Analysis of ISO 9001 Paradox of Knowledge Codification Using the Activity System Model: Tensions in Practices and Expansive Learning

Analysis of ISO 9001 Paradox of Knowledge Codification Using the Activity System Model: Tensions in Practices and Expansive Learning

Hiam Serhan (AgroParisTech, Paris, France) and Doudja Saïdi Kabèche (AgroParisTech, Paris, France)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJSR.2017070103
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This article analyses the ISO 9001 standard as a generic management tool grounded on three interdependent elements: an artefact of abstract requirements to implement (ostensive routines); a management philosophy that instruments its implementation; and a simplified vision of the organization's relations and knowledge (performative routines). Its two functions are paradoxically oriented to exploitation of codified good practices and to exploration of new knowledge to innovate, create tensions during its implementation in the organization. By applying the activity system model on the French multinational food Groupe (Danone), this research analyses the tensions, learning and innovation outcomes that emerge during the implementation of the knowledge codification requirement in the company. The objective of this article is to illustrate how Danone used the paradox of knowledge codification to create distinctive innovations. It argues that the management of paradoxes depends on the manager's philosophy and competencies to manage cognitive and emotional tensions in organizations.
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After the industrialization and the standardization of production, the human relations theory of management proved the importance of social relationships in companies to motivate employees and develop their capabilities and those of the organization. Since then, the organizational system has been shaped by several management theories, tools and methodologies stemming from several disciplines (psychology, sociology, economy and management) to explain that productivity and creativity can be achieved when the goals of an organization and the needs of employees are met. These goals can be met through a mutual learning (between the top management and the employees) managed by a supportive and participative management, that does not see employees as merely more cogs in the company’s wheel, but much more as an inseparable part of the global strategy: employees can (and need) to be shared the big objectives to help, empowered to innovate, and recognized by their hierarchy to exist and feel belonging and useful to their company in which they evolve. By this participative management framework, companies tend to become learning and knowledge-based organizations: they learn, use and innovate out of their employees’ knowledge and know–how (Argyris & Schön, 1976; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Grant, 1996), to enhance organizational learning that leverage the organization’s core competencies (Prahalad & Hamel, 1990).

This evolution in management is the symptom of modern and mature companies which seek achieving two apparently paradoxical goals (Handy, 1995): efficiency through stabilization (by exploitation of internal good practices) and innovation through the exploration of new knowledge and opportunities. These paradoxes create contradictions that are visible in organizational procedures and tensions and conflicts that emerge between employees.

These organizational paradoxes and their contradictions represent the focal point of this research. Through this paper, we will analyse the contradictions in procedures (organization paradox) and the tensions between employees and management that emerge during the implementation of a management tool oriented to both exploitation and exploration (learning paradox): the ISO 9001 standard.

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