea can obtain, the thesis argues that they also determine the potential level of change and hence have a direct effect on the level of improvements in organizational performance.
In addition, the thesis puts forth ideas towards a conceptual framework for studying the process from idea to reality that will be applied in the authors future research.