The Innovation Journal: The Public Sector Innovation Journal, 5(2), 2000, article 1c.

 

Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance?

An Exploration of the Innovation Process Through the Lens of the Blakeney

Government in Saskatchewan, 1971-82

 

Edited by Eleanor D. Glor


Previous: Preface Top: Table of Contents Next: Section 1

Introduction: How Can the Innovation Process Be Understood?

 

Eleanor Glor

The process through which innovation occurs is not well understood. Study of an innovative government offers an opportunity not only to explore what was done and how things were done but also to ponder how the innovation process can be understood. Deciding how to frame the question is one of the most important decisions in creating a book about the innovation process. What concepts should be used? What aspects of experiences should be considered important in order to identify, assess and understand the innovation process (1)?

The starting point for this analysis of the Saskatchewan innovation process from 1971-82 is David C. Wilson's exploration of theories of change, A Strategy of Change: Concepts and Controversies in the Management of Change. Wilson is Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Warwick Business School and Director of the Research Centre for Creativity, Strategy and Change. Wilson identified the origins of his book:

.... in an immense dissatisfaction with the way in which theories of organizational change have, over time, become synonymous with the management of change ....The problem in merging theory and application is that many of the assumptions, biases and contradictions of the underlying theories are lost in the haste to apply them. (Wilson,1992, Chapter 7) Based on a wide-ranging review of literature on the change process, Wilson made three distinctions in analyzing change: Voluntarism versus determinism, planned versus emergent change, and change as a problem of implementation versus change as a process. He observed the extent to which programmed change permeates both formulation and implementation in organizations today. Wilson's distinctions between voluntarism and determinism form the basis for an assessment of the innovation process in the Saskatchewan government.

VOLUNTARISM VERSUS DETERMINISM

Voluntarism is the concept that people can choose to make and can enact changes. Will, empowerment, morale and culture are cardinal concepts in the current versions of voluntarism, and formed the basis of much writing on innovation in the 1980s and 1990s, including my own (Glor, 1997a, 1998a, 1998b). Determinism, on the other hand, emphasizes forces that define what happens, including internal ones but underscores external ones. Rather than being focussed on the actions of planners and implementers, change and innovation are conceived in relation to other factors that impact on what happens.

Wilson identifies two basic approaches to change that conform to these concepts, the strategic choice framework and the systemic conflict framework. The strategic choice framework involves such approaches as organizational development, planned incrementalism, the enterprise culture as normative practice, learning from best practice, and the use of external consultants and change agents. The systemic conflict framework includes theories of organization such as contextualism, population ecology models, organizational life cycles, general market and business sector approaches, power in organizations and political models of change, and social action theories that emphasize the organization and situation as defined by individuals and the use of metaphor-the organization as theater, for example (Wilson, 1992: 22).

Planned change, strategic planning and a focus on implementation are all voluntaristic views of innovation. Emergent change and a focus on process are also one, deterministic view. While compressing all of these approaches into two risks reductionism, it moves consideration of the innovation process out of the voluntary paradigm that has become foremost today among both practitioners and academics.

This book first presents the perspectives of eight authors on the innovation process in the Blakeney government. It then assesses the innovativeness of the Blakeney government in voluntaristic, then in deterministic terms, drawing on material from the book and analyzing the approaches of the Blakeney government. Finally, it assesses the relative value of and identifies the learning created using the voluntaristic and deterministic approaches.

VOLUNTARISM

The concepts of planned change and implementation bring the voluntary approach down to the organizational level.

Planned Change

Although the assumption that innovation and change can be planned eliminates numerous possibilities from the lexicon of change, many authors concentrate on the introduction and implementation of innovation-providing an assessment of how an innovation was introduced and focusing on the decision to approve and implement the innovation as a process of change within the organization. This is the dominant model today for understanding innovation today.

A move to an emphasis on case studies as the basis for examination of innovation and teaching of public and business administration has paralleled the introduction of the planned change model. Case studies of successful innovation were published, for example Johnson (1992), Watson and Burkhalter (1992), Keston (1992), Baker (1992), Nunn (1992), Hale (1991), Clark (1989/90) and Glor (1997a).

