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THE STRATEGIC ROLE OF PROCESS MANAGEMENT IN SMEs
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Logistics & Quality Management. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5727-7260
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Literature indicates a greater use of process management in large companies than in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are a major contributor to the global economy, and just like large companies, SMEs face challenges such as a need to respond promptly and effectively to their business environment, despite having limited resources.  

Practitioners and researchers within process management refer to a trade-off between the operative support that process management provides and the strategic ability of organisations to be flexible in response to their environment and customer requests. The strategic role of process management has not been highlighted in depth in the literature. Hence, the use of process management and its strategic role in SMEs is a research gap which needs to be investigated. This research should include approaches to process management that support the fulfilment of strategic goals without compromising flexibility.  

The purpose of this dissertation is to enhance the understanding of the strategic role of process management in SMEs. To address this purpose, two research questions were designed. The first research question explores how the fundamentals of process management contribute to the understanding of the strategic role of process management. The second research question explores and analyses the conditions of SMEs and suggests how process management could be adapted to be used in SMEs.  

This dissertation includes a longitudinal study, with an action research approach, conducted at two companies. This approach provided a deep understanding of the companies and a strong connection between research and managerial usefulness.  

The results of the dissertation suggest a need for a contingent approach to process management where the activities that lead to competitive advantage are identified. This identification, together with a connection to the strategic goals of the organisations can then be the basis for determining the need for process development of the organisation. In this way, process management efforts can be focused on processes that lead the organisations to gain competitive advantage. Hence, with the connection to competitive advantage, the strategic goals of the organisations and the continuous improvement principle of process management enhance the understanding of the strategic role of process management.  

The contribution of this dissertation is primarily in the field of process management, by providing results and analyses that support its strategic relevancy in general and specifically for SMEs. A dynamic capabilities lens has been used to enhance the connection between competitive advantage and the strategic role of process management. This dissertation also contributes to research into dynamic capabilities, by providing concrete examples of the interpretation of dynamic capabilities and a connection between dynamic capabilities and a managerial approach such as process management. The context of this dissertation includes environmental sustainability as a societal need to be addressed by the road freight transport (RFT) business sector, constituted mostly by SMEs. RFT companies, in particular SMEs, have limited resources and simultaneously need to be responsive to various and challenging customer demands. The use of this context enabled the inclusion of examples and analysis with a managerial contribution for, but not limited to, RFTs. 

Abstract [sv]

Enligt litteraturen används processledning i större utsträckning av stora företag än små och medelstora företag (SME). En stor del av den globala ekonomin upprätthålls av SME:er. Dessa företag står inför utmaningar såsom att ta vara på möjligheter och reagera snabbt och effektivt på förändringar i omgivningen, samtidigt som de har begränsade resurser.   

Praktiker och forskare inom processledning hänvisar till avvägningen mellan det operativa stöd som processledning kan ge och organisationers strategiska förmåga att vara flexibla gentemot sin omgivning och kundernas önskemål. Processledningens strategiska roll har inte lyfts fram i litteraturen. Därför är användningen av processledning och dess strategiska roll i SME:er ett gap inom forskningen som behöver undersökas. Dessutom saknar litteraturen tillvägagångssätt för processledning som stödjer den strategiska måluppfyllelsen utan att kompromissa med flexibiliteten.    

Syftet med denna avhandling är att öka förståelsen för processlednings strategiska roll i SME:er. För att uppnå syftet utformades två forskningsfrågor. Med den första forskningsfrågan undersöks hur grunderna i processledning bidrar till förståelsen av dess strategiska roll. Med den andra forskningsfrågan undersöks och föreslås anpassningar som krävs för att processledning ska kunna användas inom SME:er.   

Avhandlingen baseras på en longitudinell studie genomförd tillsammans med två företag, som har utförts med en aktionsforskningsansats. Tillvägagångssättet gav en djup förståelse för företagen och en stark koppling mellan forskningens resultat och nyttan för verksamheten.   

Avhandlingens resultat visar på ett behov av ett mer situationsanpassat förhållningssätt till processledning där de aktiviteter som leder till konkurrensfördelar identifieras. Identifieringen, tillsammans med en koppling till organisationernas strategiska mål, kan sedan ligga till grund för att fastställa organisationens behov av processutveckling. På så sätt kan processledningsinsatser fokuseras på processer som leder till att organisationer får konkurrensfördelar. I sin tur medför kopplingen mellan konkurrensfördelar, organisationernas strategiska mål och principen om ständig förbättring inom processledning en ökad förståelse för processledningens strategiska roll.

