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An exploratory study of organisational transformation in manufacturing SMEs

Maguire, Catherine and Bititci, Umit and Mendibil, Kepa (2010) An exploratory study of organisational transformation in manufacturing SMEs. PhD thesis, University Of Strathclyde.

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In a competitive environment organisations are driven to continuously change and adapt to emerging conditions in order to sustain competitive advantage. The reported decline of the manufacturing sector in the UK is believed to be the result, in part, of the failure of manufacturing organisations to adapt by transforming their businesses, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). The field of change management is long established and contains a plethora of theories, frameworks, models, and discussions on organisational change and transformation, yet it seems that there is a disconnect between this body of knowledge and its implementation by practitioners. Since the majority of the work in this area is based on empirical analyses of large organisations, it could be argued that the assumption that it can be 'scaled down' to fit the SME context is invalid, as SMEs are well recognised as having distinctive characteristics that warrant specific investigation. Thus, the thesis is focused on providing insights into the transformation behaviour of manufacturing SMEs in order to further understanding of why these organisations struggle to transform. Using the content, process, context framework as its foundation, the transformations of four manufacturing SMEs in Scotland are analysed and discussed using an exploratory case study methodology. The findings suggest that the content of transformation in manufacturing SMEs reflects existing theory, however in addition content elements of ownership or leadership, new management team, and extension of product/service portfolio were in evidence. The process through which manufacturing SMEs transform aligns with the theory of punctuated equilibrium; however the punctuations themselves are not transformational. Leadership, appropriate knowledge and skills, access to resources, and external collaboration are contextual enablers to transformation, whereas culture is a barrier if not aligned to the new behaviours required. The discussions also led to a number of emerging propositions concerning the pace of transformation, patterns of constituent changes, and differences between family and non-family owned/managed organisations, which are presented as areas for future empirical investigation.