Academic journal article Management Review : An International Journal

Bureaucracy versus Creativity: A Study of Operational Routines and Metaroutines, in a Japanese Firm

Academic journal article Management Review : An International Journal

Bureaucracy versus Creativity: A Study of Operational Routines and Metaroutines, in a Japanese Firm

Article excerpt


The restructuring of resources (Teece, 2007; Teece et al., 1997) and their continuous development (Helfat & Winter, 2011; Takahashi, 2015) are tools that can help companies in their struggle with the increasingly dynamic environment. These tools take a specific form in the manufacturing industry, the former as new product and process development (Fujimoto, 2001) and the latter as new overseas and domestic production facilities (Teece, 2014). The discussion in the literature is usually centered on large companies (Teece, 2014), however, as this paper argues, suppliers that provide components necessary for the manufacturing operations of large companies need to develop the same metaroutines (higher-order routines; dynamic capabilities) too.

For example, even when companies develop new products and processes, and build new factories, the largest part of the manufacturing cost is often still determined by the purchasing of components (Takeishi, 2001; Nishiguchi, 1994), and therefore attempts to reduce manufacturing cost will inevitably exert pressure on suppliers to improve, develop and restructure their resources.

Also, when companies want to take advantage of lower wages and competitive locations when they build new production facilities overseas (Fujimoto et al., 2010), they often come under pressure from host governments to increase the proportion of local procurement in their manufacturing operations (Shintaku & Oki, 2012). At the same time, even for overseas operations, Japanese large manufacturing companies often rely on Japanese suppliers for component procurement (Shintaku & Oki, 2012). In such cases, increasing the number of overseas facilities may require suppliers to manifest their dynamic capability; i.e. metaroutines (Adler et al., 1999; Zollo & Winter, 2002; Iwao, 2015) for the purpose of changing existing organizational routines.

In other words, when the competitiveness of large companies depends on the interorganizational relationship with their suppliers (Dyer & Singh, 1998; Dyer & Chu, 2003; Prajogo & Olhager, 2012; Fujimoto & Park, 2014; Whitney et al., 2014), who in numerous cases are small and medium businesses, the pressure to adapt to rapid changes in the environment spreads to suppliers and they, in the same manner as their larger counterparts, need to develop their metaroutines (dynamic capabilities). Therefore, the research presented in this paper is built upon the awareness of the necessity to reveal the problems that small and medium businesses need to solve in their quest to adapt to changes (i.e. build metaroutines (dynamic capabilities)).

In relation to that, this paper inquires into the relationship between bureaucracy and creativity, and how they affect each other in firms. To that end, this paper presents a review of the literature on organizational learning and metaroutines, the relationship between bureaucracy and creativity, and the organizational structure of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Bureaucracy is traditionally thought to suppress organizational changes, and since one of the characteristics of small and medium businesses is their relatively less advanced bureaucratic system, it can be predicted that the implementation of changes in small and medium business will not meet any significant obstacles. In other words, it is generally thought that attempts to introduce higher-order routines in small and medium businesses that have a relatively small accumulation of routines (i.e less developed bureaucratic systems) will be successful and organizational changes should be easy to carry out. (The terms bureaucracy and bureaucratic systems in this paper are used to denote efficient and rational ways in which organizations organize their activities. They are also used to express the notion that systematic processes and organized hierarchies are necessary to maximize efficiency and do not have any negative connotations). …

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