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Understanding Innovation as an Approach to Increasing Customer Value in the Context of the Public Sector
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Science, Technology and Media, Department of Quality Technology and Management, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. (Kvalitetsteknik)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7409-8966
2014 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

We live in a society that is constantly developing. New challenges and new opportunities emerge all the time. Fortunately, human beings have a fantastic ability to adapt and find new solutions in new situations, i.e. to be innovative. Not just individuals but also organizations need to make room for innovative development. Organizations need to work on how to develop new products, services and processes. At the same time, each organization needs to work on improving the quality of existing activities. Previous research has shown that high value for the customer, i.e. that which often constitutes the goal of quality work, is achieved by the organization working in parallel on developing existing products, services and processes while at the same time driving innovative development forward. How organizations cope with the balance between these two perspectives has been researched and written about considerably when it comes to manufacturing companies. On the other hand, however, there is a lack of documented knowledge regarding how best to balance these two perspectives in the service sector in general and the public sector in particular. This thesis has been written with a view to contributing to existing knowledge about how innovation can be understood as a possible way of increasing customer value within the public sector. It seeks to create insight into how innovation is perceived as a phenomenon in order to increase value for the customer and into how innovation work relates to other aspects of current quality practices within the Swedish public sector. It has also been written with a view to contributing greater understanding to how some of the quality movement’s tools can increase innovation capacity in the public sector.


To fulfil this aim, a literature study and case studies have been performed. The case studies have been performed in Sweden at Lantmäteriet (Swedish Land Survey) and The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, (Sida). One of the case studies also included the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Government. Three research reports have been written between 2012 and 2014, and these form the basis of the thesis.


The research findings give examples of organizations whose quality work focuses closely on systematic measurement and control of the work process and much less on innovatively developing new ways of increase customer value. The findings also show that there are a number of obstacles which the public administrations studied face to combine quality work with a greater ability to work innovatively. Given that innovative development is an important strategy for increasing customer value, the study indicates that some of the existing quality work is an obstacle to achieving greater customer value in the public sector.



At the same time, there are tools and values in the quality movement that can improve the organization’s ability to innovate. The quality movement’s core values and tools, such as systematic cyclical learning, can constitute important tools with which to create favourable conditions to improve innovative ability. This underlines the need for identifying where quality work strengthens and hinders innovation processes respectively. The research findings also stress the need to radically improve the work on innovative processes in the public sector in order to achieve the overarching goals of public administration more effectively. 

Abstract [sv]

Vi lever i ett samhälle som ständigt utvecklas. Nya utmaningar och nya möjligheter dyker hela tiden upp. Som tur är har människan en fantastisk förmåga att anpassa sig och finna nya lösningar i nya situationer, d.v.s. vara innovativ. Inte bara individer utan även organisationer behöver ha utrymme för innovativ utveckling. Organisationer behöver arbeta med hur man skall utveckla nya varor, tjänster och processer. Samtidigt behöver varje organisation också arbeta med att utveckla kvalitén i befintlig verksamhet. Tidigare forskning har visat att ett högt värde för kunden, d.v.s. det som ofta utgör målet för kvalitetsarbete, uppnås genom att organisationen parallellt arbetar med utveckling av befintliga produkter, tjänster och processer samtidigt som man driver en innovativ utveckling. Hur organisationer hanterar balansen mellan dessa två perspektiv har det forskats och skrivits en hel del om för varuproducerande företag. Däremot saknas det dokumenterad kunskap om hur man balanserar dessa perspektiv på bästa sätt inom den tjänsteproducerande sektorn i allmänhet och den offentliga sektorn i synnerhet. Denna avhandling skrivs i syfte att bidra till befintlig kunskap om hur innovation kan förstås som en möjlig väg att öka kundvärdet inom den offentliga sektorn. Avhandlingen söker skapa insikt om hur innovation uppfattas som fenomen i syfte att öka värde för kunden samt hur det innovativa arbetet förhåller sig till andra moment av pågående kvalitetsarbete inom den svenska offentliga sektorn. Avhandlingen har även skrivits i syfte att bidra till ökad förståelse av hur vissa av kvalitetsrörelsens verktyg kan öka innovations-kapaciteten inom offentlig sektor.


