How are Practices Made to Vary? Managing Practice Adaptation in a Multinational Corporation
Forthcoming in Organization Studies
49 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2014
Date Written: January 20, 2014
Research has shown that management practices are adapted and ‘made to fit’ the specific context into which they are adopted. Less attention has been paid to how organizations anticipate and purposefully influence the adaptation process. How do organizations manage the tension between allowing local adaptation of a management practice and retaining control over the practice? By studying the adaptation of a specialized quality management practice – ACE (Achieving Competitive Excellence) – in a multinational corporation in the aerospace industry, we examine how the organization manages the adaptation process at the corporate and subsidiary levels. We identified three strategies through which an organization balances the tension between standardization and variation – preserving the ‘core’ practice while allowing local adaptation at the subsidiary level; 1) creating and certifying progressive achievement levels; 2) setting discretionary and mandatory adaptation parameters; and 3) differentially adapting to context-specific and systemic misfits. While previous studies have shown how and why practices vary as they diffuse, we show how practices may diffuse because they are engineered to vary for allowing a better fit with diverse contextual specificities.
Keywords: aerospace, adaptation, adoption, diffusion, lean, management innovation, multinational corporations, practices, quality management, standards.
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