Purpose

– Technological process innovation (TPI) is a distinctive organizational phenomenon characterized by a firm-internal locus and underlying components such as mutual adaptation of new technology and existing organization, technological change, organizational change, and systemic impact. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the management of these components at different stages of the innovation lifecycle (ILC) in large manufacturing companies.

Design/methodology/approach

– The authors adopt an exploratory case-based research design and conduct a multiple case study of five large successful manufacturing companies operating in different industries in Germany. The authors build the study on 55 semi-structured interviews, which yielded 91.5 hours of recorded interview data. The authors apply cross-case synthesis and replication logic to identify patterns of how companies address process innovation components at different ILC stages.

Findings

– The study uncovers the content of four central TPI components across the ILC and identifies differences between the development of core and non-core processes. Based on the findings the authors describe asymmetric adaptation as a theoretical construct and propose that companies seek different levels of process standardization depending on the type of process they develop, which in turn affects whether there is a greater extent of technological or organizational change.

Practical implications

– Awareness of existing structures, processes, and technologies, as well as their value in relation to the company’s core and non-core operations is imperative to determining the adequate structure of mutual adaptation.

Originality/value

– The authors provide detailed insight on the management of mutual adaptation, technological, and organizational change, as well as systemic impact at the different stages of the ILC. The authors extend prior research by adopting an ILC perspective for the investigation of these four TPI components and by proposing a construct of asymmetric adaptation to capture key mechanisms of process development and implementation.