On the Diffusion and Adoption of Management Ideas : Findings from six empirical studies in the quality field

Abstract: Management ideas are an important part of every organization’s institutional environment. These ideas affect how organizations are managed by shaping managers’ understanding of what organizations can, may or must do. Consequently, the diffusion and adoption of management ideas is an important aspect in the understanding of why organizations take certain actions at certain points in time. Furthermore, it is important to better understand how organizations mobilize to make their management ideas real and what processes they go through in their progress from general idea to local practice.

The overall purpose of this thesis is to contribute to existing empirical insight and knowledge about factors that are influential in the process during which management ideas are put into practice in an organizational context. The six appended papers highlight various aspects and phases of this process. The first study investigated managers’ perceptions of improvement work in the Swedish healthcare system. The second study investigated the introduction of a new model for working hours in a Swedish production plant. The last four investigated different phases in the diffusion and adoption of process management. One of these papers deals with the discourse of process management in management journals. The other three focus on the adoption of process management in a part of the public sector and on actions taken by the receiving end of management ideas.

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 illustrates that the adoption process is a process of considerable disequilibrium since it is a situation in which elements of power and politics in the organization are manifested. Hence, it is suggested that adoption of management ideas is better seen as contextualized into the organizations rather than being implemented according to plan. Since this contextualization determines what meaning the idea that is implemented can attain, the thesis argues that it also determines the potential level of change and thus has a direct effect on the level of improvements in organizational performance.

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