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Cross-National Appropriation of Work Systems

Japanese Firms in the UK

Ayse Saka

The diffusion of work processes across countries through foreign direct investment and technological collaborations is an increasingly important practice in today’s global economy. Ayse Saka explores this process both by focusing on the role of actors in appropriating different ways of operating and by examining the effects of the institutional environment in the host country.
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Chapter 1: Work Systems Diffusion: Neo-institutional Perspectives

Ayse Saka


1. Work systems diffusion: neo-institutional perspectives 1. INTRODUCTION This chapter provides a review of the concepts of work systems and work systems diffusion. Work systems are seen as embedded at two levels: in the form of, first, institutional embeddedness at national level, and second, embeddedness of tacit work systems at organizational level. The chapter provides a working definition of the diffusion of work systems at organizational level with reference to the view of work systems as knowledge-driven. This is supplemented by a review of comparative research approaches to work systems diffusion. These are specifically perspectives in the ‘Japanization’, innovation processes and neo-institutional literatures. The four major perspectives on work systems diffusion are reviewed in an attempt to situate the conceptual framework within an appropriate theoretical perspective. On the basis of this review, the neo-institutional arguments on the diffusion of work systems are identified as providing the most appropriate conceptual foundation for the construction of an analytic framework. Two different perspectives within the neo-institutional literature (the rational choice and historical neo-institutional perspectives) are highlighted. The neo-institutional framework is further developed by strengthening it with concepts from the innovation processes literature. An analytic framework is constructed to offer a set of concepts that can provide answers to the following two questions. First, what are the key attributes of work systems? Second, what characteristics at the local institutional and organizational levels are likely to have an impact on the diffusion of...

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