Organization Management Journal


A multi-theory framework is offered for guiding managerial decision making in complex professional human service organizations; a growing segment of the economy for which the ability to proactively and dynamically manage knowledge assets is naturally critical to performance. Following a call for greater theoretical integration, this framework synthesizes essential and complimentary elements of three theoretical domains. It combines Transaction Economics’ focus on the appropriate procurement of knowledge assets, with Knowledge Management’s focus on how to dynamically unleash the potential of those assets, and Contingency Thinking’s focus on how to structurally harness and direct that potential. Two key “bridging constructs” emerge offering useful insights both for theory and practice: 1) learning systems as a key element of functional design for managing knowledge assets, and 2) learning costs as a key factor in managing the economic structure of knowledge assets. We apply our integrated framework to two professional human services sectors – business education and health service delivery– and discuss broader implications for research and practice.