The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Implementation of Technical Change as Organizational Problem-Solving Process. Management and User Activities

Raimo Hyötyläinen

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Technology to be presented with due permission for public examination and debate in Auditorium K216 at Helsinki University of Technology (Otakaari 4, Espoo, Finland) on the 20th of March 1998, at 12 o'clock noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-38-6687-4)   [2096 KB]
VTT Publications 337, ISSN 1455-0849

Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-38-5216-4)
Copyright © 1998 VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
VTT Publications 337, ISSN 1235-0621


During the last two decades the growing innovation and management research has paid attention to the aspects of technical change. However, there are differing assumptions about the nature of the process of change. According to the innovation design dilemma two categories of innovation related to technical change have been identified, technical and organizational innovation. It has been become evident that there is a growing need to unite these two types of innovation into a common approach.

The focus of the study is the planning and implementation process of technical change in the user organization. The aim is to find out what kinds of planning and implementation models, methods and organizational forms can further innovative and organizational problem-solving activity in the implementation process of technical systems, which is contributing to the success of this process.

The study is based on long term and intensive development and research activity concerning the implementation process of three Flexible Manufacturing Systems in two companies. The FMS-study began in 1985 and was completed in 1992. Through the developmental approach based on experimental development research, the study was able to specify in great detail the progress of the implementation process in the cases. Attention was paid to social activity of the implementation process. The issue is how and by whom new techno-organizational solutions are finally brought about and carried out inside the user organization. New training, planning, organization and development methods were introduced and experimented with in the intensive cases, which created a rich and real picture of development potentials of the organization.

The analysis of the case study results showed that the implementation process of technical change consisted of a series of problem-solving and development steps taken by the user organization and its actors. This was a controversial, complex and long process in which the management, planners, support persons and users with different interests and ways of acting designed and constructed, mainly in a step by step way, the concrete technical and organizational characteristics of the "activity system". This was performed by solving planned and unanticipated problems that emerged during the definition of the innovation problem and goal setting, planning phase, implementation phase and operation phase.

The system model of the implementation process of technical change was created based on the analysis and evaluation of the case study results. The model presents in great detail the connections and relations between the results of the implementation process in the cases and the management's and users' ways of acting with their many dependencies and interactions.

According to the system model of the implementation process, the most important factors from the point of view of the success or failure of the results are the following elements: viewpoint on the nature of change; design concept; and organizational patterns. The relations of these elements are described by the development model of the implementation process of technical change. The development model is further specified and presented as a solution to the innovation design dilemma.

The case study results proved that the organizational patterns carried the most central role in explaining the results of the implementation process. They determined the quality of the problem-solving process in the planning process, implementation phase and "normal" operation phase through which the results were gained. In the cases, the roles of support persons and users, the users' way of working, actions of the management, co-operation patterns and the use of systematic methods were the factors which contributed mostly to successful results.

In the study, three planning and implementation models (techno-centric model, user-centered model, and lean production model) were chosen as the organizational patterns by which the organizational practices of the cases were studied. Comparative analysis of the activities of the management and users showed that the ways of acting in the cases were characterized mainly by the "techno-centric" and "user-centered" models. However, some features could be seen as practices in accordance with the "lean production" model.

The case studies demonstrated that the adoption of new kinds of planning and implementation practices was a controversial process. The planning and implementation process can be seen to form an "experimental field" where the difficulties, set-backs and good results experienced may act as a ground for learning and seeking new planning practices, implementation models and management approaches.

Keywords: technical change, technical progress, innovations, FMS, problem solving

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© 2006 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26