The role of employees' participation and managers' authority on continuous improvement and performance

Paper published in the International Journal of Operations & Production Management and written by Ambra Galeazzo and Andrea Furlan from the Department of Economics and Management of the University of Padova and Andrea Vinelli from the Department of Management and Engineering of the University of Padova. 

Drawing on the theoretical concept of organisational fit, this paper questions the relevance of employees' participation in the link between continuous improvement (CI) and operational performance. The literature has long emphasised that to be successful, CI implementation needs to rely on employees' involvement as soon as its inception. Based on a database of 330 firms across 15 countries, this paper argues that this approach is not generalisable. 

The authors show that the CI–employee participation fit is positively associated with operational performance, suggesting that there is less need for employees to be involved when a firm has scarcely developed CI. Employee participation becomes gradually more relevant as CI progresses. Moreover, the results demonstrate that the CI–centralisation of authority fit is negatively associated with operational performance, suggesting that a top-down management approach with centralised authority is preferable when CI is low, whereas a bottom-up management approach is helpful when a firm has extensively developed CI.

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