Flexibility in policy-formation

  • J.S. Evans

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis reports on a study undertaken to investigte how the concept of flexibility can be made operable in a policy setting. To expedite this, we reviewed previous research in pertinent areas and examined the conceptual foundations of flexibility. Two field studies were subsequently conducted.

    The first examined a technology-specific homogenous policy-setting. The process whereby small manufacturing firms acquire electronic data processing facilities was observed from its embryonic phase, where the technology was being appraised to its eventual implementation. Following a description of these phases, an attempt was made to outline the technological attributes which promote flexibility in such a policy-setting. these attributes are: Compatibility, Expandability, Maintainability and Supportability, Upgradability, Modularity and Portability, Potential for Innovation and Procurement Options.

    The second field study was focussed on policy-formation in corporate-settings.Twenty-one large corporations, active in diverse and technologically-dynamic arenas participated in the study. Our objective was to ascertain how these organizationa cope with a capricious future. Following a series of informal, open ended interviews with their senior corporate strategists, a number of practices were identified which when adopted, enhanced flexibility. These spanned issues such as being able to vary production output, interfirm cooperation and collaboration, redeployment of key personnel, shortening lines of communication to and from senior policy makers and blending of transnational portfolios. Five general capabilities were derived subsequently which underpinned these practices in the quest for strategic flexibility. These are Mobility of Resources, Variability of Thrust, Versatility of Personnel, Malleability of Organizational Structure and Manoeuverability across business areas. Our findings indicate that although strategic flexibility appears to be intuitively simple, putting it into practice is a complex task.
    Date of Award1982
    Original languageEnglish


    • flexibility
    • strategy
    • policy
    • technology management

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