The work in this theme focuses on the links between organisation and innovation. While there is recognition in the existing literature that the relationship between changes in technology, markets and organisation is a complex issue, much of the existing literature focuses on how changes in technology and markets shape organisational outcomes.
Our previous research on complex systems and solutions indicated that successful organisations co-evolve with technology and market changes. To be successful in changing market and technology conditions, firms develop organisational strategies, structures, capabilities and cultures which respond to, shape and exploit external technology and market changes. Successful firms seem to pro-actively develop their organisational structures and processes ahead of, or in tandem with, market and technological opportunities. Less successful ones seem to respond or react to external innovations and changes ‘are forced upon them’. This can be a costly and difficult process but reflects the organisational inertia commonly found in large firms which sometimes find themselves overly comfortable with ‘the way we do business around here’, get stuck in their existing routines, and find it difficult to unlearn past behaviours. So, core capabilities can turn into ‘core rigidities’.
Projects are a widely used mechanism for overcoming inertia, functional boundaries and path dependency in large firms, enabling them to create new strategic positions and revitalise existing businesses. Projects are used extensively for a whole range of tasks including development of new products and services, process improvement, implementation of IT and production technologies, and achieving a wide range of strategic objectives. All of these tasks involve an element of or are wholly concerned with organisational change. Sadly, many projects have failed to deliver the intended outcomes, with some spectacular project failures across a range of sectors (including IT, transport, defence, and construction) both in the UK and abroad. According to some leading project management academics, much of this failure can be put down to senior managers and project teams underestimating, up front, the extent of uncertainty and complexity involved in their projects and failing to adapt their management style to the situation. In turn they fail to develop appropriate project capabilities to deal with the volatile, uncertain, complex and unpredictable (VUCA) environment that faces contemporary organisations. The tools and methods that can be used for simple predictable projects need to be supplemented with knowledge about how to manage the change, which is an inevitable part of the process of today’s complex projects.
Our enterprise activities
Building on our research into innovation change and organisational transformation, we have developed a number of training and development offerings for a variety of organisations including the Ministry of Defence and Network Rail. These offerings are based on a modular workshop approach whereby the client picks and chooses a customised set of training modules which best address the key issues they face as they seek to deliver projects and programmes to develop new outputs (e.g. products and services), outcomes (e.g. improved performance, organisational transformation, technological change) and capabilities in complex operating environments.