Keywords: continuous improvement, hierarchy, organisational change, innovation, case study
The problem of using hierarchy for implementing organisational innovation
Neither science nor practice seems to regard the implementation of a continuous improvement (CI) programme as a problematic organisational innovation. Many organisations do not regard CI implementation as a major change and tend to use their existing hierarchy to organise and manage the process. There is no specific literature on CI programme implementation processes. This article shows that the implementation of a CI programme is a non-trivial and actually problematic process, especially if the programme is implemented using the existing hierarchy. Two case studies are presented to illustrate and discuss the problems related to this strategy, showing that the hierarchical approach is not suited for furthering, detailing and implementing the general ideas behind CI. Yet, this is exactly what this design-and-learn type of organisational innovation needs. In our case studies, all the people involved need to learn about the CI programme, appreciate its value and develop their role in it. Using the existing hierarchy does not seem to enable this. Rather, CI appears to need what could be called, "participative embedding".