Designing interventions in SMEs: Experiences from a pan-European multiple case study
Paper in proceedings, 2012
The purpose of this paper is to describe how interventions can be carried out in order for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) to adopt new ways of working, by understanding the context, process and content of the intervention. Interventions are defined as activities aimed at introducing new ways of working through a series of focused activities in the organization.
The work was part of an EU-funded project called FutureSME aiming at aiding SMEs in becoming more competitive. This paper is based on a multiple case study of twelve SMEs from six European countries undergoing similar interventions. The empirical data has been collected through presentations by company representatives, A3 reports including structured information about the intervention and its outcome, and case essays containing subjective descriptions of respective company’s experiences from the interventions. The material has been subject to a cross-case analysis.
This paper elaborates on previous research on important factors to consider in order for interventions to lead to long-term effects in SMEs. The results from this study suggest that in the design of the interventions at SMEs, one needs to carefully consider the context aspects regarding the intervention, which is seen as a deficiency in the project. It is also pointed out that not only the process or context of the intervention is of importance, but also the content. We suggest content that 1) supports the formulation of strategies, 2) encourages dialogue, and 3) uses company data. Hence, when designing an intervention in SMEs it is beneficial if the content have such characteristics, and by inclusion both short-term success and long-term sustainability are more likely as a result of the intervention.
This paper does not deal with how to motivate SMEs to initiate an intervention process.
Intervention studies have mostly focused on larger companies. The special set-up with dedicated external support and a long term relationship within a large-scale project has provided access to a study of twelve SMEs across Europe and has provided a rare opportunity for research.