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“Too quality”! Professional boundary setting and the ISO 56000 standard on innovation management. In honor of Dorothy E. Smith (1926–2022)

Maria Duclos Lindstrøm (Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Roskilde, Denmark)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Article publication date: 5 December 2022

Issue publication date: 4 April 2023




The purpose of the paper is to pay homage to Dorothy E. Smith (1926–2022), and her lifelong significance for organizational ethnography. Building on Smith, the empirical purpose of the paper is to analyze professional boundary setting on behalf of innovation management as it occurred in the recent International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Technical Committees (TC) 279 committee on innovation management.


The paper is an ethnographic study of the drafting and publication of a novel international management standard on innovation management, the ISO 56000-series published in 2019. It is based on fieldwork from the ISO committee and integrates relevant standardization documents, observations and interviews.


The paper analyzes four occasions for textual professional boundary work ranging from negotiations of content and choice of ISO standard formats to the unprecedented high-level liaison agreements across international organizations. In each instance, the analysis depicts distinct textual features related to ISO standardization. The analysis shows how the standard becomes positioned as extending and complementing the ISO 9001, not as a radical, freestanding alternative to quality management.


The paper presents original data from the ISO standardization committee. It develops Smith's general textual ontology into a theoretical framework for analyzing how professional boundary setting occurs in the textually structured context of ISO standardization. It gives attention to the implications of questions of objectification and standardization as these apply to contemporary research into innovation and organization.



The author wants to thank chairwoman and members of the ISO committee TC 279 on innovation management for their generous participation. The research for this paper was part of the project Global Challenges, Local Solutions? Rethinking Professional Work in a World of Transnational Jurisdictions, located at the Department of Sociology, Copenhagen, Denmark. The author wants to acknowledge the profound contribution from collaborators Anders Blok, Inge Kryger Pedersen and Marie Leth Meilvang to the development of the paper. Kristian Bernt Karlson, Merlin Schaeffer, Rebecca Lund, Mark Vail, Poul Bitsch Olsen and Mette Apollo have commented on early ideas and previous versions of the draft.


Lindstrøm, M.D. (2023), "“Too quality”! Professional boundary setting and the ISO 56000 standard on innovation management. In honor of Dorothy E. Smith (1926–2022)", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 12 No. 1, pp. 1-15.



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