Flexibility Versus Efficiency? A Case Study of Model Changeovers in the Toyota Production System
Paul S. Adler
University of Southern California - Management and Organization Department
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
David I. Levine
University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group
Organization Science, Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 43, 1999
The relationship between flexibility and efficiency is re-conceptualized. Much organization theory argues that efficiency requires bureaucracy, that bureaucracy impedes flexibility, and that organizations therefore confront a tradeoff between efficiency and flexibility. Others have pointed out numerous obstacles to successfully shifting the tradeoff. Seeking to advance understanding of these obstacles and how they might be overcome, an auto assembly plant that appears to be far above average industry performance in both efficiency and flexibility is analyzed. NUMMI, a Toyota subsidiary located in Fremont, California, relied on a highly bureaucratic organization to achieve its high efficiency. Analyzing 2 recent major model changes, it is fond that NUMMI used 4 mechanisms to support its exceptional flexibility/efficiency combination. These mechanisms are discussed.
Keywords: flexibility, bureaucracy, tradeoffs, routines, metaroutines, ambidexterity, switching, partitioning, trustAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: April 9, 2007
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