Improving productivity through strategic alignment of competitive capabilities

Steven Hutton (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Stephen Eldridge (Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Publication date: 4 March 2019



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the productivity performance at the firm level from the perspective of manufacturing capability development at the process level. Moreover, it reveals how alignment of manufacturing capabilities with market requirements has influenced a firm’s productivity over a period that includes the 2008 global recession.


A conceptual framework was derived from established theories and employed as part of a case study design encompassing a multiple methods research approach. The case of a UK SME was selected to reflect some of the issues associated with the wider productivity stagnation experienced by the UK economy in recent years.


The firm’s manufacturing strategy had become incrementally misaligned with market requirements due to external changes in its business environment. The complex relationships between capabilities such as quality, speed and cost were characterised. Realigning the firm’s manufacturing strategy to regain productivity performance required a range of prioritised actions including capital investment and changes in management practices concerning bottom-up process improvement and regular, top-down strategy review.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of the case study cannot be generalised and the outcomes are specific to just one firm. However, the approach lends itself to replication, particularly within SMEs.


Prior studies have focussed on capability development at higher levels of abstraction. The study operationalized established theoretical perspectives at the firm level to derive context-based outcomes that can be used to improve manufacturing strategy alignment and productivity. Furthermore, the study contributes empirical evidence from the SME sector to the ongoing debate regarding the UK’s productivity puzzle.



Hutton, S. and Eldridge, S. (2019), "Improving productivity through strategic alignment of competitive capabilities", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. 68 No. 3, pp. 644-668.

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