A fitness landscape model for manufacturing strategy
Many studies analyse manufacturing organisations and their problems by reducing or simply throwing away the interacting components; with the assumption that the latter are either negligible or behave linearly. These studies (referred to as reductionism) tend to overlook the importance of these interacting components. An alternative view is to adopt a "complex systems" approach, to understand the manufacturing organisation as a system which evolves over time by adopting characteristics to survive. The aim of this research was to study the development and application of fitness landscape theory (a theory that is part of complex systems theory) in understandinga nd formulating manufacturings trategy. The creation and application of fitness landscape models to help search and select capabilities for manufacturing strategy is the principal area of novelty within this thesis. Several researchers (Maguire, 1997b; Merry, 1998; Beinhocker, 1999) had noted that fitness landscape theory was an appropriate theory for investigating and understanding strategy, but none of these papers made any attempt to understand fitness and relate it to organisations in terms of competitiveness, effectiveness or survival. With this gap and above introduction the contribution that this thesis makes to knowledge is in the following areas: " The creation of knowledge on the boundaries and detail of complex systems theory. This is summarised by a framework that relates the various concepts to manufacturing management issues. " To study manufacturing strategy. This thesis treats manufacturing organisations as complex adaptive systems, with goal directed behaviour. " The creation of a definition and model of "fitness" that is appropriate for organisations in general. This is then developed into a manufacturing specific definition and model. It was concluded that to increase fitness, a manufacturing organisation must possess the ability to inherit, imitate and search manufacturing strategy (or configuration) such as quality, delivery, flexibility, and cost." The above definitions and models are then related to manufacturing strategy formulation in terms of the acquisition of specific capabilities (cost, quality, flexibility and delivery) " The models are then applied and tested on a population of UK manufacturing organisations to explore the relationship between fitness and capabilities. A map which indicates the relative fitness contribution by the four manufacturing capabilities is presented.