A competitive advantage from the implementation timing of ISO management standards

Hung Chung Su, Suvrat Dhanorkar, Kevin Linderman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


With the rise of globalization, firms increasingly implement management standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to assure they can meet their customers' expectations. ISO management standards reduce performance variability among suppliers and promote global trade. However, ISO standards also promote a certain degree of commonality or isomorphism between firms. If the very notion of 'standards' encourages a certain level of commonality between firms, then how can firms achieve a competitive advantage from implementing ISO standards? This research argues that the timing of when a firm implements an ISO standard relative to their rivals has strategic benefits. Drawing on the competitive dynamics literature we argue that firms can achieve an early mover advantage when implementing ISO 14001. However, an early mover advantage depends on the level of a firm's absorptive capacity (prior experience with ISO 9001) and the competitive intensity of their industry. This study uses longitudinal data from firms that implemented ISO 14001 at varying points in time to examine the benefits of an early mover advantage. More broadly, this research sheds light on when firms benefit the most from implementing new management standards. The results provide insights into implementing other emerging management standards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Operations Management
StatePublished - Feb 8 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


  • Absorptive capacity
  • Competitive strategy
  • Early mover advantage
  • ISO 14001
  • ISO 9001
  • Management standards


Dive into the research topics of 'A competitive advantage from the implementation timing of ISO management standards'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this