Management Control Systems as a Package and its role of enabling Organizational Ambidexterity in SMEs : An exploratory study

University essay from Jönköping University; Jönköping University

Abstract: Background – A firm that achieves organizational ambidexterity is managing the balancing act of refining existing capabilities while also discovering new opportunities in the marketplace. It has shown that the achievement of organizational ambidexterity will lead to better perfor- mance but also long-term survival. The challenge that comes with achieving organizational ambidexterity is present within all firms regardless of size. Yet, extant literature has focused on the research of larger firms. The characteristics may differ significantly between a larger enter- prise and a small-to-medium-sized enterprise. For instance, the amount of available resources appears to differ relative to firm size. As a result, it is reasonable to assume that the way organ- izational ambidexterity is achieved may also differ depending on the size of the firm. It is argued that management control systems play an important role with respect to organiza- tional ambidexterity. Further, these control systems may be viewed as a package of controls which through occurring dynamic tensions, provide the complexity needed for a firm to be ambidextrous. Yet, the role of these interrelated control systems and how they enable ambidex- terity is understudied among SMEs. Purpose – This thesis aims to explore management control systems as a package and its ena- bling role in achieving organizational ambidexterity within SMEs. Method – The empirical data was collected by interviewing members of the top management team within three different SMEs. The empirics were gathered through semi-structured inter- views and then analyzed in relation to reviewed theory within the package approach of man- agement control systems, by conducting a thematic analysis. Findings – The findings from this thesis suggest that SMEs need to find ways to allocate their finite resources in order to meet the current strategic challenge at hand. SMEs have a firm spe- cific focus on either refinement of existing capabilities or discovery of new opportunities de- pending on the current state of the marketplace. While both focuses may be present simultane- ously, the SMEs still need to prioritize one side over the other due to resource limitations. Hence, the findings suggest a hybrid between contextual- and sequential ambidexterity as the most appropriate narrative for the studied SMEs. Management control systems as a package fits into this narrative as tensions occur between the systems which triggers ambidextrous activities. A well-integrated package approach work as a navigation system and may thus facilitate the achievement of current strategic challenges. The finalized framework in this thesis comple- ments existing theory by suggesting two different scenarios occurring within SMEs. In order for SMEs to achieve organizational ambidexterity, a shift between these two scenarios occurs in the long run.

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