Most authors who studied planning and implementation of innovations either emphasized the elements or stages of the process or focused on the strategies employed: Duclos (1988/89), Jabes (1990/91) and Glor (1997b), for example, identified the elements of the innovation process in the organization. Grady suggested that a theory of innovation management was emerging, and reviewed published material from 42 states and a variety of agencies. He posited a quasi-sequential process for innovation development: problem-opportunity identification, innovation origination-development, organizational decision making-choice taking, and implementation-evaluation (Grady, 1992). Based on Rogers' process (1971), Glor also suggested a sequential process, consisting of readiness, negotiating approval, implemention, evaluation and learning (Glor, 1997b, 1998a). With a note of restraint, Golembiewski and Sun (1991) noted that the planned change literature prescribed numerous general guides for practice, but that there was still a lack of knowledge about the specific features of situations that lead to high success rates.

Most of these studies drew lessons from their experience. A study of the Minnesota STEP program, for instance, identified six key processes in government innovation-closeness to the customer, employee participation, managerial discretion, partnerships, productivity improvement, and work measurement (Hale and Williams, 1989, p. 33). Aucoin and Savoie's (1998) assessment ofProgram Review and Ingstrup and Crookall's (1998) review of well performing organizations also identified lessons (see below).

The prescriptiveness of these case studies is based on some implicit assumptions: that the essence of what happened has been captured, that what happens in governments can be controlled by managers, and that these innovations can be replicated in other situations. The approach assumes there is causation and the causes have been identified-it is voluntaristic.

Strategic Planning

Stategic planning is currently very popular. The concept involves planned change and is voluntaristic. Ingstrup Ole and Paul Crookall, in The Three Pillars of Public Management: Secrets of Sustained Success did a survey of public organizations in Canada and world-wide, asking them to identify two or three sustained, well-performing organizations within their public services that have performed at a high level over an extended period (6-10 years) and are significant contributors to the public service. They included Saskatchewan Transportation and Highways in the list-Saskatchewan Transportation in an earlier era is included in this study as well. From their analysis they concluded that the three pillars of public management are aim-mission, leadership and accountability; character-people, communication and trust; and execution-management tools and change management. (Ingstrup and Crookall, 1998: 8-13) They highlighted both strategic planning and change management.

A study of Program Review, the Canadian federal government's massive budget cutting exercise of 1994-96, is treated as a strategic planning exercise by Aucoin and Savoie in Managing Strategic Change (1998). The study drew lessons from the experience of individual departments and identified key elements of successful management of strategic change. Effective change required that the objectives of change be framed so that those at the strategic apex can identify priorities with respect to the way in which change is meant to unfold. There must be a commitment to going beyond incrementalism and instruments for facilitating the promotion of strategic rather than incremental change. Those most affected by the change must at some point buy into both the process and the intended results. Achieving change will be influenced by the degree to which an organization has prepared itself for change through planning. (Aucoin and Savoie, ed., 1998: 273-289) Choice and will were considered essential to their concept of strategic planning.

These studies treated the innovations and change as planned strategic change. In the extreme, planned change would be seen as creating a smooth transition from a previous strategic vision to a future desired state.

This extreme and probably unattainable view is ... the basic principle underlying a considerable amount of change theory and technique, much of which can be found in examples from the North American literature on organization theory and organizational change. (Wilson, 1992: 27)

Wilson concluded that there are three elements to the concept of planned change: It involves managerial voluntarism, the idea that managers have choices; management theory, focussed on behavioural issues, not for example, the role of intellect, ethics and aesthetics; and planned strategic change, i.e. smooth transition from a previously articulated strategic vision towards a future desired state. Strategic change varies from psychological models through organizational development and includes programmed packages such as total quality management and some management training.

