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Swift transition and knowledge cycling: A study of knowledge transfer in technical consulting
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Business Administration. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2015 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The prominent shifts towards greater flexibility in work arrangements as well as in organizational forms have had profound effects on the labor market for engineers, and given rise to the technical consulting industry. The technical consulting firm is becoming increasingly important in many technology-based industries, as a growing number of technology-based firms rely on technical consulting firms to produce their outputs. In that respect, the technical consulting firm is an important actor for the organization and development of engineering knowledge, as well as for the transfer of knowledge to and among technology-based firms. However, despite its growing importance, the technical consulting firm has received scant scholarly attention. Hence, the purpose of this thesis is to enhance the understanding of the roles of the technical consulting firm and the technical consultants for the transfer of knowledge among problem-solving contexts and client organizations.

This thesis is comprised of a compilation of three papers and an extended summary. It draws upon a qualitative single-case study in one of Scandinavia’s leading technical consulting firms. This thesis takes a multilevel perspective, and utilizes an embedded case study design to study both the organizational and the individual level of analysis. In total, it builds on 54 interviews with managers and consultants, 14 observations of a competence development program for engineers who are in the beginning of their careers as technical consultants, and 2 workshops with managers.

This thesis identifies two primary capabilities, developed through the interaction between the firm and the individual level: swift transition and knowledge cycling. The findings indicate that the link between the respective capabilities creates the foundation for the successful organization of engineering knowledge. Hence, these capabilities illustrate that the technical consulting firm has other roles to play than merely solving the problem of numerical and functional flexibility. Moreover, this thesis develops the process of knowledge cycling. The knowledge cycling process addresses the role of the individual consultant in the transfer of knowledge within and among problem-solving contexts, and consists of three distinct knowledge processes found prominent during the different phases of a consulting assignment: (1) knowledge acquisition, (2) knowledge integration, and (3) knowledge transfer. Furthermore, this thesis provides insight into how formal training affects the technical consultants’ ability to transfer knowledge. The findings suggest that this ability is developed through a three-stage process: (1) identifying the core of an assignment, (2) broadening the scope of action, and (3) becoming more self-confident in the role of consultant.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2015. , 70 p.
Series
FiF-avhandling - Filosofiska fakulteten – Linköpings universitet, ISSN 1401-4637 ; 114
Keyword [en]
Professional service firm, technical consulting firm, technical consultants, mobile engineers, knowledge transfer, mobility, swift transition, knowledge cycling, formal training
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118497DOI: 10.3384/lic.diva-118497ISBN: 978-91-7519-044-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-118497DiVA: diva2:814971
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-05-29 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Exploring the knowledge-based advantages of the technical consulting firm: Swift transition and knowledge cycling
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the knowledge-based advantages of the technical consulting firm: Swift transition and knowledge cycling
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

There are currently major changes underway concerning the organization of human resources in engineering-intensive industries. These changes entail, inter alia, the externalization of the workforce, novel employment contracts, and increasing use of consultants to respond to fluctuating market demands and higher task uncertainties. This opens up for a number of opportunities for researchers interested in investigating the role of the firm, the boundaries of the firm, and the capabilities of the firm. In this article, we investigate the nature and capabilities of one actor in this emerging market for human resources – the technical consulting firm. Based on an in-depth single-case study, spanning multiple organizational levels including interviews with top managers, middle managers, consultant managers and individual consultants, of one of Scandinavia’s leading technical consulting firms this article identifies two primary capabilities: swift transition and knowledge cycling. This article demonstrates that these two capabilities are formed through the interaction between the firm and the individual level. Furthermore, it argues that the interplay between the respective capabilities creates the foundation for the successful organization of engineering knowledge.

Keyword
Professional service firm, technical consulting firm, mobility, capabilities, swift transition, knowledge cycling
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118494 (URN)
Available from: 2015-05-28 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29
2. The nature and process of knowledge cycling: A study of labor mobility among technical consultants
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The nature and process of knowledge cycling: A study of labor mobility among technical consultants
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Knowledge transfer is fundamental to the successful performance of firms in a range of sectors. Technical consulting constitutes an industrial domain where the transfer of knowledge is perhaps particularly important. This article centers on the relationship between labor mobility and knowledge transfer. Based on a single-case study of a leading Scandinavian technical consulting firm, this article focuses on the technical consultant’s role in the transfer of knowledge among organizational contexts. The article draws upon field data comprising a large number of interviews with managers and consultants in the studied firm. Emerging from the case study is a knowledge process that we label the knowledge cycling process. The notion of knowledge cycling refers to the intentional and scheduled rotation of individuals among problem-solving contexts to allow for the transfer of knowledge. The article contributes to the literature on knowledge transfer in technical consulting, especially by recognizing the role of the individual as an agent in the transfer of knowledge, and the rotation among assignments as a critical component to stay current and be able to participate in the process of knowledge cycling.

Keyword
Temporary organizing, technical consultants, knowledge transfer, labor mobility, knowledge cycling
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118495 (URN)
Available from: 2015-05-28 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29Bibliographically approved
3. Training for knowledge transfer: A study of formal training for mobile engineers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Training for knowledge transfer: A study of formal training for mobile engineers
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Purpose The aim of this article is to explore how engineering consultants develop the ability to effectively transfer knowledge through a formal training program for newly graduated engineers

Design/methodology/approach This article reports on a qualitative case study of an introductory development program in a Scandinavian technical consulting firm. The study is based on 14 observations in training sessions and meetings, and 18 interviews with participants, trainers and developers of the program.

Findings This study identifies a process, comprised of three consecutive stages, which develops the engineering consultants’ ability to effectively transfer knowledge by enabling them to master their mobile and transient work situation: (i) identifying the core of an assignment, (ii) broadening the scope of action, and (iii) becoming more self-confident in the role of consultant.

Originality/value This article adds to the knowledge transfer literature by taking an individual level perspective and identifying how formal training in the context of technical consulting affects the engineering consultants’ ability to transfer knowledge.

Keyword
Mobile engineers, engineering consultants, liminality, knowledge transfer, formal training
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-118496 (URN)
Available from: 2015-05-28 Created: 2015-05-28 Last updated: 2015-05-29Bibliographically approved

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