För att svara upp mot syftet har en litteraturstudie samt fallstudier genomförts. Fallstudierna har genomförts i Sverige på myndigheterna Lantmäteriet samt på biståndsmyndigheten Sida. I en fallstudie ingick även utrikesdepartementet samt den svenska regeringen. Tre forskningsrapporter har under åren 2012 till 2014 skrivits och dessa utgör underlag för denna avhandling.


Resultatet av forskningen ger exempel på organisationer som i sitt kvalitetsarbete har ett stort fokus på systematisk mätning och kontroll av arbetsprocesser och betydligt mindre på att innovativt utveckla nya sätt att öka värdet för kunden. Resultatet av forskningen visar också att det finns ett antal hinder för de studerade offentliga förvaltningarna att kombinera det pågående kvalitetsarbetet med en ökad förmåga att arbeta innovativt. Givet att innovativ utveckling är en viktig strategi för att öka kundvärdet indikerar studien att delar av befintligt kvalitetsarbete utgör hinder för att nå ökat kundvärde inom offentlig sektor.



Samtidigt finns det inom kvalitetsrörelsen verktyg och värderingar som kan öka organisationens förmåga till innovation. Kvalitetsrörelsens kärnvärden och verktyg som exempelvis systematiskt cykliskt lärande kan utgöra viktiga verktyg för att skapa gynnsamma förutsättningar för ökad innovationsförmåga. Detta understryker behovet av att identifiera var kvalitetsarbete stärker respektive hindrar innovationsprocesser. Resultatet av forskningen understryker samtidigt behovet av att radikalt utveckla arbetet med innovativa processer inom offentlig förvaltning för att därigenom bättre nå den offentliga förvaltningens övergripande mål.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mid Sweden University , 2014. , 79 p.
Mid Sweden University licentiate thesis, ISSN 1652-8948 ; 113
Keyword [en]
Innovation; Customer value; Organizational ambidexterity; Exploration and Exploitation; Leadership in the public sector; New Public Management.
Keyword [sv]
Innovation; Kundvärde; Organisatorisk simultankapacitet; Exploration och Explotation; Ledarskap i offentlig sektor; New Public Management.
National Category
Other Social Sciences not elsewhere specified
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-23883ISBN: 9789187557958OAI: diva2:773180
2014-12-17, Östersund, 10:15
Available from: 2014-12-18 Created: 2014-12-18 Last updated: 2014-12-18Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Agencies, it’s Time to Innovate!: Exploring the current understanding of the Swedish government’s call for innovation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Agencies, it’s Time to Innovate!: Exploring the current understanding of the Swedish government’s call for innovation
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, ISSN 1756-669X, E-ISSN 1756-6703, Vol. 7, no 1, 34-49 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]


Innovation is currently at the top of many agendas worldwide: not only in the private sector, but also when it comes to increasing quality, efficiency, and effectiveness in public administration. InSweden, this is reflected in the recent call from the Government for innovation in public management. However, innovation has not traditionally occurred to any significant extent on the strategic level of Swedish public management. Furthermore, governmental administration is a complex system in need of coordination and alignment for this new call to be effectively realized in practice.  


The purpose of this paper is hence to explore the phenomenon of innovation in the current Swedish governmental administration system. More specifically, the paper explores the current understanding within the system of what innovation is, as well as why and how it should be achieved.


Methodology/approach This study has been based on a qualitative approach with a case consisting of three embedded units: the Government itself, a ministry and a government agency. The data have been collected from documents and interviews.



The study shows that there is currently a notable disparity when it comes to how aspects of innovation are understood at different levels within the Swedish governmental administration system. Furthermore, the recent business development to increase the standardization of work processes is perceived as having created poorer preconditions for working with innovations.


Practical implications

The results highlight critical areas of disparity and possibilities for improvement towards a shared understanding and aligned innovation actions within the system.



