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On the move to stay current: Knowledge cycling and scheduled labor mobility
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
BI Norwegian Business Sch, Norway.
2018 (English)In: Management Learning, ISSN 1350-5076, E-ISSN 1461-7307, Vol. 49, no 4, p. 429-452Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Technical consulting plays an increasingly important role in developing and transferring knowledge in a wide range of industries and sectors. We present a case study of Swift Tech, a leading Scandinavian technical consulting firm, to identify and assess the importance of knowledge cyclinga knowledge process based on scheduled and recurrent rotation of technical consultants among organizational and problem-solving contexts. Our study identifies four main phases of knowledge cycling: entering an assignment, building experience, contributing to the project, and shifting to a new assignment. These phases underpin our model of knowledge cycling, which demonstrates that two aspects of local knowledge processes are critical: project task familiarization and project organization familiarization. We show that knowledge cycling relies on a dynamic interaction between client organization, consulting firm, and individual consultant in the ongoing transfer of knowledge among distinct contexts and communities. Knowledge cycling demonstrates the significance of mobile knowledge for the development of situated knowledge; hence, our results have important implications for situated learning theory.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SAGE PUBLICATIONS LTD , 2018. Vol. 49, no 4, p. 429-452
Keywords [en]
Knowledge cycling; knowledge transfer; labor mobility; liminality; project-based work; technical consultants
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-151496DOI: 10.1177/1350507618772258ISI: 000443429800003OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-151496DiVA, id: diva2:1250643
Note

Funding Agencies|Swedish Research Council; Jan Wallanders and Tom Hedelius foundation

Available from: 2018-09-24 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2019-05-14
In thesis
1. The interplay between organizational capabilities and individual skills: Studies of technical and engineering consulting firms
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The interplay between organizational capabilities and individual skills: Studies of technical and engineering consulting firms
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The number of professional service firms has increased rapidly in the recent decades. This thesis focuses on a type of professional service firm that has, thus far, been under-researched, namely the technical and engineering consulting (TEC) firm. TEC firms are important actors with regard to innovation, knowledge development, and the transfer of knowledge among problemsolving contexts. This thesis addresses the organization and development of engineering knowledge and the roles of the TEC firm and the technical consultants in the transfer of knowledge among assignments, projects, client organizations, and industries.

This thesis consists of a compilation of four papers and an extended summary. It builds on four qualitative studies and takes a multilevel perspective by utilizing an embedded case-study design to examine both the organizational level and the individual level as well as the interaction between the two levels. The thesis draws upon interviews with managers, consultants, client representatives, and industry experts and analysts. Moreover, it presents findings from an in-depth study of a competence development program for technical consultants.

This thesis contributes to the professional service firm literature by uncovering the knowledgebased advantages accrued by TEC firms through the organization and development of engineering knowledge. This thesis identifies two capabilities, swift transition and knowledge cycling, and argues that the link between these capabilities creates the foundation for the successful organization of engineering knowledge. The thesis demonstrates that the capabilities developed by TEC firms are formed through the interaction between the organizational level and the individual level. In addition, this thesis illustrates that capabilities differ among TEC firms. These differences stem from the organizational processes of the firm and the individual skills of the technical consultants. Based on these differences, the thesis identifies two ideal types of firms: resource-capitalizer and project-capitalizer. Furthermore, it develops the notion of knowledge cycling which demonstrates how the mobility inherent in the technical consultants’ work facilitates the transfer and development of knowledge within and among problem-solving contexts. This process highlights the roles of the individual consultant, the TEC firm, and the client organization in the transfer of knowledge within and among assignments, projects, client organizations, and industries. Finally, this thesis provides insight into how formal training can develop the consultants’ ability to transfer knowledge among problem-solving contexts by enhancing their liminality competence.

Abstract [sv]

Antalet professionella tjänsteföretag har ökat snabbt de senaste decennierna. Denna avhandling fokuserar på en specifik typ av professionella tjänsteföretag som har fått begränsad vetenskaplig uppmärksamhet, nämligen teknikkonsultföretag. Teknikkonsultföretagen har fått en alltmer framträdande roll i många sektorer och branscher då de, genom det sätt på vilket de bidrar till att organisera och utveckla ingenjörskunskap, är viktiga för innovation, kunskapsutveckling och kunskapsöverföring mellan organisationer. I denna avhandling studeras organiseringen och utvecklingen av ingenjörskunskap med särskilt fokus på teknikkonsultföretagens och teknikkonsulternas respektive roller för kunskapsöverföring mellan uppdrag, projekt, kundorganisationer och industrier.

Denna avhandling består av fyra artiklar och en kappa. Avhandlingen grundar sig i fyra kvalitativa studier och tar ett flernivåperspektiv genom att studera både den organisatoriska nivån och den individuella nivån och deras interaktion. Den bygger på intervjuer med chefer, konsulter, kundrepresentanter, samt branschexperter. Dessutom presenteras resultat från en djupgående studie av ett kompetensutvecklingsprogram för teknikkonsulter. Avhandlingen bidrar till forskningen om professionella tjänsteföretag genom att visa på de kunskapsbaserade fördelar som teknikkonsultföretag tillförskansar sig genom det sätt på vilket de organiserar och utvecklar ingenjörskunskap. Denna avhandling identifierar två organisatoriska förmågor, swift transition och knowledge cycling, och argumenterar för att länken mellan dessa förmågor skapar grunden för organiseringen av ingenjörskunskap.

Avhandlingen visar att de organisatoriska förmågor som teknikkonsultföretag utvecklar bildas genom samspelet mellan den organisatoriska nivån och den individuella nivån. Dessutom synliggör avhandlingen att organisatoriska förmågor skiljer sig åt bland teknikkonsultföretag beroende på företagets processer för att organisera och utveckla ingenjörskunskapen och teknikkonsulternas individuella färdigheter. Baserat på dessa skillnader identifierar avhandlingen två ideala typer av företag: (i) de som tar utgångspunkt i de enskilda konsulternas kunskaper och (ii) de som tar utgångspunkt i möjligheten att skapa kunskapssynergier genom integration av olika konsulters kunskaper. Vidare utvecklar avhandlingen knowledge cycling begreppet som belyser hur rörligheten, vilket är en central del i teknikkonsulternas arbete, påverkar kunskapsöverföringen och kunskapsutvecklingen inom och bland problemlösningskontexter. Denna process betonar rollerna hos den enskilda konsulten, teknikkonsultföretaget och kundorganisationen vid kunskapsöverföring inom och bland uppdrag, projekt, kundorganisationer och industrier. Slutligen ger föreliggande avhandling inblick i hur kompetensutveckling kan bidra till konsulternas förmåga att överföra kunskap mellan olika problemlösningskontexter, genom att möjliggöra utvecklingen av s.k. liminalitetskompetens.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2019. p. 112
Series
Linköping Studies in Arts and Sciences, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 762
Keywords
technical and engineering consulting firm, professional service firm, technical consultants, mobile engineers, engineering knowledge, knowledge transfer, organizational capabilities, individual skills, liminality, liminality competence, teknikkonsultföretag, professionellt tjänsteföretag, teknikkonsulter, mobila ingenjörer, ingenjörskunskap, kunskapsöverföring, organisatoriska förmågor, individuella färdigheter, liminalitet, liminalitetskompetens
National Category
Business Administration Information Systems, Social aspects Computer and Information Sciences Work Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-156833 (URN)10.3384/diss.diva-156833 (DOI)9789176851173 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-06-14, ACAS, A building, Campus Valla, Linköping, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-05-14 Created: 2019-05-14 Last updated: 2019-05-22Bibliographically approved

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