Several specific phenomena have been associated with the concept of planned change. Close links have been created between academia and government/business. Human resource management has emerged as a field of its own. Management training has been introduced, involving the notion of predetermined competencies. Overall the marker of planned change has been certainty about what motivates people, how they should be dealt with and trained, and what results are appropriate and will be achieved using these tools.

Practitioners and theorists have taken a comprehensive range of approaches to planned change, involving the behavioural, the structural and the cultural aspects of life. The levels of analysis used have included organizational behaviour, organizational analysis (emphasizing processes) and organizational theory, including the notion that change is not a fact but a perceptual phenomenon. Proponents have suggested change could be brought about by changing the behaviour of individuals, improving the analytical ability of individuals, and creating organizational fit.

In 1911 Frederick Taylor introduced the concept of scientific management and the idea that there is one best way of organizing an activity. He created efficiency-based routines that became the basis of most manufacturing production and especially assembly-line manufacturing. Today, again, the notion that there is one best way to organize has been introduced, now concerned with the structure and culture of organizations. This way is seen to be applicable to all kinds of organizational activity-private sector, governmental and voluntary sector.

This one best way is currently the enterprise culture. It involves team-based cultures to foster innovation and entrepreneurialism, a best practice approach, and increased faith in consultants, change agents and gurus of organizational change. Wilson noted the ideological intensity of the enterprise culture

Implementation: Internal Management Correlates of Innovation

Several authors have attempted to identify the best way to administer innovation. Yin et. al. (1977) identified administrative correlates of innovation, based on a study of 140 case studies of technical innovations, suggesting that key correlates of innovation were time pressures, personal and organizational objectives being closely aligned, institutionalization of innovative policies, the number of decision points required to approve the innovation, and the degree of professional organization, among others. Grady (1992) recognized some of the same correlates, but also communication channels, reward structure, use of a quasi-sequential process, the central role of management in fostering innovation, politicians and agency heads as initiators, and comprehensive planning. Rogers and Kim (1985) focussed on some of these elements, plus the innovation, members of a social system, and incremental innovation. The correlates of innovation identified by a number of authors are outlined in Table 1. The focus is on strategies and approaches internal to the organization.

Table 1: Correlates of Innovation

Variables:

Rogers & Kim

Jacques & Ryan

Mohr 1969

Merritt

Yin et al

Hale & Williams

Grady

Borins 1998

The innovation

x

Communication channels

x

x

x

Time pressures

x

x

Members of a social system

x

Availability of resources

x

x

x

x

Uncertainty in a structurally loose org'n

x

Organizational conflict

x

Strength of obstacles

x

x

Pers/org'al objectives closely related

x

x

x

x

Process to encourage non-routine thinking

x

Support for govt flexibility by public

x

Process to evaluate & choose proposals

x

Institution'n of innovative policies

x

x

No. of decision points

x

Degree of professional organization

x

Reward structure

x

x

Organizational traditions

x

Amount of client contact & influence

x

Incremental innovation

x

x

x

x

x

Transformational innovation

Quasi-sequential process

x

Employee participation

x

Managerial discretion

x

Partnerships

x

Productivity improvement/work measurement

x

Central role of management in fostering innovation*

x

x

Front-line and middle management as initiators

x

Politicians and agency heads as initiators

x

x

Comprehensive planning

x

Coordination

x

*Grady: Higher-level managers support new concepts, lower-level managers support implementation

Typically these authors have distinguished correlates of innovation, including process correlates, based on individual case studies. They attempted to identify the factors that made innovation possible, more likely, and more successful. Twenty-eight keys to success have been identified by these authors alone, and the list grows longer with each case study published. This approach has meant these authors took a descriptive and prescriptive rather than an analytic approach to the correlates.