The articlecontributes knowledgeabout the current understanding of innovation in the Swedish governmental administration system.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2015
Innovation; quality management; government agencies; public administration
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-23139 (URN)10.1108/IJQSS-04-2014-0029 (DOI)2-s2.0-84933037434 (ScopusID)
Available from: 2014-10-07 Created: 2014-10-07 Last updated: 2015-12-22Bibliographically approved
2. The challenge of integrating innovation and quality management practice
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The challenge of integrating innovation and quality management practice
2014 (English)In: Total Quality Management and Business Excellence, ISSN 1478-3363, E-ISSN 1478-3371Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Following in the footsteps of ‘New Public Management’, where quality management and quality control have become widely implemented concepts among public authorities, there is now a subsequent government demand to also be innovative. However, integrating and achieving a balance between improved quality and increased innovation is not an easy task. Previous research indicates a complex and ambiguous relation, raising questions as to how to optimally combine these two approaches organisationally, operationally, and culturally. Is there an ‘edge of chaos’ where there is maximal flexibility for innovation while maintaining sufficient order for quality? The purpose of this paper is to examine the potential integration of innovation and quality management practice within the public sector. The paper is based on a multiple case study design, confronted with existing literature, and shows that the current quality management practice is perceived as being related to standardisation, leading to a decrease in the space for innovation. Second, that there is an expectation and belief that innovation and quality management can be handled in parallel and reinforce each other instead of being mutually detrimental.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: , 2014
quality; innovation; organisational learning; quality management; public sector
National Category
Other Engineering and Technologies
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-23136 (URN)10.1080/14783363.2014.939841 (DOI)
External cooperation:
Available from: 2014-10-07 Created: 2014-10-07 Last updated: 2016-09-05Bibliographically approved
3. Towards Improving InnovAbility: Elaborating on the Ability to Measure Innovation Quality in Service Organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards Improving InnovAbility: Elaborating on the Ability to Measure Innovation Quality in Service Organizations
2012 (English)In: Electronic Proceedings of the 15th QMOD Conference / [ed] S. Dahlgaard-Park, J. Dahlgaard, A. Hamrol, Comprint , 2012Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]


A frequent topic in quality management initiatives is measurement. The old saying “you get what you measure” is then used to reinforce interest in measurement. With this rhetoric, it isargued that proper measurement is a prerequisite for an organization’s ability to continuously improve. Simply put, without understanding “where you are”, and later “what you got“ as a result of your interventions, it is difficult to learn. In other words, you become unable to complete the improvement cycle, generally known as the PDCA-cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act). This general logic of organizational learning is hard to argue against. It also illustrates the critical importance of finding “the right” organizational measurements that capture the quality of the desired result. So what measurements and evaluation tools should be used for improving one of the most essential activities of an organization, the activity known as innovation? That is a question asked in the  service industry today, and the question of interest in this paper. More specifically, this paper aims to contribute knowledge about and new perspectives on the measurement of innovation quality in service organizations.


The paper is based on a literature review of the phenomenon of innovation quality in combination with an empirical study of public officials’  and managers’  perception and definition of innovation quality. The methodological approach for the empirical study is qualitative and carried out in the form of a desk review and interviews with staff at the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) head office and at Swedish embassiesabroad.


The planning of monitoring and evaluation of the innovation process has to be done early in the innovation process. By defining the concept of innovation and the development of three types of quality indicators, innovation can be evaluated. Concepts and indicators have to bedesigned in context. It is not possible to rely on ready-made definitions. By following a five-step model in the cyclic process of measuring innovation quality, the PDCA cycle will be accomplished and the conditions for InnovAbility will improve.

Value of the Paper

The paper contributes to the understanding of how innovation quality can be measured, andthereby how the ability to innovate (InnovAbility) can be improved, in service organizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Comprint, 2012
Innovation, Innovation Quality, Quality Management, Measure Innovation, InnovAbility
National Category
Reliability and Maintenance
urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-18081 (URN)978-83-89333-46-9 (ISBN)
15th QMOD conference on Quality and Service Sciences ICQSS September 5-7, 2012, Poznan, Poland
Available from: 2012-12-20 Created: 2012-12-20 Last updated: 2014-12-18Bibliographically approved

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