Double Fantasy: The antinomic relationship between technical discipline and project integrity
In: SPRU/CENTRIM Conference in Honour of Keith Pavitt: What Do We Know About Innovation?, 13-15 Nov 2003, Brighton, UK.
This paper addresses a key interest in Keith Pavitt’s later work (Pavitt, 1998; 2002); the organisational arrangements for co-ordinating technological knowledge. It also concurs with Pavitt’s insistence on the constraints on managerial agency and his nihilistic amusement at frustrated plans.
The paper analyses two case studies of organisations attempting to manage transitions aimed at improved co-ordination processes. These are similar firms in high-tech, multi-technology, knowledge-intensive businesses. Both are project-based, in the same geographical region and about the same size, yet they have taken their organisations in contrary directions. The first has moved from organisation around functional disciplines to product-based, cross-functional teams, while the second has done the reverse. The paper reviews the effects of these different organisational solutions on the processes of knowledge integration within the firms, the effects on communities of practice and the ways in which the systems have developed and adapted in response to the reorganisations. It challenges many of the simplistic prescriptions offered in the literature and provides further fuel for the debates over corporate initiatives and the knowledge integration task.
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