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The management development needs in manufacturing SMEs: an empirical assessment

Jayawarna, Dilani and Wilson, Alison and Homan, Gillian (2003) The management development needs in manufacturing SMEs: an empirical assessment. UNSPECIFIED. Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

Among the many reasons for small business failure or slow growth, a lack of management skills within smaller businesses has been highlighted as a contributory factor. In recognition of this training provision and management development have dominated much of the academic and policy debate on small firm development since the late 1980s. However, to date, little empirical work has sought to look further than simple frequency accounts. No research has given theoretical explanations for what and how management skills are developed in organisations and the impact of such efforts. Whereas researchers assume that management development and training can be directly related to performance, the focus has been on management development as a holistic intervention. Few have actually investigated a link between the various component management skills/ techniques and performance to understand if this assumption is founded. This article records the empirical research that investigates the managers' perceptions of the various component management skills/techniques and their added value. According to some authors (see for example, Kitching, 1998; Westhead, 1998), the SME1 sector is not homogeneous and therefore identifying development needs and delivering training support is contextually specific and dependent on a variety of factors. Firm size (Kithching & Blackburn, 2002; O'Dwyer & Ryan, 2000) and age(Morgan et al, 2002) were noted as the main determining factors for the extent and approach to management development in SMEs and therefore will be explored in this paper. In addition, whether the business was owner managed or not and who in the business took responsibility for management development, were assessed against the skill needs. The research is based on the results of a survey of 198 UK SMEs. It proposes five techniques for management development and provides some initial assessment of the implications of the typology. The results indicate that while firm size influences the utilisation of management development techniques, firm age, business ownership or development responsibility has no such influence. This suggests that the nature of management development has to be tailored to what are seen as the needs of the group in question. The research also highlighted the positive relationship between management skill development and organisational performance. From this, it appears that much of the observed difference between successful and unsuccessful firms lies in their decision to train and develop management skills/ techniques, the contribution of which varies according to the size of the business.

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