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Long Range Planning

35/4 August 2002

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Charles Baden-Fuller Editorial

    Innovative activity is most needed but looks the least attractive when stock markets are in decline and economic growth slows down. The temptation is to cut back and focus on the present, but innovation is an essential activity. The research by Baden-Fuller and Stopford showed that when markets are in decline, mature firms in mature industries did best when they maintained the pace of innovation along the four axes of products, processes, markets and organisation. Successful innovations came in many guises, but the consequences were similar, improved customer satisfaction, sustained growth in demand and outstanding returns to shareholders. It is the firm not the environment that matters most.

    In this issue we look at two dimensions of the innovation challenge: context and tools. Our first article by Mitsuru Kodama is highly relevant for those who run large organisations where the level of innovation differs across units. Kodama looks at the NTT experience to see how innovation can be integrated across the organisation, and he argues for the creation of a strategic community to assist the process. Our second article by Anne Keegan and Rodney Turner looks at the innovation challenges faced by project-based organisations. They note a paradox, projects are used for innovation processes, yet project based organisations typically do not provide enough slack to allow for innovation within. This is a timely reminder that when designing new organisation forms, managers must keep the innovation necessity on the agenda.

    What new tools are there to assist innovation? Val Singh, Divinda Bains and Susan Vinnicombe explore the use of informal mentoring in organisations. We all use informal mentors, some come from inside the firms we work in, some from our former colleagues and some from other friends. The authors are among the first to systematically examine the extent of practice within the organisation and its effectiveness in guiding the innovation process. Martin Wijn and Paula van Veen-Dirks return to an old theme of the strategic measures used by organisations. They argue for blending the use of critical success factors with the concept of the balanced scorecard. They suggest that these two concepts can be integrated without adding complexity.

Executive Summaries

Val Singh, Divindra Bains and Susan Vinnicombe Informal Mentoring as an Organisational Resource v.singh@cranfield.ac.uk

    Mentoring is an important form of support for managers but until now most research on mentoring has been US-based and has focused on the value to the individual rather than the organisation. This paper explores the organisational benefits of informal mentoring through a case study of managers in a UK local government authority. The findings confirm that managers do perceive the benefits of mentoring in the way that previous researchers have indicated. The implications are that informal mentoring is perceived as an organisational resource, helping to advance individuals' careers, and facilitating the more formal process of induction and succession planning.

Anne Keegan and Rodney Turner The Management of Project Based Firms keegan@few.eur.nl

    Project-based companies, which provide services to bespoke needs, are an increasingly common organisational form yet until now no literature has addressed how, if at all, they handle innovation. This paper asks three research questions: do project-based firms provide a context supportive of innovation; how do project-based firms view slack resources; and do project-based firms view innovation as universally useful? The authors found that within project-based firms innovation is managed according to the same methods as other projects, according to pre-planned criteria. The authors propose that a revision of traditional project management guidelines may be necessary to manage innovation projects successfully.

Martin Wijn and Paula van Veen-Dirks Strategic Control: Critical Success Factors and the Balanced Scorecard wijn@kub.nl

    Companies operating in fast-changing environments face a constant need to evaluate and formulate strategy. The use of non-financial indicators has come into favour as a method of providing insights into organisations. One method, the Balanced Scorecard, is a way of designing a performance measurement system that takes into account non-financial indicators. Another is the use of Critical Success Factors. The authors argue that these methods are complementary and can be combined, a conclusion drawn from a six-year research project in the Netherlands.

Mitsuru Kodama The Mobile Internet Revolution in Japan: A Case Study in NTT DoCoMo m-kodama@mbe.sphere.ne.jp

    Companies seeking to innovate face creating a gap between the new and the old organisation. One way to bridge this gap and ensure smooth and effective innovation is to create a strategic community that will fuse the two cultures. This paper describes such a process with reference to the creation of new businesses by NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile telecoms company, as it addressed the explosive growth in the mobile internet market.

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