Avhandlingens bidrag är främst inom området processledning, och visar processledningens strategiska betydelse generellt och för SME:er. Studien genomfördes med en teoretisk lins baserad på dynamiska förmågor för att förstärka kopplingen mellan konkurrensfördelar och processledningens strategiska roll. Därför bidrar avhandlingen också till forskningen inom dynamiska förmågor genom att exemplifiera tolkningen av dynamiska förmågor och genom att visa på kopplingar mellan dynamiska förmågor och ett ledningsförhållningssätt såsom processledning. Kontexten för den här avhandlingen inkluderar miljömässig hållbarhet som ett samhällsbehov för godstransportsektorn. Godstransportsektorn består till större delen av SME:er. Företagen i denna sektor har begränsade resurser och behöver vara responsiva gentemot sin omgivning. Användningen av den här kontexten möjliggjorde inkluderingen av exempel och analyser för ett praktiskt bidrag för, men inte begränsat till, godstransportsektorn.   

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2023. , p. 123
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 2259
Keywords [en]
Process management, Dynamic capabilities, Competitive advantage, SME, Environmental sustainability
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-198588DOI: 10.3384/9789179294960ISBN: 9789179294953 (print)ISBN: 9789179294960 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-198588DiVA, id: diva2:1805913
Public defence
2023-12-01, ACAS, A-buidling, Campus Valla, Linköping, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-10-19 Created: 2023-10-19 Last updated: 2023-10-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Applying quality concepts to achieve environmental sustainability in the freight transport sector - reviewing process management and lean
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Applying quality concepts to achieve environmental sustainability in the freight transport sector - reviewing process management and lean
2021 (English)In: International Journal of Quality and Service Sciences, ISSN 1756-669X, E-ISSN 1756-6703, Vol. 13, no 4, p. 545-562Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to revisit lean manufacturing and process management to review how these have targeted environmental sustainability and determine whether these have the potential to achieve environmental sustainability in small- and medium-sized companies within the freight transport sector. Design/methodology/approach The methodology for this paper was divided into three steps. The first step involved a narrative literature review, including previously designed search strings. The second step involved a snowball approach, where the identification of new sources departed from previously selected articles. The third step included a completing narrative review to search for the most recent articles published related to the purpose. The analysis was based on the identification of benefits, challenges and the potential of lean and process management to deal with environmental demands among transport companies. Findings The findings suggest a potential of lean and process management for achieving environmental sustainability, if adapted appropriately. The potential is on the operative and strategic levels, respectively. Research limitations/implications This study included two of the concepts from the quality movement from a literature perspective. Hence, there is a need for research to evaluate these results empirically. Additionally, other aspects should be studied within the quality movement for achieving environmental sustainability. Originality/value This paper aims to be a basis and a path for further theoretical and empirical research for the quality movement to support environmental sustainability. This paper particularly aims to fill part of the gap in the literature on how the freight transport sector can enhance environmental sustainability in its operations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021
Keywords
Lean manufacturing; Environmental sustainability; Process management; Logistics and transportation; Road freight transport
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-176833 (URN)10.1108/IJQSS-02-2020-0029 (DOI)000660625700001 ()
Note

Funding Agencies|Family Kamprad Foundation for Entrepreneurship, Research and Charity

Available from: 2021-06-22 Created: 2021-06-22 Last updated: 2023-10-19
2. Greening logistics by introducing process management: A viable tool for freight transport companies going green
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Greening logistics by introducing process management: A viable tool for freight transport companies going green
2018 (English)In: Supply Chain Forum: an International Journal, ISSN 1625-8312, E-ISSN 1624-6039, Vol. 19, no 3, p. 204-218Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

While the usage of process management within the freight transport industry is unknown and presumed low, it has been used within other sectors as an efficient approach for dealing with and fulfilling customer demands as well as environmental requirements. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how process management can enhance a customer focused greening in the transport and logistics sector. We present a literature review of the intersections of process management, freight transport and environmental sustainability. Furthermore, we conducted a case study of how two environmentally ambitious Swedish freight transport companies use process management to enhance environmental sustainability. We found that environmentally ambitious freight transport companies do not proactively use process management, and that workshops with topical experts and practitioners can be a way for introducing process management to enhance environmental sustainability in such companies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018
Keywords
Green logistics, freight transport, process management, environmental sustainability, Grön logistik, miljölogistik, godstransport, processledning, miljömässig hållbarhet
National Category
Business Administration Transport Systems and Logistics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-150162 (URN)10.1080/16258312.2018.1486141 (DOI)
Funder
The Kamprad Family Foundation, 2016 00 85
Available from: 2018-08-14 Created: 2018-08-14 Last updated: 2023-10-19Bibliographically approved

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