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Knowledge Management Innovation Case Study

This paper draws on findings from a longitudinal study of the adoption of a management innovation within an organisational setting. It is based on the findings of a case study that explores and discusses in depth a Knowledge Management programme that was introduced within a large distributed public sector agency in Europe. The aim of this research was to provide insight into the adoption process associated with management innovation. A qualitative case study strategy generates an account of the process of adoption through three phases (initiation; implementation; and outcomes), the episodes within each phase, and decision-making across the entire process. The findings contribute to the development of an extended and refined model of the process of adoption of management innovation through the consideration of the labelling, sequence and transition of phases and episodes, and decision-making. In this extended and refined model there are three phases with nine episodes, two of which are recursive; the phases occur in a linear sequence but may overlap, while the episodes occur in a non-linear sequence; and decision-making occurs within episodes, between phases and between episodes. The study makes three primary contributions to knowledge. First, it considers the process of adoption (as opposed to the more commonly examined process of generation) of management innovation. Second, it identifies decision-making related to the changes required for adoption of a management innovation. Finally, it develops a model of the process of adoption of management innovation that includes decision-making. In addition, the output of the study can be used as a tool for project management by identifying the questions to be addressed, and the decisions to be made, at particular points of the management innovation process, taking into account local contexts.

Abstract

A critical aspect of business management is the successful creation of processes which drive the development of a continuous flow of innovation, to give a basis for competitive advantage. To reach this goal, the establishing of a knowledge management (KM) strategy may be considered the best way to channel the organization's efforts to this end. Knowledge management is understood in a wide sense as a process of overall change in the organization, focused on innovation, and especially related to the participation of every employee in the processes of creation and transmission of knowledge. This study analyzes the implementation of an innovation and KM strategy in the Irizar company, a maker of luxury coach bodywork. According to The Economist Intelligence Unit, Irizar is the most efficient company in the world in its sector. Irizar's success has been built on a system of self-management and participation, organizing its activity into processes and using multidisciplinary work teams. This type of organization has outstripped the traditional model, based on functions and the division of labour, and has permitted a centering of effort on those activities which add value. Another defining characteristic of Irizar is its combination of continuous improvement with radical changes and process re-engineering. A series of organizational factors are extracted from the case study which were successful in implementing the strategy. The study shows how the organization achieved the promotion of experience transmission and the generation of continuous innovation. It also makes clear that the firm's values and corporate culture are essential for success in this process. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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