Several authors have done cross-sectional studies of cases of innovation. Sandford Borins (1994-95) and Glor (1997b, 1998a), for example, studied the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC)'s Innovation Award nominees and award winners. Sandford Borins surveyed the internal innovation processes of 217 American state and local innovators, the semifinalists for the Ford Foundation's state and local government innovation awards program from 1990 to 1994. He addressed initiation, obstacles, coordination and results, and found that innovations were most likely to be initiated, in descending order, by public servants outside the unit involved, agency heads, politicians and interest groups/non-profit organizations. Internal obstacles faced were primarily difficulty coordinating, logistics and bureaucratic attitudes. Three main coordination models were used: program coordinator in a line department, program coordinator in a central agency and interdepartmental committees. About 60% of the innovations were created without formal coordination, that is, usually by a line operation in a single organization. The main political obstacle was inadequate resources, but legislative and regulatory constraints were also a barrier. External obstacles consisted mostly of external doubts and reaching target groups. The semifinalists also provided the results of at least two indicators of their choice for the results of the innovation (Borins, 1998). Governments were not compared for their innovativeness.

Like Borins, the authors of Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? appraise the role of stakeholders, bureaucratic attitudes, resources, coordination and results. The hypothesis that creating the internal organizational correlates of innovation was the major factor in understanding the Saskatchewan process is explored in chapter 9, by considering the relevance of and whether the variables identified in other studies were applied in the Saskatchewan environment of the 1970s.

Application to Innovation and This Book

The literature on innovation has paralleled the literature on management and organizational change. Focused on determinants of change during the 1960s and 1970s, study of innovation shifted to a focus on internal organizational processes based on case studies during the 1980s. The shift was recommended by Rogers and Kim (1985, pp. 86-87, 96-97), who suggested that the innovation literature focus on internal processes and case studies. In keeping with the voluntaristic approach, Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? examines the internal process of planning and implementation in the Blakeney government in three ways. In the individual chapters and in chapter 9, it examines the innovation process as planned and as a problem of implementation by analyzing a number of the government's processes, describing plans developed, strategies used, processes employed and results achieved with the innovations introduced. It thereby responds to the call for in-depth case studies of innovation both for specific innovations and for a government as a whole: By looking at the strategic nature of innovation, it attempts to describe how innovation occurred as seen from the interior of the organization by participant-observers. Wallace, Glor, Kramer and Gentles, and Snyder in particular emphasize voluntaristic approaches. The issues they address are summarized in Table 2. Secondly, Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? identifies the administrative innovations introduced by the Blakeney government to support its planning, implementation and evaluation. Thirdly, it assesses whether the correlates of innovation as identified by other authors were introduced in Saskatchewan.

Table 2: Innovation Process Issues Addressed in This Book

Issues Addressed:

Hammersmith, Hauk

Burton

Kramer & Gentles

Wallace

Glor

Transformational vs incremental innovation

x

x

Political leadership

x

x

Values

x

x

x

x

x

Conditions for change

x

x

x

x

x

Managing the change agenda

x

x

Developing & managing the financial plan

x

Reforming budget & program review

x

x

Developing & managing the program plan

x

x

Strategy development & implementation process

x

Process skills

x

x

Politics of managing an innovative department

x

Organizational culture

x

x

Dealing with unions

x

x

Communications with the public

x

x

Consultation

x

Intergovernmental relations & coordination

x

x

x

Managing client & interest groups

x

x

x

Political environment for innovation

x

x

x

Policy vs process innovations

x

Public administration challenges in innovation

x

Process innovations

x

x

Political-bureaucratic relationship

x

x

x

x

x

Identify process innovations

x

x

x

x

Human resource strategies

x

x

x

x

Source of ideas for changes

x

x

x

x

x

Implementation

x

x

x

x

x

Evaluation

x

x

x

x

x

Rewards for innovativeness

x

Tolerance for errors

x

x

x

x

Service to the public

x

Departmental-central agency relations

x

x

x

x

x

Individual & departmental initiative

x

x

x

Redundancy

x

x

Opportunities foregone

x

x

INNOVATION AS DETERMINED

Wilson suggests that whether the normativism that change should occur and that it can be directed and controlled is viewed as broadly correct or as authentic jargon depends on the extent to which we support the evidence that change is a planned process amenable to being directed by managerial technique and action or we support the counter-evidence that change is an emergent process. Determinism has been given a bad name by those critical of Marxist theories of determinism. The notion of determinism is not tied to Marx, however, who was merely one practitioner of the approach; he based his theory on the deterministic philosophy of Hegel. A theory of determinism suggests that outcomes have causes that are not merely the actions of the people trying to make them happen. An example of a deterministic concept is the business cycle. The deterministic approach in government is built on the theme that empowering managers to plan for change ignores the impact of wider and more determinate forces that lie outside the organization. The theory that innovation is emergent holds that innovation emerges because of fundamental characteristics of the government, its society and history, and its social and political processes. Burton and Hammersmith and Hauk emphasize the deterministic aspects of the innovation process in Will or Circumstance?

