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Bringing shop floor ideas into practice: research on the idea management process within a Dutch train maintenance company

Elskamp, J.J. (2010) Bringing shop floor ideas into practice: research on the idea management process within a Dutch train maintenance company.

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Abstract:Idea management is about generating ideas, keeping track of ideas an selecting or rejecting ideas to create a clear overview of the organization’s innovations projects. NedTrain developed an idea management system, ‘MijnIdee’, where all shop floor employees can register ideas that could improve NedTrain’s products or processes. NedTrain’s idea management process contains seven stages that focuses on the registration, development and selection of ideas. NedTrain believes that in order to become ‘best in class’ they need to bring the best shop floor ideas into practice. Introduction From the moment NedTrain started with ‘MijnIdee’, June 2008, up to the beginning of this research, October 2009, 2569 ideas were registered, of which 506 were implemented, 827 were rejected and 1236 were pending. The average lead time was 15 weeks. NedTrain’s idea management department noticed that the number of pending ideas in the system is increasing and that a great majority of these ideas is inoperative. The idea management department has the ambition of creating an idea management process that is able to process a continuous flow of shop floor ideas. The objective of this research therefore has been formulated as ‘creating an in-depth assessment of the idea management process, from generation to implementation or rejection’. Goal of this research is to provide NedTrain with recommendations on how the process can be improved. Theoretical framework In order to create an in-depth assessment of NedTrain’s idea management process it is important to gain insight in the concept of idea management, involved players and elements or circumstances that contribute to a functioning idea management process. The literature of different scholars has been used to develop a model. This model divides the process in three stages, generation, development and selection. The two major players in the idea management process are the management and petitioner. Different success factors relate to the process, management or petitioner. The ten success factors identified for the process are; Strategic guidelines, systematical structure, difference in type of ideas, enough resources, capture area, encouragement, clear preference, cross functionality, tolerance for failure and commitment. The success factors that relate to the management are; involvement of top and middle vi management, high level of inter-functional coordination and integration and management archetypes. The three success factors that relate to the petitioner are; feedback, transparency and petitioner archetypes. Methodology To assess the idea management process of NedTrain, two different studies have been used. The content analysis and the case study. The content analysis is a method that generates information from documents, media and reality. The project description and status of 971 ideas have been collected from the system ‘MijnIdee’ for this analysis. All ideas have been coded based on a coding scheme in order to gain insight in how different ideas move through the process. Eight cases have been used for the case studies. Three different analyses have been executed, within-case analysis, cross-case search for patterns and between-group analysis (Eisenhardt, 1989). The within-case analysis involves detailed case study write-ups for each case. The cross-case search for patterns is about selecting groups or dimensions, and then searching for within-group similarities. The different dimensions in this study are: implemented ideas, currently running ideas and rejected ideas. The last analysis that has been executed is the between-group analysis and is about comparing the patterns, found in the previous analysis, and comparing these with other dimensions. These different analyses resulted in an assessment of NedTrain’s idea management process. Results The conceptual analysis gains insight in how different ideas move through the process. The ideas have been divided in idea category (primary, secondary and tertiary ideas), idea type (product, process and social ideas) and scope (local or companywide). The results of the conceptual analysis show that there are no significant differences between type and scope of ideas and the lead time. The idea category shows a significant difference between the three categories. Tertiary ideas have a significant lower lead time than the primary and secondary ideas. For all ideas count that the steps ‘sharing with colleagues’ and ‘sharing with experts’ show the most pending ideas. In the three dimensions (implemented ideas, currently running ideas and rejected ideas) the eight cases have been divided into, different patterns occurred. Between the dimensions there was a difference in the role of the coach, the role of the expert and role of the idea manager. In the dimension ‘implemented ideas’ the coach was able to approach the expert and decision maker and these often were involved from the start. This pattern did not occur in vii the other two dimensions. There were also differences in the complexity of the idea and the development of the idea at point of registration. Conclusions and recommendations The above described studies and their results led to seven conclusions and four recommendations. First conclusion is that NedTrain’s classical idea management mostly introduces ideas with the objective of process innovations and improvements within the company. This form of idea management rarely triggers radical innovations for new products and processes. Second conclusion is that different type of ideas move through the process in the same way. There are no significant differences between the types of ideas, the scope of ideas and their lead time in the idea management process . Third conclusion is that the coach is essential for the involvement of the expert and decision maker in the idea project. Fourth conclusion is that coaches often experience problems in approaching the experts and decision makers. Two recommendations relate to the above mentioned conclusions, appoint coaches in all levels of the organization, also higher in the organization. And approach the expert and decision maker earlier in the process. Fifth conclusion is that experts and decision makers are scarcely involved in the idea management process of NedTrain. A recommendation that arises out of this conclusion is making all departments that can act as an expert or decision maker aware of their role in the idea management process. Last conclusion is that the different responsibilities of the different parties involved in idea cases (e.g. petitioner, idea manager, coach, expert) are not clear. Resulting in the recommendation to define responsibilities of all involved parties and make these responsibilities known. Limitations and future research First limitation is that is the willingness of the NedTrain employees to participate in the idea management process has been left out of consideration. Though their process is dependent of the willingness of the employee to participate. Second limitation is that the literature only discusses two roles, management and petitioner. But the coach isn’t automatically a manager, and the same applies for the expert. Though they aren’t always managers, the theoretical assumption have been made that the success factors for management also can be applied on NedTrain’s coaches and experts. Third limitation is the choice for the qualitative research method. A quantitative research method could provide more evidence for causal relationships between the presence of success factors in the process and a lower lead time. Last limitation is viii focuses on the different archetypes. This success factor was mentioned in the theoretical framework but left outside the analysis. Besides limitations there are three subjects for future research. First, though the petitioner only forms a part of the content of this research, the willingness of the petitioner to intrapreneur can be a research on its own. A future research can be designed as a quantitative research in which hundreds of ideas can be analyzed. Possible causal relationships between the idea management process and the presence of success factors could be found. Last subject for future research are the different types of petitioners and different types of managers and their effect on the idea management process. These types can be measured by taking psychological tests.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Quality online
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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