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Unforeseen consequences: changes in organisational structure and the managerial knowledge base of the British rail industry 1963-2016

Forsdike, Nicola (2018) Unforeseen consequences: changes in organisational structure and the managerial knowledge base of the British rail industry 1963-2016. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis investigates whether there is a link between organisational change in the rail industry and changes to the managerial knowledge base required to design and implement new products (that is, passenger rail services). The privatisation of Britain’s railways in the 1990s brought to an end a system of management training that had been in place for some 80 years. Over the two decades since then there have been numerous attempts by successive governments to understand why the expected financial benefits of privatisation did not materialise. At the same time, a number of commentators have highlighted the issue of knowledge loss. This thesis suggests that the innovative creation of new products using existing physical and human resources requires the bringing together of different forms of technical knowledge, know-that, with a knowledge of wider contextual issues. Whilst attempts have been – and continue to be – made by the rail industry to codify know-that, contextual knowledge tends to be tacit and intangible. There is currently no single theory explaining the link between organisational structure and knowledge creation. A new analytical framework is therefore developed, which provides a theoretical basis for thinking about the impact of changes in the organisational context of learning on different managerial knowledge components. Application of this shows that there are limits to the extent to which knowledge can be codified and risks attached to over-relying on codified sources. This finding builds on previous work by Nonaka and others on the capture of tacit knowledge (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995) and the importance of the social context in knowledge development (Nonaka and Krogh, 2009). Development of the framework relied on understanding the historical context of organisational phenomena. A contribution is therefore also made to the on-going debate as to how business history can be used to develop organisational theory.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > The York Management School
Depositing User: Mrs Nicola Forsdike
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2019 13:34
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2019 13:34
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23608

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