Innovativeness as a Governmental Trait: the Organizational Variance Model

One theory of innovation as emergent is based on the idea that innovators have specific traits that are not tied to forms. Trait theory posits that human actions are demarcated by traits, regarded as broad enduring dispositions to behave in specific ways. If behaviour is primarily the product of a disposition, then actions should be discernibly consistent across situations and over time. (Bandura, 1986). Trait theory can be applied to individuals or to organizations, whose activities are determined by people.

An approach to understanding variance in the trait of organizational innovativeness has been through study of the dissemination of innovations. (2) This method compares governments for whether and how early an innovation was adopted and what determined that response-for specific innovations and across many innovations. Through this analysis initiators and early adopting governments were identified as having the trait of innovativeness. The governments' and provinces'/states' characteristics were then compared in an effort to determine why they had or had not been innovative.

The variance model of the innovation process (Mohr, 1978) was dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. The tools used were variables and their associations, typically analysed quantitatively (Rogers and Kim, 1985: 97). Often relationships were determined through factor analysis to identify the contribution that different variables made to explaining the innovation phenomenon. Governments were compared to each other for how quickly they adopted policy, administrative and process innovations. Early adopters across a range of innovations were considered to have the trait of innovativeness. (Walker, 1969; Gray, 1973) It was difficult to draw conclusions about why these governments were innovative, but region, population size, urban/rural character and dominant political party were some of the determinants suggested.

The seminal work on the trait of innovativeness was done by Mohr (1969), Walker (1969) and Gray (1973). They studied adoption of innovations by American states and, in the case of Mohr, the Canadian province of Ontario, concluding that large governments were more likely to be innovative. Light (1978) criticized the methodology used by Walker and Gray on three bases: sampling problems, substantiveness of the dimensions identified, and temporal variability-Walker covered 96 years, while Gray covered more than 185 years in her study. Unlike Walker, Gray (1973) suggested innovativeness was not a pervasive factor or trait but issue-and-time specific at best, so a fundamental difference of opinion about whether the trait existed was introduced into the debate.

Savage (1978) created a new methodology for indexing innovativeness. Based on how quickly American states adopted 181 new policies, he broke time down into three periods. Savage found a tendency for idiosyncratic states to become less so over time and predicted the more laggardly would become more innovative over time. He found three states that were consistently innovative, however-California, Minnesota and Ohio-defined as being in the top quartile across all three time periods. Another nine states consistently scored in the top half. Four were consistently laggards and seven were in the lower half all of the time. The innovative states became more innovative over time, and the laggards became more laggardly. Savage also found shared regional responses to innovations-pro and con. He suggested there is a general governmental innovativeness trait. (Savage, 1978: 214-216)

Eventually those concerned with innovation concluded that the correlates approach was not sufficient. Whether this shift occurred because of the inherent problems in the approaches or because of other political and social changes that influenced a move to one best way is not clear.

Historical Determinants

Another emergent theory is based on historical determinants. Those who study history face many of the same challenges as those who study innovation: Each experience is unique, and it is only through analysis after the fact that key elements and patterns can perhaps be identified. The search for theories or methods that can reliably explain yet alone predict the outcomes of history has occupied historians and philosophers at least since Plato. A debate about voluntarism and determinism has been raging among historians for all of those 2500 years. Since Toynbee, however, the search for historical causation has fallen into disfavour (Diamond, 1997: 24).

