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Journal Article

Examining Structural Flexibility Factors in SMEs: A Mixed Methods Study in Mexico  pp28-42

Adrianela Angeles, Edgar Centeno, Cristian E. Villanueva

© Mar 2019 Volume 17 Issue 1, Editor: Ann Brown, pp1 - 54

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The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the utility of a mixed methods approach in the examination of one of the best‑known success factors of small and medium‑sized enterprises (SMEs): their structural flexibility (SF), and how this is related to their organisational life cycle (OLC). Previous research has proposed five factors to explain SF in large and medium‑sized organisations. By adopting an explanatory sequential design, this study demonstrates why a mono‑method approach is insufficient to explain this model when put into operation in SMEs. It also highlights a key aspect of mixed methods research: the integration challenge, which is illustrated with joint displays and using a weaving approach. In the first quantitative phase, data from 257 SMEs were collected, classified according to their OLC stage, and examined with exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and a two‑step cluster analysis. The EFA revealed five factors, one of which, called “decision‑making”, presented unexpected statistical behaviour and an unclear explanation, indicating a contrasting approach was necessary for better results explanation. It was not until the qualitative phase that we realised this aspect would be better named “centralisation in decision‑making”. This term is associated with growing and declining SMEs, and it may constrain their flexibility and limit their growth. Additionally, a new theme emerged in this phase: “innovation”, which had not been associated with the SF before. This paper provides evidence that the combined use of quantitative and qualitative approaches offers the possibility of exploring new dimensions and can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomenon in a way quantitative data alone may not allow.


Keywords: Mixed Methods integration, joint display, centralisation in decision-making, innovation, organisational life cycle, QUAN-qual research.


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