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The Dynamics of Delayering: Changing Management Structures in Three Countries

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  • Craig R. Littler
  • Retha Wiesner
  • Richard Dunford

Abstract

The 1990s witnessed significant changes in organizational design philosophy. Unique to the 1990s were prescriptions for restructuring involving delayering (the planned vertical compression of managerial levels of hierarchy) (Keuning and Opheij, 1994; Peters, 1992). What did this mean in practice? The current understanding of delayering can be encapsulated in a 'delayering thesis'. However, outside of the USA and UK there has been limited study and measurement of the extent and effects of delayering. This paper delineates trends in delayering based on surveys of 2964 organizations across three countries and assesses the effects in terms of management structures, workloads, productivity, and the notion of 'survivor syndrome'. The extent of a subsequent phase of 'relayering' is examined. It concludes that delayering has been widespread as an organizational strategy; that there are few signs of a delayering-relayering cycle, but the effects in relation to managers was a collapse of commitment in Australia and South Africa. However, there were significant differences in New Zealand. A downsizing/delayering model is discussed. Copyright 2003 Blackwell Science Asia Pty. Ltd..

Suggested Citation

  • Craig R. Littler & Retha Wiesner & Richard Dunford, 2003. "The Dynamics of Delayering: Changing Management Structures in Three Countries," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(2), pages 225-256, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jomstd:v:40:y:2003:i:2:p:225-256
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. David K. Foot & Rosemary A. Venne, 1990. "Population, Pyramids and Promotional Prospects," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 16(4), pages 387-398, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heather C. Vough & Christine D. Bataille & Sung Chul Noh & Mary Dean Lee, 2015. "Going Off Script: How Managers Make Sense of the Ending of Their Careers," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 414-440, May.
    2. Kuhn, Dieter, 2011. "Delayering and Firm Performance: Evidence from Swiss firm-level Data," Working papers 2011/02, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
    3. Leo McCann & Jonathan Morris & John Hassard, 2008. "Normalized Intensity: The New Labour Process of Middle Management," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 343-371, March.
    4. De Fraja, Gianni, 2004. "Hierarchies in organisations and labour market competition," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 11(6), pages 669-686, December.
    5. Parker, Simon C, 2009. "Why do small firms produce the entrepreneurs?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 484-494, June.
    6. Leo McCann & John Hassard & Jonathan Morris, 2010. "Restructuring Managerial Labour in the USA, the UK and Japan: Challenging the Salience of 'Varieties of Capitalism'," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 48(2), pages 347-374, June.
    7. Johanna Gast & Arndt Werner & Sascha Kraus, 2017. "Antecedents of the small firm effect: the role of knowledge spillover and blocked mobility for employee entrepreneurial intentions," International Entrepreneurship and Management Journal, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 277-297, March.
    8. van Dalen, H.P. & Henkens, K., 2015. "Why Demotion of Older Workers is a No-Go Area for Managers," Discussion Paper 2015-025, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    9. Feng Wei & Steven Si, 2013. "Tit for tat? Abusive supervision and counterproductive work behaviors: The moderating effects of locus of control and perceived mobility," Asia Pacific Journal of Management, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 281-296, March.

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