Historians have considered whether history is a series of unique events or whether it can be explained either analytically or even causally through a scientific method. The two main approaches explored in Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? have also been used by historians: History has been considered something planned and implemented by powerful leaders; alternately, history has been said to be determined -by factors such as climate, agriculture, disease, trade, and technological changes. Historians have also faced the possibility that there is no control or process-that history is merely the amalgam of the unique experiences of individuals, with no comprehensive causes or processes.

The great leader approach to history has been very common, including in the Canadian penchant for political biography. The Bible and The Koran suggest it is God working through history. A clear cause and effect are postulated. Other historians have suggested key determinants that do not control but have a major impact on history-factors such as government, the military, culture, and geography. Jared Diamond has suggested the ultimate cause in history is food production, and that it "led to the proximate causes of germs, literacy, technology, and centralized government." (Diamond, 1997: 195) Harold Innis (1951) made a convincing argument that communication technologies are a determinant. Karl Marx identified classes as the major determinants in history. No agreement has been achieved around which key elements or groups of elements explains how and why history unfolds as it does. Some observers deny the value of both leadership and determinants completely. Isaiah Berlin considered this problem in his discussion of Tolsoy's thoughts on history, The Hedgehog and the Fox (1967). According to Berlin, Tolstoy and Virgina Woolf agreed that the "so-called social, economic, political realities" were outer accidents-the important aspects of life concern the individual soul. Genuine reality is about individual experience. (Berlin, 1967: 21)

Just as the writers of history take sides and try to convince readers of the rightness of their position that history is all about the working out of leadership, religion, technology, or individual lives, management writers also have often painted only one aspect of the picture of reality.

Deterministic approaches take many forms. Like historians, those who study innovation have tried to describe what happens in another unique environment, an innovation. The classic theory of determinants was applied to the study of innovation in organizations in the late 1960s and the early 1970s (Rogers and Kim 1985) The variance model has been the chief means of exploring innovativeness as a trait of governments, and its determinants.

This research was found to be too oriented to the role of the individual, typically the chief executive officer. Subsequent research focused on organizational structural variables but these dimensions did not covary extensively with the variable of innovativeness.

Implementation as a Process: Open Systems

A strategy for study of innovation as emergent treats government as an open system, influenced by its environment and influencing that environment. Open systems have a number of characteristics. They are defined by equifinality, since choices are available concerning the design of internal organization. There is no one best way. They possess negative entropy: The predisposition to decay and disintegrate can be halted, and sometimes reversed. There is a steady state, but not equilibrium. The system changes in cycles and patterns, therefore concepts like reciprocal, cyclical, single-loop, interacting loops, and tangential factors are useful. As a consequence of these characteristics, variance within an organization can be explained by factors outside and comparative studies are much easier.

Process Model (Systems Analysis). The process model, as Wilson defines it, examines critically the context, antecedents, movement and history of changes, keeping an analytical eye on the organization theories-in-use that inform such an analysis. The examination of context is a large undertaking that requires a synthesis of understanding of the environment, apprehension and characterization of strategic decision-making processes, and characterization of transformation and change in specific organizations (Wilson, 1992, chapter 4). A process model does not see implementation of change as the key problem, but the understanding of how change can or did occur as the key issue.

Population Ecology Model. The population ecology model is built on an analogy with nature-an organization is seen as one member of a set of similar organizations, the population. Organizational change and survival are an ecological process in which demands from the environment can result in the demise of weaker organizations and select out stronger, more dominant organizational forms. Three processes are at work: the creation or birth of new organizations, the disappearance of existing organizations, and the transformation of existing organizations into new forms.

