Shifting frontiers of control during closedown processes
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Purpose - This paper aims to explore and analyse how shifting frontiers of control emerge and change the labour process so that restrictions to output become diminished, subsequently affecting organisational performance. Design/methodology/approach - Multiple case study design. Interviews with 104 respondents. Analysis of productivity statistics in order to test for the statistical significance of the closedown effect. Single multiple regression analysis of the comparative strength, of the closedown effect, between cases. Findings - Shifting frontiers of control arise during the closedown process, a control system characterised by markedly unrestricted autonomy for the workers as the management frontiers of control abate. This provides an operative space for informal work practices, innovation and emerging new industrial relations, accounting for the higher levels of output. Research limitations/implications - A multiple case study of three different manufacturing organisations, with comparably long closedown periods. The authors do not analyse the sustainability of the increase in output or the generalisibility of the closedown effect to other industries. Practical implications - It is possible to anticipate improved productivity if shifting frontiers of control are rapidly replacing the old. If management abandons the old control mechanisms, previous to the closedown decision, and provides operative space for workers' initiatives and informal leadership during the closedown process, it is possible to expect good performance, enabling a scope for extended closedown periods. Originality/value - This is the first study that analyses the comparative strength of the closedown effect and how restricted work practices change under the process of closedown.