Developing Manufacturing Competitiveness Within South African Industry: The role of middle management

Justin Barnes, John Bessant, Nikki Dunne, Mike Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Survival in highly competitive and fragmented markets requires producers to focus on both price and non-price factors such as quality, innovation, adherence to standards and rapid response as the basis for competitive advantage. In an effort to meet these new demands firms are deploying a range of innovations including advanced equipment and reconfiguration of both their internal organisation and their external relationships The literature on the nature of such innovations and the competitive forces driving firms to adopt them is extensive, but less emphasis is given to questions of how particular firms can choose and effectively implement them. Yet research consistently highlights this area as problematic and points to many influential factors including manufacturing strategy (or its absence), financial, industrial relations, work organisation and project management. One area which receives regular attention of this kind is ‘middle management’ — an organisational grouping which is often seen as a problem and as the source of resistance. It is clear that in a transition from essentially hierarchical organisational forms characterised by high division of labour and extensive use of bounded autonomy, decision rules and standard procedures to more fluid and flexible forms this group is likely to be extensively involved. This paper explores the role of middle management in innovation within the specific context of South Africa, and develops some proposals for mechanisms which might help enhance their contribution to industrial restructuring.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-310
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2001


  • Innovation
  • South Africa
  • Middle management
  • Organisational change
  • Training and development
  • Learning


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