Environmental niches and organizational strategies are key concepts of the ecological approach. In environmental niches strategic change processes are aimed at achieving and sustaining a position within the general population of organizations, for example, federal-provincial governments or political parties. Niches represent the constellation of resources that support or inhibit organizational change (Wilson, 1992, p. 44). Niche width is determined by the combination of general resources and factors specific to a sector such as business cycles, rates of innovation, union policies, the economy, and government policies, regulations and fiscal trends. Populations exist within each type of niche, for example the strategic groups of Porter (1980) that tend to adopt the same strategies. Organizations that operate in similar (business) sectors frequently adopt the same strategies, also known as recipes (Grinyer and Spender, 1979) . Populations of organizations with a broad environmental niche are generalists. They can transform or reproduce themselves with relative ease. Specialist organizations have a narrow niche, and perform best in environments that are stable or change slowly and predictably. They have specific resource requirements and serve tightly defined markets. They can build flexibility into their structures.

The pursuit of particular strategies by some organizations which differ from sector recipes can temporarily upset the equilibrium of the wider open system: for example more efficient use of the existing resource base, acting on new information, strategies based on culture-a mix of structure, processes and people-or new technologies. This creates temporary disequilibrium. It also causes the organization to focus on certain issues, such as management of organizational culture and the search for and adoption of new technologies.

An example of a population ecology approach is that used by George Ainsworth-Land. He recognized that evolution and human change follow similar patterns, and suggested that innovation creates both incremental and transformational change.

"An understanding of evolution requires both the Darwinian idea of incremental change and (Stephen Jay) Gould's concept of nonlinear leaps to new levels of organization....an important principle of transformation theory (is) when two or more opposing arguments are presented, both or all are correct-in part." (Ainsworth-Land, 1986: xi, xi)

Ainsworth-Land describes his book as being about cycles of growth and evolution, and change. (Ainsworth-Land, 1986: xii)

Life Cycle Analyses. The life cycle analysis is focused on the deterministic potency of organizational age and development over time. Change is a transitional concept, only understandable over time. Most theories do not deal with time as a factor-a major weakness. At its most extreme, this perspective argues that organizations adopt evolutionary, incremental strategies of change in times of stability and revolutionary change strategies between historical periods.

What is the life cycle? It is birth, transformation and death of organizations. Each stage provides the context for particular change strategies. The life cycle can be viewed as the deterministic process of bureaucratization as organizations grow. A typical life cycle pattern consists of four stages:

  • Entrepreneurial stage: Its first task is to manufacture a product or provide a service. The key issue is survival.
  • Collective stage: The organization begins to take shape. Professional managers are recruited, departments and functions begin to be defined. The organization has begun to establish its position, internal tasks are allocated and who has responsibility and autonomy to carry them out becomes pre-eminent. Division of labour is established.
  • Formalization stage: Systems of communication and control become more formal, there is a need to differentiate between tasks of top and lower-level management; systems of coordination and control emerge.
  • Elaboration stage (strategic change): This stage requires learning of new skills to achieve change, and may include rapid turnover of managers.

Chapter 10 looks at the Saskatchewan innovative process from the process model, population ecology and life cycle perspectives.

CONCLUSION

Two lenses for looking at innovation have been suggested along the voluntaristic/planned/implementation and deterministic/emergent/process axis. The innovation process in Saskatchewan is considered through these prisms implicitly in the chapters of this book and is discussed explicitly in chapters 9, 10 and the conclusion. Whether the innovation process in the Saskatchewan government was innovative is also explored.

This Introduction has considered some of the ways in which innovation can be understood. The working assumption in Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? is that we do not know if there is one best way to understand innovation, and so each of the approaches outlined above-voluntary and determined-is assumed. Is Innovation a Question of Will or Circumstance? looks at the innovation process from each perspective without ruling out the other by definition. This approach is used as a strategy for answering a complex, methodologically difficult and as yet unanswered question-how can one understand the way government creates something unique like an innovation? Having considered each approach with as open a mind as possible, whether one way is the best way to explore innovation is examined in the Conclusion.

Notes

1. The term process is used in this book in contrast to policy and to include the usual public administration concerns of personnel, finances, assets/purchasing, and administration-planning, organizing, accounting, controlling-and the way in which things are done in the government-the methods used to accomplish its tasks.

2. Study of the dissemination of innovation began in the late 1930s with study of the spread of use of hybrid seed corn among Iowa farmers (Rogers and Kim, 1985).


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