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Diffusion of process improvement methods in European SMEs

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tom McGovern, Dr Adrian SmallORCiD, Professor Christian Hicks



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Emerald Group Publishing Ltd, 2017.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Purpose – This paper evaluates the European Regions for Innovative Productivity (ERIP) project that created regional hubs to support process improvement in SMEs in the North Sea region of Europe. Design/methodology/approach – The research strategy was a comparative case study of 23 SMEs and six European regional hubs. A template was created to collect financial and operational data from each company. This was supplemented by observations, secondary data and field notes. Findings – The regional hubs and the company specific interventions were shaped by institutional arrangements, isomorphic pressures and internal context. The data demonstrated that the climate for implementing process improvement is stronger when the interests and isomorphic pressures are aligned for all stakeholders. Practical implications – The research contributed to practice through demonstrating how regional hubs can be developed for delivering customised process improvement methodologies to SMEs. It was the tailoring of the process improvement method to the context that was more important than the expertise of the change agent. Originality/value – The research combined institutional theory with the literature on process improvement interventions to construct a two-level model that helped explain the dissemination and shaping of process improvement methods throughout the North Sea region of Europe. The delivery mechanisms adopted in each country were determined by isomorphic pressures. The internal context of each company in terms of change agent support and the presence of KPIs impacted on success and possible sustainability.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McGovern T, Small A, Hicks C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: International Journal of Operations and Production Management

Year: 2017

Volume: 37

Issue: 5

Pages: 607-629

Print publication date: 02/05/2017

Online publication date: 15/03/2017

Acceptance date: 22/08/2016

Date deposited: 22/08/2016

ISSN (print): 0144-3577

ISSN (electronic): 1758-6593

Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Ltd


DOI: 10.1108/IJOPM-11-2015-0694

Notes: Accepted on 22nd August 2016. IJOPM is 4* on the ABS list. The paper relates to the ERIP project that was an impact case study in REF2014. The paper received an R&R on 10/2/2016.


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