Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

A KM implementation as management innovation: the impact of an agent of change.

Rasmussen, Louise; Hall, Hazel


Louise Rasmussen

Hazel Hall


This paper presents findings from an extensive study of a Knowledge Management (KM) programme within a large distributed public sector organisation. Here we conceive KM as a ‘management innovation’ (Birkinshaw, Hamel & Mol, 2005; Mol & Birkinshaw, 2008). This is on the basis that the programme in question exhibited novelty/newness, was implemented in practice, was intended to further organisational goals, and had an impact on how managerial work was conducted in the case study organisation. To date only limited research has been published on the process of adoption of management innovations i.e. the phases and episodes involved in how an organisation becomes aware of new innovations, acquires, adapts, assimilates and uses them to address particular organisational issues (Damanpour & Aravind, 2012; Rogers, 2003). In addition, although much has been published on the role of KM in innovation processes – both in the information science literature (e.g. Auernhammer & Hall, 2014) and beyond - scant attention has been paid to KM as an innovation in its own right. Equally the organisational impact of KM as a management innovation remains unexplored. This examination of a KM implementation thus offers theoretical insight at two levels: about KM itself (with a focus on KM implementations within large, distributed public sector organisations), and about management innovations (with a focus on the adoption process). The content of the paper is relevant to the i3 conference themes of (1) information as an agent of change and (2) impact in that it examines a programme developed to maximise the value of information and knowledge assets, and the impact of the programme on the host organisation. It will be of interest to both academic researchers and to practitioners, especially those charged with implementing KM in organisational settings. The findings of the study derive from an analysis of data collected over a period of eight years. Much of the evidence on which the analysis is based was assembled through processes of participant observation when the researcher was employed by the case study organisation. In addition electronic sources internal to the organisation revealed a rich seam of data on how KM was conceived and implemented in practice, including during the period prior to the researcher’s period of employment. The use of a chronological timeline and manual coding helped aid the deconstruction (or close review) of events and texts over a longitudinal timeframe. This revealed a process of adoption of KM in three main phases – ‘initiation’, ‘implementation’ and ‘outcomes’ - with a series of episodes evident within each phase. An outcome of this work is a model of adoption of KM as a management innovation according to the following the phases and episodes: • The initiation phase: (1) agenda-setting; (2) research/knowledge; (3) selection/matching, and (4) persuasion/validation • The implementation phase: (1) modification, (2) operationalisation, and (3) clarification/confirmation • The outcomes phase: (1) discontinuance and (2) routinisation The identification of four discourses – which have been labelled in this study as ‘fiefdom’, ‘one network’, ‘local delivery’, and ‘network delivery’ - shows the power of organisational discourse in representing both formal and informal organisational structures. The ‘one network’ discourse, in particular, was representative of the ambition (or agenda) for informal and formal structural change in the case organisation for almost a decade. The analysis undertaken for the study traces the influence of a range of internal factors (such as compatibility between management innovation, organisational structure, and ambition for organisational change) over the course of the adoption of management innovation through the lens of these four discourses. These discourses had a profound effect on how KM was received and operationalised within the case study organisation. A key finding from this research relates to the identification of two possible outcomes for a management innovation: (1) routinisation (more commonly labelled ‘institutionalisation’ in the KM literature); and (2) discontinuance. The latter is generally not included in models of innovation, largely because of reluctance to consider failure as an option. This ‘pro-innovation bias’ has been observed in both the innovation literature (Rogers, 2003 p.106) and KM literature (Hall & Goody, 2007). The findings of this study also indicate that researchers would have to gather material for data analysis over a decade (or more) to investigate the routinisation of KM.

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Information: interactions and impact (i3) 2015
Start Date Jun 23, 2014
End Date Jun 26, 2015
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Jun 19, 2015
Publicly Available Date Dec 31, 2015
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords Knowledge Management programmes; KM; education; research and innovation; personnel management;
Public URL
Contract Date Jun 19, 2015


Downloadable Citations