Reports the results of a UK company survey on the strategic and operational autonomy of team leaders working on new product development (NPD). The data are based on returns from 194 manufacturing companies and were completed by either the director of R&D or a member of the board with overall responsibility for the management of NPD project team leaders. The management of NPD project team leaders was classified into task variables (six strategic and seven operational) and a member of top management was asked to rate on a seven‐point Likert scale the extent to which each task was the autonomous responsibility of the team leader as opposed to the responsibility of other managers. Subdivides the sample into high technology and low‐to‐medium technology companies and analyses the strategic and operational management of NPD team leaders according to the company′s performance (measured by annual sales turnover) and its market environment, using four measures of the market environment: product life cycle, market growth rate, market share and R&D spending on new product development. Finds annual sales turnover to be the most important and closely associated variable with high amounts of autonomy granted to team leaders working on new product development. In medium‐to‐low technology companies, the market growth rate and R&D spending are additional, significantly associated variables. Concludes that UK companies reduce their top management controls in order to facilitate the autonomy of NPD team leaders when company sales turnover is high. Additionally, it is arguable from the evidence of the data that medium‐to‐low technology companies are more influenced by recent market performance than are high technology companies because, in addition to sales, they facilitate more autonomy according to market growth rate, market share and R&D spending.
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