The Covid-19 crisis has stimulated the adoption of a number of managerial innovations, says Caroline Mattelin-Pierrard. She observes that one innovation – ‘the liberated company’ – provides opportunities for an organisation to develop greater agility and seems to have been adopted as a response to forced distancing.
The liberated company (or Holacracy) has been defined as an “organisational form in which employees have complete freedom and responsibility to take actions that they, not their managers, decide are best” (Getz, 2009, p. 34).
Caroline and her colleagues have been analysing managerial innovation adoption through a study based on the narratives of two specific cases.
The findings are consistent with the Track “Outcomes and performance of managerial innovation” at the 2021 R&D Management conference, of which Caroline was co-chair.
The study is based on the three phases of the process of managerial innovation adoption:
- – initiation and decision
- – implementation
- – routinisation
Timing important for successful adoption of change
A processual approach makes it possible to observe how managerial practices (setting goals and procedures, meeting demands from different stakeholders, etc…) are refined, stabilised and consolidated over time through multiple negotiations, in particular by the means of bundles of practices (specific configurations of consistent practices).
The study reveals that some practices (and/or bundles of practices) are a prerequisite for the implementation of other practices (and/or bundles of practices). It is therefore not merely a question of thinking about the internal coherence of bundles of practices, but also about the consistence of their adoption across time. As a result, enabling practices (support and communication bundles) give employees the capacity to act and support the implementation of new processes (empowerment bundle). For example, to become fully autonomous an employee may need a supportive manager acting like a coach before feeling comfortable in making decisions. Right to make mistakes is also one of the preconditions.
This distinction enriches the understanding of the adoption process of a managerial innovation and allows us to think about the complementarity between the managerial practices of the liberated company.
If the implementation phase is key, since it is the most likely to generate resistance and encounter obstacles in the organisation (Birkinshaw et al., 2008), the routinisation phase deserves a particular attention. For example, where individuals are uncertain use of an innovation, adoption may be contingent on a prior decision by the organisation (Rogers, 1995), rejection could occur further in the process.
To prevent such rejection, the enabling practice could favour the sustainability of the adoption. It is therefore important to consider the whole process, as the content of the previous phases may be a factor that favours the success of the following phases (Khosravi et al., 2019).
The routinisation phase could crystallise all the tensions that have been ignored, particularly due to the inconsistent adoption of practices (in terms of bundles or temporality). Beyond the adoption decision, the consistence of the whole process is therefore strategic and should be planned.
Could tensions be resolved through better timing?
The processual approach (Langley et al., 2013) highlights the importance of temporality and context (the history and culture of organisations), political processes, power plays and decision-making, and challenges the view that strategy formation is essentially a conceptual process.
This represents a promising analytical framework (Bocquet et al., 2019; Damanpour et al., 2018).
As an extension of our research, this would highlight whether a different temporal arrangement of managerial practices could have a positive effect in avoiding the tensions (e.g. in terms of normative pressure) identified elsewhere in the literature (e.g. Picard & Islam, 2020).
Managerial and organisational innovation effects need further explorations, especially regarding social ones.
Useful background to the field of Managerial Innovation
For a newcomer, I would like to recommend the following two recent references which provide a clear overview of managerial and organisational innovation literature, past researches and some ideas for future researches:
Damanpour, F. (2020). Organizational Innovation: Theory, Research, and Direction. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Khosravi, P., Newton, C. & Rezvani, A. (2019). Management innovation: A systematic review and meta-analysis of past decades of research. European Management Journal, 37(6), 694-707.
Vaccaro, I. G., Volberda, H. W., & Van Den Bosch, F. A. (2013). Management innovation in action: The case of self-managing teams. In Handbook of organizational and managerial innovation. Edward Elgar Publishing.
Caroline Mattelin-Pierrard is associate professor at University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France. She completed is PhD at University Savoie Mont Blanc where she is also associate researcher. Her research focus on organisational and managerial innovations. More specifically, she is interested in new organisations, in particular the liberated company (or Holacracy), and approaches managerial innovation from the perspective of responsible management (from its antecedents to its effects).
Read Caroline’s paper:
Source: Mattelin-Pierrard C., Battistelli M., Dubey A.S., 2020, Libération d’entreprises et pratiques managériales : quelle(s) temporalité(s) d’adoption ?, 29th Congress of the Association International de Management Stratégique (AIMS), Online, 3-5 June.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343737055_Liberation_d’entreprises_et_pratiques_manageriales_quelles_temporalites_d’adoption (Currently in French, it will soon be translated into English.)