Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2008

Diffusing Management Practices within the Firm: The Role of Information Provision

by Michael J. Lenox and Michael W. Toffel

Abstract

A key role of corporate managers is to encourage subsidiaries to adopt innovative practices. This paper examines the conditions under which corporate managers use information provision to encourage subsidiaries' adoption of advanced management practices. Focusing on the distribution of expertise across subsidiaries, we propose that corporate managers elect an information provision strategy when (i) subsidiaries, on average, possess moderate levels of related expertise, (ii) subsidiaries exhibit significant heterogeneity in this expertise, and (iii) the subsidiaries are more diversified and less concentrated. We examine the efforts to diffuse pollution prevention practices exhibited by manufacturing firms in the information and communication technology sector in the United States, and find empirical support for the four hypotheses developed here. The research presented in this paper has implications for our understanding not only of who adopts advanced environmental management practices, but more broadly, of when firms adopt information provision strategies to encourage knowledge transfer within the organization.

Keywords: Business Subsidiaries; Knowledge Sharing; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Management Practices and Processes; Corporate Strategy; Information Technology Industry; United States;

Citation:

Lenox, Michael J., and Michael W. Toffel. "Diffusing Management Practices within the Firm: The Role of Information Provision." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 08-085, October 2008. (March 2008.)