We analyze the role of top managers in the process of improving existing products in large established firms. The results of an inductive study reveal two key arguments. First, we find that the process is an “involved” top-down approach, rather than middle-up-down or bottom-up, discussed in previous studies on new product creation. Top managers actively participate throughout the process, taking on four roles: evaluation of product market performance, selection of products for improvement, initiation of the innovation process through delegation to middle managers of the responsibility to organize bottom-level employees to take actions toward product improvement, and monitoring of progress to ensure improvement (ESIM). Top managers become involved as necessary to reduce the resistance of people at the middle and lower levels to change in current routines. Second, we find that in companies that achieve superior product improvement, managers have well-developed professional absorptive capacity and have routinized frequent interactions to evaluate, select, initiate, and monitor. Other characteristics of managers, such as personal absorptive capacity, incentive system, or mandate from above, are common across both high and low performers.
Annique Un, C. and Cuervo-Cazurra, A. (2005), "Top Managers and the Product Improvement Process", Szulanski, G., Porac, J. and Doz, Y. (Ed.) Strategy Process (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 319-348. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0742-3322(05)22011-9Download as .RIS
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