Thesis (Ph.D)

The influence of organisational variables on knowledge management in new product development


New product development (NPD) has been described as a complex and dynamic, knowledge-intensive process that relies heavily on the creation, sharing and utilisation of knowledge. The aim of the research study was to identify and evaluate the organisational variables that act as enablers and disablers of knowledge management in NPD. The variables, namely new product strategy, organisational culture, organisational structure, leadership and management, specialist roles and knowledge and ICT, systems and communication, were identified from a critical and analytical review of extant literature and collectively form the organisational infrastructure. Theorists espouse that the configuration of this infrastructure can enable the optimal management of knowledge. The research, which sought to answer the question “how do organisational variables influence the management of knowledge in the new product development process?” was conducted from an interpretivist perspective and utilised an inductive, exploratory, multiple case study strategy. This enabled in depth, cross-case analysis to be undertaken in two participant companies, who operate in the flooring manufacturing industry and engage in blue sky, new to market development and product modification. Data was collected using triangulation. First, forty participants (twenty in each company), who had specific knowledge of, or input to, the NPD process were selected via purposive sampling and interviewed using a semi-structured interview guide. Second, participant observations of the Group R&D Director and Group Development Manager (Company A) and Technical Director (Company B) were conducted and third, documents, including laboratory reports and product development successes and failures were analysed. A conceptual framework was developed using themes that emerged from the literature and evaluated via the empirical research and verbatim transcripts that were analysed by utilising thematic analysis. The findings identified that aspects of the six organisational variables enable and disable how knowledge is managed in both companies. Moreover, knowledge management activities are further hindered by the absence of a formal new product strategy, NPD process and cross-functional NPD team. In addition, communication was identified as a barrier to knowledge creation, dissemination and sharing and consequently impacted on both companies’ propensity to innovate effectively. The findings further revealed that specialist roles and knowledge has the most significant influence on how the Senior Management Teams manage their knowledge resources. Benchmarkable management practices are underpinned by an innovative and entrepreneurial culture and philosophy that imbues knowledge workers with personal autonomy to utilise and apply their specialist knowledge to core and peripheral NPD tasks. The study concludes that a firm’s infrastructure containing the organisational variables has an enabling and disabling influence on how knowledge is created, shared, applied, utilised and, ultimately, managed in the NPD process. The researcher thus recommends the use of the evaluated conceptual framework as a business tool to reconfigure aspects of the organisational infrastructure in both companies, such as the implementation of a cross-functional NPD team, to enable the effective management of specialist knowledge for strategic and competitive advantage.

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McLean, Jacqueline E.


Supervisors: Altinay, Levent; James, Philip; Adesola, Sola

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford Brookes Business School


Year: 2015

Published by Oxford Brookes University
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