How to organise operations: Focusing or splitting?
The concept of focus has been proposed as a method for operations to achieve superior performance by concentrating its resources on accomplishing one strategic task. Since its development by Skinner [1974. The focused factory. Harvard Business Review May-June, 113-121], it has become a key element within the operations strategy field. Despite the high level of adoption and investigation into the subject, there still seems to be little empirical support for the focus concept [Vokurka, R.J., Davis, R.A., 2000. Focused factories: empirical study of structural and performance differences. Production and Inventory Management Journal 41(1), 44-55] and a feeling that we still do not adequately understand its application in industry [Ketokivi, M., Jokinen, M., 2006. Strategy, uncertainty and the focused factory in international process manufacturing. Journal of Operations Management 24(3), 250-270]. This case-study-based research paper examines three organisations, that have organised their operations using four different approaches, to understand the advantages and disadvantages they bring. The findings show that some approaches (process and product/market) do not fully reduce the level of complexity within operations, whilst others do (market order-winner and qualifier/performance objectives). It is therefore proposed that some approaches should be re-classified as "splitting" rather than "focusing."
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